Enjoying the sun

Yes! Because we love going to beaches and swimming pools, today’s post is about the best spots to relax and enjoy Dakar’s great weather. Swimming Pools RADISSON BLU HOTEL Located at Les Mamelles, only 10 minutes ride from Dakar center, … Sigue leyendo

Christmas market

Yesterday, while I was searching for an address, I walked around the Institut Français (89 Rue Joseph Gomis, Dakar) and saw a huge market. I entered it and found all types of african crafts and colors which woke up my imagination.

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There were all kinds of stands; clothes, ceramics, skin products, bio food, leather goods, jewelry, accessories, art…

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As you can see, everything was handmade and the majority of things were typically senegalese. Textiles and clothing were the most african recognizable pieces:

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I also saw music instruments I’d never seen before and other type of tribal decorations:

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Handbags and silver jewelry:

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The gardens were amazing, it was like if you were inside a fairy story, really nice to walk around:

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There’s also a very pleasant restaurant in the same gardens where you can eat or simply rest while having a drink.

I highly recommend to visit this ‘Marché de Noel’. It is free all days from 10am to 8pm and saturdays from 2pm to 9pm. It will be visible until the 22nd of December, hurry up!

xxx

Claudia.

Salon du mariage à Dakar

From the 8th to the 10th of November, the King Fahd Palace Hotel hosted the second edition of Dakar’s Bridal Week.

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I was invited by boutique NOVIA ( https://www.facebook.com/noviadakarrobemariee?ref=profile ), a shop in 44 Rue Carnot x Wagane Diouf, Dakar; which sells bridal dresses, cocktail and elegant clothing for kids.

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Diana, in charge of the shop, is the only person in Senegal who sells european brands, such as Pronovias or Rosa Clara. She started the business when she got married and suddenly realized she had to travel to Europe to find her perfect dress. So after that, she decided to open the shop and bring to Senegal what’s best worn in Europe.

So, as I was saying, I attended the Bridal Salon and there were many different stands; from brides clothing to lingerie covering also other types of businesses such as hotels, travel agencies and caterings. Here, Novia’s Stand:

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The show was expected to start on Saturday 9th November at 20:00h but it actually started 4 hours late…

Here are pictures of the backstage:

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Spectators & catwalk:

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Before and during the show, famous senegalese singers and dancers performed:

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Aaaand… the show finally started!!! Novia was the first to walk through the catwalk. First, the kids who were dressed up with their suits and ties, danced to Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean and managed it to cheer up the bored audience who had been waiting for almost 4 hours.

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Eventually, the cocktail clothes came out. Beautiful Pronovias’ vaporous and colorful long and short dresses moved through the catwalk, leaving everybody astonished.

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Finally, the brides dresses came out. Shining dresses for delicate, refined and sophisticated brides:

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After Novia’s show, other brands did their passage. On the picture, menswear:

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Lingerie:

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… and finally, typical senegalese clothing:

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After the show, I went to sleep! (it was almost 2am…).

The thing that shocked me more (comparing to Europe’s shows) was the informality of starting 4 hours late. People there had payed to watch the show… I can’t stand lack of punctuality!

Secondly, the backstage and the catwalk were a caos. Nobody knew when they had to come out, the dj didn’t know the songs that were ment for each show… everyone was walking around going nowhere.

Finally, the irresponsibility of models and other guests who were lent dresses and gave them back absolutely destroyed. I think that generally, people here don’t value things, if something breaks or gets dirty, nothing happens. I personally care about my things, and if I wear something they have lended me, I care even more.

Anyway, it’s just their second edition bridal salon so I’m sure they’ll manage to do it better in the meanwhile. The catwalk was modest but nice and the atmosphere was familiar and friendly. I think senegalese people are hungry of fashion and initiatives like this one are great to create jobs and to strengthen its economy.

Hope you found it interesting.

xxx

Claudia.

What to see in Dakar

  • La corniche. It’s the highway that borders the sea. Great views! Specially in the sunset. Lots of people gather around to practice sport in the outdoor gym situated next to the open ocean.

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  • Palais de la République. Situated in Plateau, the “Palais Présidentiel” was initially built for the governors (the capital of Senegal was then placed in Saint Louis), but eventually became the president’s residence. It’s not permitted to go inside but it’s an interesting place to look around, specially, the colonial building, the gardens that surround it and the guard at the door.

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  • Fish market. The fish market is an improvised market situated close to Dakar (at the shore of the same Corniche). You can find fresh fish and other shellfish. It’s interesting to see how the fish goes from the sea directly to the fishmonger who cleans it up and prepares it to be sold at the best price possible. It’s also nice to see when the sailors arrive at the shore with their small colorful boats.

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  • Sandaga market. This market is situated in the centre of Dakar (at the crossing of Pompidou avenue and Lamine Gueye avenue) and they sell almost everything: clothing, electronic devices, kitchen tools, kids games, food… it’s pleasant to walk around and to take a look at the different vendors. Be careful when taking pictures, people often get angry when you do it without their approval. Also take care of your personal belongings; although Dakar is not a dangerous city, it’s common to find pickpockets in crowded places such as these markets.

