Thursday, December 30, 2010

An Eye Opener in Dakar, Senegal (Nov. 6, 2010)

Dakar is the capital city of Senegal on the country’s Atlantic coast. It is the westernmost African city and is a strategic departure point for trans-Atlantic and European trade. Dakar is home to the National Assembly of Senegal and the Presidential Palace.

Its economy comes from the export of fish, phosphates, and peanuts. The dress in Senegal is conservative and many places will not let you in if you are wearing shorts.

There are 16 different ethnic groups in Senegal and the main language is Wolof with French being the second language. They gained their independence from the French in 1960. 95% of the population is Muslim and polygamy is practiced. Men can have up to four wives, if they are able to support them.

The flag of Senegal...

Here we are arriving at sunrise.

We docked next to this French supply boat which was part of a NATO exercise involving several French and Italian warships.

We had a private tour this morning, which I had arranged on-line, so we were hoping that a) the bus showed up and b) the guide spoke English! It did, and he did…and so we were off.

Leopold Sedar Senghor was the first President of the independent Senegal and ruled from 1960 to 1980. He was very well respected and started export trade with other countries, helping to establish their independence.

A war memorial...

We zoomed around Independence Square several times before we realized all roads to anywhere lead off of the Square.

We arrived at the Presidential Palace. The guards don’t mind having their picture taken…

The President was in residence and was getting ready to go somewhere.

This was our guide, Mamune, who spoke quite good English. We should have counted how many times he said “Do you understand me?” during the day!

Back around Independence Square to continue our city tour...

This was our first real look at the poverty in this part of Africa. This was a common street scene…stores, with street vendors facing in to the sidewalk and garbage.

This is Sandaga Market, the largest market in the city. It was Saturday, so the traffic wasn’t too bad, which was a good thing because it took us at least 20 minutes to drive through it.

There were easily thousands of street vendors who pay for a permit to operate a booth or work the streets.

Hang up a rack of shirts, and you’re in business. We noticed a lot of cars were covered to keep them clean.

We were going to Goree Island, which was initially a trade centre. The Dutch established a fort there in the early 1600s and built a town that was a large market for agricultural and manufactured products. Sadly, the trade in slaves was more lucrative and more than 40 million slaves were shipped to Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, the US and other places.

They have a beautiful port facility.

We were squashed in like sardines getting ready to go…

Loading supplies on the back of the ferry.

Bags of bread…

There were some nice boats here as well…

We sailed by our home away from home…

Time to check in on the news…

We arrived at Goree Island with the fort that the Dutch established in the 1600s. 


Goree is a pretty place with ocher-coloured houses from the 18th century, and brightly painted doors and window frames. No motor vehicles are allowed on the island.



Welcome to Goree Island. The festival is held to celebrate African art and culture.

It’s a clean place…

Mamune explaining the statue of the Liberation of the Slaves...


The lion is the national animal and the baobab tree is the national tree. The tree produces “monkey bread” fruit which is a great source of vitamin C. The leaves of the tree can be used to make soup, and the trunk of the tree stores water. This one is hundreds of years old and they can live to be 1000 years old!

The bread store…

This is how the women carry their young children…

There were lots of vendors. Dakar was by far the worst place we had seen for aggressive vendors. It started on the ferry with woman who go to Goree Island to work asking you to come to their shop on the Island. They don’t stop until you say “yes, yes” and most times they will find you while you are on the island to remind you. They are so aggressive that it is hard to look at any of the items they have for sale.

The slave house was built in 1776 and was one of 28 slave houses on the island. This house held 150 to 200 slaves—men, women and children—all given a number and segregated in cells. They were chained at the neck and arms to the wall and were only allowed out for 15 minutes a day. During this time they were forced to dance to keep their muscles from atrophying.

A man of 60 kilos would be sold for a barrel of wine or a goat. Children would be sold for a piece of tobacco or a necklace.

Our guide in front of the area where children were kept.

Any slaves who died were thrown in the water for the sharks to eat. The punishment cell…

The slave masters lived upstairs. We really needed to have more time on the island, but we had to keep moving.

The church…

Beautiful colours of clothing…

1200 people live on the island…

We went to a sand painting shop and watched artisans working. This movie shows him signing our paintings. The glue that they use to adhere the sand to the wood, comes from the baobab tree. 

video

Not sure what this instrument was, but he was playing it and singing. He had a very good voice. The hole in the instrument was a convenient place for dropping tips…

I wish we could have spent more time there, but we had to catch the ferry and continue our tour.

Jim looks stressed…

Sailing away with the old fort on the left and the new city on the right…

Dakar from the water…

Passing by the security guard at the ferry terminal…

This would be the sports section of the outdoor shopping…

We needed a restroom stop, so Mamune took us to the Novotel. We got to use the restroom in style!

Interesting art in the lobby of the hotel…


Getting back on the van. It’s probably the only time we’ll see a van with our name as the tour name.

They are amazing…they can carry just about anything on their heads, which accounts for their very good posture.


This lady was cooking right on the sidewalk…

Busy street scene…


We were now on our way to lunch at Les Almadies, which used to be a Club Med, and is the most westerly point of the African continent.

We passed by the University of Senegal, which was designed for 15,000 students and now has 29,000. Mamune went to university for four years, with an additional two years in tourism, and still can’t find a steady job at 35 years of age. That is the main reason there are so many street vendors.

Here we are at lunch. They served a lovely salad with shrimp which everyone was hesitant to eat as we have been told to eat only cooked food. We had fish or beef which was followed by fruit, again which few people ate. I am sure it was all perfectly fine, but no one was too willing to chance it.

The surf shop outside the restaurant. Once again we were besieged by vendors. We did buy a nice mask. Jeff bargained a guy down from $65 to $11 for a mask. Thanks to him, we offered $15 for a larger one and the guy eventually gave it to us. Jeff is a good bargainer!

Not sure what the pelican was doing here. Another vendor was walking around with a cage full of small birds. You could buy a bird for $1 and he would give it to you to set free. He probably keeps catching all the same birds!

There were some nice houses…

We stopped at this amazing monument celebrating the rebirth of Africa. It is a bronze statue that cost almost $500,000, a huge amount for such a poor country.

At 53 m, it is the world's largest statue.


Some neat chairs for sale!

It was their annual religious festival, Tabaski, where a goat or sheep would be sacrificed after morning prayer. These poor little guys were not long for this world…


These boys were flying barefoot down the street…

A shoe market…

These are the local buses.

The guy hanging off the back collects your money…

Our purchases…the mask and two sand paintings.

It was a day of learning in Dakar. Goree Island is a must see and needs several more hours than we had to fully take it all in...

1 comment:

Randy Sharp said...

That mask (last picture) is beautiful, did you buy it in Senegal? I bought the same sand painting that you did, the one in the middle, but I also like the one on the right. I still haven't hung it up yet and honestly had forgotten about it until I saw your picture!
Do you remember how hot it was that day in Senegal? And how relentless the vendors were when we were waiting to enter the van after lunch? It was still locked because the driver was on his prayer rug.
Randy