Likes & Dislikes

Opinions

Senegal: the 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.

The downtown 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 another. (2016)”


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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.’

All 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 needs it.

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)


West Africa - Senegal - street scene - Elter photo

Practicals

Transport

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Senegal - public bus - y.m. photo

Others

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Senegal - A sewing shop called Ciseaux D'Or (Golden Scissors) - g.v. photo

Background

Senegal - national flags - y.m. photo

Senegal - local beauty - y.m. photo

Destination in brief

Senegal is in the westernmost part of Africa, on the Atlantic Ocean coast. Neighbors: Mauritania (north), Mali (east), Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea (south), the Gambia as an enclave within Senegal.

Size: 196,712 km² (75,951 mi²)

Capital city: Dakar - here is the most western point of continental Africa - 30% of the population lives in Dakar and its agglomeration

Population (in 2020): 18 million - Largest ethnic groups include the Wolof and Pulaar people

Languages: French is the official language, but some 38 native languages are also spoken

Senegal was a French colony until 1960 when gained independence

Religion: 98% Muslim

Form of government: multiparty republic

Since independence, no military coups have happened.

Currency: West African CFA franc (XOF)

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 170 USD

Peanuts and fish are the main export items.

Most common surname: Ndiaye

Senegal is considered one of the safest African countries.

Top tourist attractions:

Senegal has seven (!) UNESCO World Heritage sites:

  • Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik Cultural Landscapes, Island of Goree, Island of Saint-Louis, Saloum Delta, Stone Circles of Senegambia, Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, Niokolo-Koba National Park


Nowadays

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Senegal - everydays - g.v. photo

Senegal - Mbour - e.k. photo

Senegal - village

Senegal - small town scene - g.v. photo

Senegal - 90 years old local royalty - y.m. photo

People

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Senegal - lady

Senegal - card players

Senegal - girl

Senegal - family - y.m. photo

Senegal - guy - m.t. photo

Senegal - a local man with a Caribbean look - y.m. photo

Attractions

Touba - Grand Mosque

Senegal - Touba - Grand Mosque - y.m. photo

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