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  • African renaissance monument. It’s a 49 meter bronze statue situated in Ouakam (Dakar), on top of the Coline des Mamelles. The statue symbolizes the independence of the african countries and their upcoming growth. It was also highly criticized for costing over 27 Millions US$ in a country with many other main priorities. They accused President Abdoulaye Wade of making more of an “ego” statue rather than a real symbol of liberation. Anyway, the statue is worth seeing! It’s huge and you can go up to its head and enjoy great 360º city views.

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  •  Lac Rose. At one hour drive from Dakar you can find the Lac Rose (or pink lake). Its special algae produce a red pigment to defend themselves from high salinity turning the waters pink. This lake measures 3km2 and on its surroundings there is a small salt collecting industry. It used to be the finishing point of the ultra famous Paris-Dakar rally. Its great colors and contrasts make the lake a beautiful and virgin place to visit. I recommend driving around the whole way, where you will find great views (specially at sunset) and a huge variety of animals such as orchids or different types of birds. There is also a small bar with a little dock where you can have something to drink and relax with the magnificent views of the reflections of the sun over the salted lake.

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Hope you enjoyed the post!!! Eventually I’ll post more information about what to visit in the outskirts of Dakar and other activities you can do here 🙂

xxx

Claudia.

Must knows

Today’s post is about knowing essentials before moving to Senegal.

  • Vaccines

Senegal is not a risky country to travel but there are some vaccines that are obligatory. Yellow fever is one of them. It is also highly recommended to take hepatitis A and B and tetanus vaccines before coming. Malaria is endemic in Senegal but it’s not as spread as in other African countries more in the south. Also, there’s no way to prevent an infected mosquito from biting you so just cross your fingers and wish it doesn’t happen to you!

  • Hospitals

There are several hospitals here like Hospital Principal or Clinique Pasteur but I had the (dis)fortune to have to stay the night in one of them. I chose La Madeleine because it’s known as the best hospital in Dakar and it really is. Good doctors and nurses, good attention, everything was really clean and looked after. I had a room for myself with wifi, tv, Air Conditioning and modern medical furniture and tools (photo).

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  • Food

Thiemboudienne is Senegal’s traditional dish. Similar to the spanish “paella” it’s made out of rice, fish and tomato sauce. It’s usually spicy so be careful if you’re not used to it. If a Senegalese person invites you to eat at his house, know that the normal way to eat is to sit around a huge pan filled with thiemboudienne and eventually everyone eats from the same pan with their hands. Normally, the housewives prepare the fish for the guest and leave it on your side of the pan for you to eat it.

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Apart from this, there are all types of foods that can be found here. There are international supermarkets such as Casino (french) and Dia (spanish) where you can find all sorts of european food.

If you love pastry, La Royaltine (photo) has great cakes and other pastries. It also has a tea salon in its outside terrace.  La Gallette is also an excellent pastries shop.

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Be careful with water and ice. It’s really important to drink bottled water and even though taking all precautions, it’s very likely that you get stomach aches. Remember I told you about sleeping in the hospital? The doctor told me it was very common within foreigners to get sick while living in Senegal because we’re not used to their food/water.

  • Prices

Dakar is an expensive city. There is no middle class; so you either live in a senegalese way or you spend fortunes in food and living. There are several good restaurants (La Fourchette, La Parrilla, Fuji, Lagoon, Alkimia…) but normally cost around 30€/person, if not more.

Renting an apartment is also really expensive. If you think that by moving to Africa you will live as a “maharajah”, then you should probably choose another destination. The prices of the flats in the center of Dakar (one of the best neighbourhoods, Plateau) are really high because of the poor constructions they’ve been doing here. So if you want to live in a nice flat in the city center (european standard), it will cost you at least 1500€/month.

Other activities that are common in Europe such as hairdressers, manicures, getting a massage, partying (alcoholic cocktails cost around 10-12€ each), going to the swimming pool, etc are also expensive. If you want to spend your day in a hotel’s swimming pool, note that the entrance will cost you about 17€ (at the Radisson Blu hotel, photo) and the “best” gymnasium here (which has nothing to do with the best gymnasium elsewhere in Europe) costs about 130€/month depending on the subscription.

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As you can see, Dakar is not cheap at all.

  • Culture and Religion (several woman, musulmans)

90% of Senegalese people are muslims and can get married with more than one women. Be careful with what clothes you wear, try not to dress too extreme.

Photo: Mosquée Avenue du Président Lamine Guèye.

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Every friday, at 1pm several spiritual leaders wonder the city with a loud speaker to let people know that it’s time to pray. Muslims leave their work, clean their faces and hands and walk to the center of Dakar where the streets are covered with people praying the Quran.

The majority of senegalese people don’t have a long term vision. It’s difficult to make them understand the importance of doing things well done for the future. That’s why streets are filthy and sidewalks broken and filled with cars (you have to walk around the city through the road because there’s no space in the sidewalks for pedestrians). Also, be careful not to get hit by a car, they drive without looking and obviously don’t care if there’s a pedestrian crossing the road. Photo: Avenue du Président Lamine Guèye.

