most cheerful people I have ever met. It was unbelievable to see how
the Senegalese, amid conditions that to European eyes seem extremely
challenging, manage to remain so genuinely good-humored.
buildings and charming cafés of Dakar, which lies on the Atlantic
coast, still keep something of the atmosphere of a French colony.
There is a kind of magic to this West-African country: Nobody
rushes around here, there’s no stress, and people look out for one
“We fell in
love with Senegal. We say this, despite the fact that we once fled
from the beach on seeing a bloated goat carcass wash ashore, and
after staying in a city which one guidebook – not wholly
inaccurately – compared to ‘an armpit.’
the same, Senegal is fantastic: It’s easy to get to, and both safer
and more stable than its neighbors in the region. There are lots of
sights, from the big city bursting with life to unspoiled savannahs.
There are tourists, but never so many that it becomes an annoyance.
The food is delicious, with plenty of cheap watermelon, and there are
many varieties of local beer, as well as a local liqueur called kana,
which has more taste than vodka and is not as strong as brandy. The
women dress very prettily and stylishly.
There are buildings
in Dakar which date from the colonial period. These aren’t much of
a spectacle in themselves, but they add background character to the
scene, filled as it is with shops, restaurants and street vendors.
This is a pulsating, diverse metropolis, where you’re likely to
find a street just around the corner from the Catholic cathedral
blocked by men praying outside, because they can’t all fit into the
nearby mosque. The funniest part of Dakar, though, are the two nearby
hills, which are known locally as ‘Les Deux Mamalles’ or the Pair
of Breasts. On the larger of these, in 2010, was built the African
Renaissance Monument: This is the largest statue in Africa, and was
built by North Koreans in that distinctive DPRK style, with the
difference that instead of a working woman, it represents a slender
girl in a miniskirt, which somewhat irritated the locals. )
Any mode of
transport is slow in Dakar, but for those who wants to make an
experience out of the most boring part of travel, I’d recommend
standing by the conductor’s booth on the TATA busses and trying to
make sense of what is relayed to you from the depths of the bus. Say
whatever you think you heard was the final destination, then when you
want to get off just pass your ticket on to some kind passenger who
In all probability,
the most beautiful place in Senegal is Fadiouth. This village was
built on an island (meaning you can only get around it on foot) and
this island is essentially composed of seashells several meters deep.
It is a relatively clean village, and this is not altered by the fact
– rare in Senegal, and a result of the island’s majority
Christian population – that at low tide pigs wallow in the mud and
piglets run around. In the center of the island is a catholic church
built on a circular base, and the cross on its roof, illuminated at
night, serves as a lighthouse for nearby fishermen.
The truth is that
linguistic issues do fundamentally limit the possibilities for social
contact. The Senegalese cannot usually speak English, and our French
was not good enough to communicate beyond the everyday essentials.
The adults were generally too busy and impatient for long
explanations, but the children were interested and patient, and often
speak better French than older generations.
Even then, though,
communication isn’t easy. Sometimes the children just stare
wordlessly, while at other times they tirelessly pester you for
sweets and money. (2017)