Why Senegal? I’m not exactly sure why, except I had heard it was one of the more progressive nations on the African continent. Having visited Burkina Faso in West Africa as well as several other nations in North, South and East Africa, I was curious about Senegal. It was an easy hop from Morocco where we had been to attend a wedding, so why not? We spent five days. Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.
The country of Senegal is home to 16 million people, and more than three million live in Dakar. Dakar, though more cosmopolitan than many African cities, is fraught with traffic and air pollution. Although a brand new international airport opened last year, other infrastructure is lacking and traffic is a mess. An incredible amount of construction of apartments and condominiums is going on. Our guide told us these are all privately funded and very expensive so not intended for the local people, who on average earn about $600 a month.
I don’t pretend to understand the government in Senegal (see Wikipedia on Senegal here), but from my brief observations there seems to be a disconnect between leadership and the people. Of course this is not uncommon in many nations, and especially developing countries. Although Senegal has never had a civil war or a coup, it’s not hard to imagine a ticking time bomb. During our visit teachers were on strike and had been on strike for several months. School children have nothing to occupy their days and…trouble ensues. Bored teenagers with no focus are the same around the world. Unemployment is 40%. Young men out of work wander aimlessly looking for fun and trouble.
How will this end? It was something on my mind as I pondered Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.
We hired a guide from Senegal Odyssey Tours to help us explore the area. On our second day, Omour met us at our hotel and we spent a couple hours in the morning touring the city of Dakar, seeing colonial sites (Senegal was a French colony until 1960), and learning some history.
Next we headed to Goree Island via ferry, the most significant site in Dakar as far as history. The Portuguese arrived in the 1400’s to Goree and quickly secured it due to it’s strategic location for protection.
But in 1536 the Portuguese launched the slave trade, realizing the immense profitability awaiting them by trading human beings rather than goods. For the next 312 years, more than 20 million African people – men, women and children – were brutally captured, detained, raped, beaten, imprisoned and THEN loaded by the hundreds on tiny ships and sailed off to points west. Many would die before arriving. Many would survive but never see their families or children again.
Goree Island tells this story for the visitor by allowing visitors to see and feel the tiny prisons. Goree Island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978. Learn more here.
We took a day off between tours and just relaxed and did some catch up work on the computer, as well as a short walk around our neighborhood of Almadies near our hotel called La Residence. This neighborhood is “upscale” and home to several embassies including the US Embassy.
But then the next day bright and early Omour was there to pick us up again as we began the nearly two hour drive to the fishing village of Kayar. The drive was long and slow and Senegal was experiencing a significant desert dust storm and I was wondering if this would be worth it. Oh yes it was.
Kayar was an astonishing site, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. This is the most important fishing village in Senegal and we luckily arrived at the height of the morning catch frenzy. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Hundreds of boats. Thousands of people. Millions of fish. Highly competitive, a bit frantic and a bit frightening. The catch of the day included tuna, snapper, herring and barracuda. Fish were being pulled out of the boats by the thousands, no bad smell as they were completely fresh. Some of the fish is used in payment to the workers, some goes to local regional restaurants while much of it is frozen for the Asian market.
I had heard about the Pink Lake, but Omour didn’t want me to be disappointed so he made sure I understood the lake was not always pink. In fact the pink/rose color, which is created by algae, is most prominent on clear sunny days. And honestly due to the air pollution and sand pollution a clear sunny day is rare.
On arrival we found more of a dirty brown lake, in some places a blood red color. We took a small boat out to see the salt being collected. Salt mining in the lake is what most the local people do for a living in this region. We learned that only men do the salt collecting because it was determined a few years ago that women were having miscarriages from the salt.
The men cover themselves in Shea butter and only spend four hours in the four foot deep water. Here they scoop the salt from the bottom with a shovel, into a basket they hold down with their feet. Then they dump the heavy load into a boat. The salt can be a grey color, but once exposed to the sun it turns white.
Until 1978 this spot was the culmination point of the Paris to Dakar car rally. We took a dune buggy ride to see some of what remains of that route, and to see the crashing Atlantic ocean as it breaks onto Senegal’s western shores.
Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit
Senegal is one of the most developed African nations and I hope for the people here who need jobs and education to help catapult them forward. There is so much untapped human potential. I hope the government and the people can make it happen. I am glad I came. Thank you for reading my post Senegal – What I Experienced in My Short Visit.
Read last week’s post Morocco Three Day Tour Marrakesh to Fez
Next week I’ll share about Malta.
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