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Things are slow here and difficult to explain. They usually say they understand but actually haven’t understood a word you’ve said, be patient. Sometimes being white is a reason for them to make you wait more than expected or to treat you as if you were rich. They don’t hesitate to ask for money, normally it’s because families here are really big and there’s always someone who is in trouble, getting married (dowries here are really high), needing some kind of medical attention or they just need money to buy a goat for the Tabaski religious festivity. They always help themselves between families. They’re not used to having tourism so make sure you ask when to take a photo to someone, they get really upset if you photograph them without consent.

Senegalese people (always talking in general) are often stubborn and arrogant. They get offended when a white person suggests a change or advises them on something. They have a low self-conscious regarding white people, that’s why they feel attacked when they don’t have the impression of controlling the situation.

  • Language

Their official language is wolof although the great majority speak also french. If you don’t speak french and want to learn it, the best place is the Institut Français of Dakar http://www.institutfrancais-senegal.com/ . People from all around the world meet there and share their experiences in Senegal.

  • Commerces

The majority of sales are done in the streets. Street vendors walk all through the city to sell you all kind of things. Once I was waiting on a traffic light and it amazed me how many different things they tried to sell me in 5 minutes;  hangers, games for kids, chairs, pots, fruits…

You will often see during mornings improvised bars on the sidewalks serving coffee with a wooden bench and a table for their guests to be seated, people doing sandwiches in little establishments and women selling peanuts and other fruits.

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  • Weather

Senegal has tropical climate, temperatures stay almost the same throughout the year. There are two seasons: warm and humid season between june and october (october is really really warm) with temperatures rounding 28ºC and rains in august and july, and a colder season between november and may in which the temperatures lower a bit, around 23ºC.

Hope you enjoyed the post! 🙂

xxx

Claudia.

Roadtrip to Niokolokoba

On my first weekend in Saint Louis, I went to visit the National Park of Niokolo Koba, province of Velingara (south Senegal, close to Gambia).

I travelled through 508km; by car, 43ºC and no air conditioning.

The landscapes on the way were great, though the road was the worst ever seen, we spend nearly 8 hours to arrive to our hotel in Tambacounda.

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It didn’t seem Senegal, the vegetation was incredible, green everywhere.

Once we arrived there….

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… the guide told us no one had entered the park in a month. Great start! The roads inside the park were unridable and everything looked absolutely abandoned. We had to clear up the path several times in order to ride through.

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Even with the difficulties we faced and the high temperatures, the landscapes and the nature were amazing.

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When we arrived to the hotel inside the Park (hotel Simenti) there was nobody there. They were about to close, so we couldn’t even get a drink. Anyway, the scenery from such heights was magnificent, without crocodiles but magnificent…

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Besides this, our idea of Safari was far behind from being real… the only animals we got to see were monkeys, deers, a leopard inside a cage and some phacochoerus (the wild pig from the Lion King) and several types of birds.

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The park was badly kept, there weren’t nearly animals and in general, it was not worth traveling 8 hours.

The conclusion I took of this trip was that generally, Senegalese people don’t look after their country. All cities and villages are filthy and no one cares about doing a good maintenance of anything (even of their properties). It’s true the majority don’t have money to do this, but their mentality has to change, starting with the corrupt politics that accept bribery to live in a great mansion in the center of Dakar instead of using the money to grow as a nation.

This country has an enormous potential and you can find huge opportunities here. But before that, a lot of things have to be done… and changed.

xxx

Claudia.

To start with… Volunteering

I landed in Senegal last year. I wanted to have a volunteering experience so I contacted Taliberté, in Saint Louis.

Taliberté is an association that works with kids who live with a marabout (religious teacher) in order to pursue a free religious education of the Qur’an and helping him, in exchange, with labor. They are often street children whose families can’t afford to send them to school and live in precarious conditions, unfed and forced to stay there until the age of fifteen.

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So, I started working with them. I didn’t speak french, neither did them (they just spoke their regional language, Wolof) so I had to communicate by using symbols and mimics.  I soon started to know them better and to identify their needs.

I managed to raise funds to buy books, toys, medicines, snacks, paints, material for the center…

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…and what’s best, to pay for an operation for Munas, whose family couldn’t afford it and was about to lose her arm.

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We also established a “showers day” in which we showered all the kids, made them throw their old clothes and put on other new ones. They rarely cleaned themselves, normally they would be a month or more without taking any personal hygiene.

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This was the result 🙂

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These kids just seek for attention, where they live, they’re just a workforce. If anyone is looking to continue with this project, they can check out the facebook page I created and contact me. https://www.facebook.com/HelpTalibes

It was a great experience, I highly recommend it to anyone willing to help somehow.

Claudia.

Welcome to Senegal

Welcome to Senegal

Welcome to ‘it’s about Senegal’! Throughout this blog, I’ll introduce you to different cities, activities, opportunities, culture and spots by means of situations I’ve experienced while living in Senegal. It’s all about getting to know better this African emerging country … Sigue leyendo