Senegal, Dakar

First stop in Senegal: Dakar

With its three million inhabitants, Senegal’s capital, Dakar, is a city full of those traits that make it a destination attractive for tourists. One of those traits is the famous Paris- Dakar. Even though if you want to attend it, nowadays you need to consider going halfway across the world. Football is another big star here. In the streets, you’ll see loads of people with the famous Lion’s t-shirt. And the food, and the people, oh gosh, where do we start? Let’s go step by step. 

Dakar is similar to other African cities I visited but more organised and tourist-friendly. So the first night, I felt safe enough to take a taxi and go out of town. I went close to the sea, to a restaurant managed (I discovered later) by a nice woman from Liguria.

How to describe Dakar in two words? 

I thought about an answer for so long since I figured out how useless the question was. Better asking: what are the sensations this city gives to you? Better, which images remained trapped inside your pen and paper in a way you couldn’t erase anymore? Step one, the sidewalks without start or end, mixed with a sandy smelly fog due to the old cars all around.

Plants!

Plants without owners, anarchist trees whose motto seems to be “sorry, humans, we don’t care about Dakar, that’s home for us”. They grow everywhere, on the stairs in front of the Post office. Vertical from half-open doors in an “audiovisual recording centre”, they occupy windows and balconies of abandoned houses. Dakar is also swarming with people.

There are men and women walking with huge boxes over their heads and incredibly straight backs. Also, Senegal supermodels men and women are jogging in flip-flops in the traffic. Others bravely try not to be killed by cycling through insane traffic rush in the streets. Dakar is also happy music everywhere, with people dancing under the sun with a bunch of bananas over their heads. In a word, it’s alive.

And the winner is…

I found my personal winner in a small street just outside the city. He was selling his furniture (the best of Senegal, says a handwritten ad attached to one sofa) while sitting on his donkey chewing a small plant. In one of his fabulous leather armchairs, you’re not going to see a dog or a cat sleeping (oh, no, too easy). A brown goat with a white muzzle is peacefully resting there. If not the most beautiful, the cutest goat in Senegal, I must say.

The Renaissance statue in Dakar

Dakar, Senegal, monument of Renaissance.
Dakar, Senegal, monument of Renaissance.

All of you probably had the experience of staying under a 160 ft. tall statue. No? Well, even for me, it was a shocking first time after the tallest tower in Japan. I’m sorry for my Senegalese friends, but I think they’ll agree with me when I say that Senegal needs a lot of other infrastructures before this colossal statue. The matter isn’t just the money the government spent on it.

The problem is mainly that we’re in a Muslim country, and a big breast pops- out of the woman’s t-shirt in the statue. Ali (that drives me around) said this is one reason why Senegal’s population changed their President. Even though I agree with Senegalese, as a tourist, I was fascinated by this immense figure. A man and a woman with a child are watching the Ocean without fear.

North Korea?

As a matter of fact, imagining a North Korean company coming all the way up here to make a giant statue is something quite shocking in itself. For one of you that like statistics: this is the tallest statue on the whole African continent. Senegal can be proud of saying that it’s 9 feet taller than the American Statue of Liberty.

A whole rose lake

Senegal, rose lake.
Senegal, rose lake.

Let’s make it clear. First, this lake is rose, but not as in the pictures (Photoshop?). Second, its name is Retba Lake, before changing it to a more touristic Rose Lake. I’m not going to get you bored with why it changes its colour once a day. However, I can tell you that this is the right place for salt if you’re searching for salt. All around the lake, you can find a massive amount of it, grouped together in piles and piles all around the lake.

Senegal Rose Lake

Guess what is the most common work here? Yes, in one way or another has something to do with the salt. If you ever try to swim in the lake, you’ll feel your feet burning and yourself floating. That’s because the salt concentration is really high. The salt extractors do community service.

Without them, it would be The Salty Lake, which sounds way less poetic than Rose Lake, no?

Now, let’s move to Gorèe island, shall we?

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The importance of reading, graphic by Daniele Frau.
The importance of reading, graphic by Daniele Frau.

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