Discovering Dakar – Dakar City Center

After discovering Delhi and sequel to my previous post, let’s explore Dakar!

I’ve been here for over a week now and I’ve found this city to be quite peaceful. As the capital of Senegal, Dakar is regarded as the commercial centre of French-speaking West Africa. It is located at the end of the Cap Verte peninsula, the western-most point on the African continent and has a population of about 2.4 million people.

This location has something to do with the time of sunrise and sunset here. The sun rises very late compared to Nigeria and sets quite late too. It’s a geographical thing and the pictures I’ve attached should express this better. It’s sunny now, so it’s warm and humid, about 30 degrees in the day time, and lower at night.

Dakar City Center
The city is crowded by tall closely built structures, a concrete jungle a lot like Victoria Island. Petty crime is said to be relatively high and crime against tourists common, so I was advised not to go running outdoors on the street like I do at home, and not to wear any expensive jewellery. Thankfully I haven’t had any negative experience but I’ve tried to be extra cautious, carrying my handbag on my arm at all times.

Here, everyone speaks French. If you read my previous post, you’ll know that my French needs some work, and I a lot more confidence speaking the language. Even the billboards and road signs are in French and none are translated. I often feel quite lost. So, you can understand my excitement when I spotted a few Nigerian Banks including Ecobank, Diamond Bank and of course my favourite, FirstBank! I wanted to just run in there and hug somebody.

Senegal is said to be one of the most politically stable countries in Africa and I have to agree. For one, 95% of the population is Muslim but you’d never guess. Regular dressing is fine, (by this I mean you don’t have to dress super conservative, covering you hair and all. Shorts at the beach is fine, same with sleeveless blouses etc) and I even found a bar selling alcohol right next to a mosque! The seems to be a balance in the air, some silent agreement to be tolerant of everyone else.

Senegalese CFA
Senegalese CFA

Senegalese use The West African CFA franc, commonly called “CFA”. This currency is used by 7 other West African countries, including Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Togo. One dollar ($1) is equal to 617CFA and N1 is currently equally to 2CFA. Consequently, I am constantly dividing prices by 2!

There are as many street sellers as there are beggars in Dakar City Center. The sellers hawk anything from backpacks, local dresses and footwear to roasted peanuts, tea or coconut water in the coconut. The beggars are of all ages, both male and female and many appear to be young and able-bodied while others are old or disabled.

My stay in Ndiambour Hotel has been peaceful. The hotel is in the heart of Dakar City Center and in walking distance from the popular Sandaga Market. The  rates are quite high but rooms as spacious, comfortable and clean, and the beds very firm. I love hard beds. The internet access is fast and reliable and there’s constant running water, hot or cold at all times. There’s also a small swimming pool on the 8th floor 1.2 feet to 2 feet deep. There’s a nice restaurant on the mezzanine floor but there’s no bar. Also, there’s no gym, this was a huge let-down for me, and no kettles or tea things in the rooms.

Just like in India, Senegal used these round hole sockets. Consequently, I recommend you get a suitable adapter if you travel often.

Outside Dakar City Center
Outside the city center, Dakar isn’t as developed. In Naiga and Keur Massar, many houses are uncompleted or under construction,  and horse drawn carts aren’t uncommon. However, I didn’t see or hear one generator set aka “I better pass my neighbor”. They have light and in my limited experience, good roads.

Getting around the city is best by taxi. It is advisable to negotiate the price first before getting in for the ride. If you’re a foreigner, you’ll certainly be slammed with a ridiculously high price. But most places within Dakar City do not cost more than 1000CFA. To be sure, get an idea of the fare from the hotel receptionist.

If you haven’t already, install Google Maps and download an offline map of the location you intend to visit. This will help you track the driver’s movements to be sure he is taking you to the right place or like in my case, it will help you direct him if he doesn’t know the way or gets lost.

Overall, the Senegalese are friendly and hospitable people and language barrier aside, Dakar would be a nice place to settle down in. I visited a number of tourist sites and took so many beautiful pictures which I will include in my next post! A bientôt!

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