Ex-pat resident Emily Schauer talks about what a perfect day in Senegal’s Dakar, her adopted home, would be.
Often called the ‘Paris of West Africa’, Dakar, the capital of Senegal is a lively city with plenty to explore. Living in Dakar has given me even better insight into the best places to be. Here’s what would make my perfect day in Dakar.
Awakened by the bright morning sun, I start my day right by hopping into a taxi towards the exciting downtown area, where I spy vendors selling bright fabrics and fun trinkets from the window of the cab. I’ll have to explore more once I’ve had breakfast.
I return to my favorite menu item, the classic and simple butter croissant with an espresso, which I linger over as I watch people and traffic file by on the thoroughfare outside.
Having eaten my fill, I walk across the colonial Place de l’Independence to the Sandaga market, where I find an array of inexpensive treats. I banter and haggle jokingly with a street vendor for some traditional Senegalese fabric and jewelry.
After I’ve spent a couple of hours exploring the street markets I walk down to the sea port (or take a taxi if it’s too hot) and catch a ferry to the historic Gorée Island. (BBC: The Slave Island) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/3054442.stm
My first stop is one of the restaurants near the dock where I can rest and enjoy the cool island breeze during the heat of the day. I order my favorite Senegalese dish, yassa poulet – white rice with chicken, onion sauce, and local vegetables.
Then it’s off to the old fort used in colonial times as a defensive outpost protecting against maritime threats, and the island museum, an important history of Dakar’s role in the slave trade in West Africa.
In contrast to its heavy past, the island itself is beautiful to explore on a sunny day and offers some of the best views of Dakar and the peninsula on which it sits.
Once I’m back on the mainland, I return my apartment in Ngor, on the other side of town, for a quick shower to freshen up after being out in the hot sun.
I start the evening on the Point des Almadies, the westernmost point of all Africa. On the point lay Le Recif des Almadies, a seafood restaurant boasting some delicious fare. This restaurant is a seamless fusion of European dining and local food culture. The best food on the menu is that which inhabitants of the Dakar peninsula have been eating for generations.
I go for the plate of clams, large enough for at least two people, and a glass of red wine, both of which I enjoy for their rich simplicity.
Le Recif is a great choice because the scenery can’t be beaten, it is rarely over-crowded and the staff is very friendly – especially if you can manage a few greetings in the local language, Wolof.
For an exciting and energetic cap to my night, I move to the main strip in Ngor which is home to several night clubs and swanky bars. I pay a visit to The Patio, a lively dance club frequented by young Senegalese and ex-pats alike.
Or, if I’m feeling more inclined to a mellow evening I take a beach-side walk back home followed by a relaxed gander at my newest favorite book, always with the ocean sounding softly in my ears.
Have you had a perfect day in Dakar? Would you do anything differently? Let us know in the comments below!