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I'm Margaret, a female traveller from Nigeria, and welcome to my personal blog , TheAjalaBug.com.

Here, I document my adventures in travel and life experiences generally. Hope you get inspired!

A Rising Tourism Destination | Senegal Travel

A Rising Tourism Destination | Senegal Travel

"Travel Africa, skip mediocre". This is a mantra for a lot of us Africa travel enthusiasts. Yet again, another Travel Africa champion is showcasing the continent and changing the narrative with his trip to Senegal. Fatah is noticeably and apologetically exploring the nooks and crannies of the continent. While I have equally thoroughly explored Senegal, I felt it wise to hear a male's perceptive of the country. Read his witty story below.   

I took a trip to Senegal and Gambia in June 2016. This blog post relates to the Senegal trip while Gambia will come afterwards.

I arrived first in Dakar via Accra. It was a late flight which was further compounded by Arik Air’s characteristic delays. I was travelling with my mentor who was attending a business conference in Dakar.  Radisson Blu, the hotel we were lodging at, had a bus to pick us up from the Airport (named after Leopold Senghor, a Senegalese politician who for two decades served as the first president of Senegal).

When we got into the room at 2am, there was some mosquito infestation which was a complete disappointment, given the size and standard of the hotel. Shamefully, we had to sit out at the lobby for about an hour whilst the requested insecticide mist cleared the room of the buzzing welcoming party. 

I met with the hotel's concierge who spoke very good English (the national language is French but everyone speaks Wollof – the indigenous language). He got me in touch with a local tour guide who speaks very good English – his name is Mame Laye Mbengue. He came in after an hour and we agreed terms for a tour around Dakar.  It cost me what at that time was the equivalent of about N20k – N30k. Mame spoke very good English and as a native of Dakar was very good at his job. We agreed that the trip would involve the famous Goree Island and the Renaissance Monument.

We hopped into his minivan before mid-day.  He stated that due to Ramadan (the Muslim holy month) most of the cultural places in Dakar may not be open for the entire day. He nonetheless sought my permission for a diversion to the market so that he can purchase some beef from his family within town. As a muslim, I understood as well that Ramadam meals are very important. We visited a butcher at the other side of town called Medina and Mame negotiated for his beef.  

I  took some pictures whilst Mame negotiated at the Butchers. I think the beef cost was quite cheap by Nigerian Standard. The cost of a whole Ram Torso as shown in the above was equivalent to about N10k – N15k.  

 Butcher at Dakar

Butcher at Dakar

 Butcher at Dakar

Butcher at Dakar

We spoke a bit about Senegal; most people are Muslims but a good number belong to the Mouric Spiritual Group, which has its spiritual home in Touba (a city in central Senegal).

Mame was not Mouric but was Tijanniya, a smaller sect which is also a bit popular in Nigeria.  He showed me pictures of Sheik Amadu Bamba which was incredibly ubiquitous to show that the house or shops were that of a Mouric member. Sheik Amadu Bamba’s image was everywhere in Senegal.

 Sheik Amadu Bamba’s image

Sheik Amadu Bamba’s image

We later drove around the center of the city which had a very European design and feel to it; with tree-lined streets and boulevards. Luckily, we passed the presidential palace and Our Lady of Victories Cathedral. 

Senegal's founding President was a Catholic Christian and led the country for more than two decades despite having a 90% Muslim population. The church is right at the centre of town

 Centre of Dakar

Centre of Dakar

 The presidential palace

The presidential palace

 Our Lady of Victories Cathedral

Our Lady of Victories Cathedral

We then made our way to Goree Island. We had to go to a Jetty and take a ferry to the Island.

 Jetty at Dakar

Jetty at Dakar

 Ferries at anchor at the Dakar Jetty. 

Ferries at anchor at the Dakar Jetty. 

 Approaching Goree Island

Approaching Goree Island

Goree Island used to be slaving port. The ferry trip to Goree took about 30 - 40 minutes. On the island, several slaving merchants had their own houses and we were to visit one of those slaving houses which has been restored. On arrival at Goree, we were bombarded by Souvenir Sellers (mostly women) and mendicants. Mame held them off and we proceeded on the tour.

 Goree Island

Goree Island

 Goree Island slaving house

Goree Island slaving house

There is so much to see and learn about on Goree Island. One of such places is the slave house. The slave house showed how the slave were held in very despicable condition before being transferred to ships. It was a bit disturbing. The holding cells were hot and humid. It was difficult to imagine hundred of humans being lumped together in these terrible conditions. 

I was also at the door of no return which was for many slaves, the exit from Africa onto Canoes that took them to the slave ships anchored just offshore.

There was also a museum in the slave house.  I saw some of the slaving implements. A healthy knowledge of French (which in my case, I have forgotten) is required to understand most of the museum displays.

 Goree Island slaving house

Goree Island slaving house

 Goree Island slaving house

Goree Island slaving house

 Door of no return at Goree Island slaving house

Door of no return at Goree Island slaving house

 Museum at Goree Island slaving house

Museum at Goree Island slaving house

We later stepped out and explored Goree Island after the visit to the slave house. Its quite a stretch and there were relatively impressive art colonies and monuments around.

 Slavery monument at Goree Island, Île de Gorée

Slavery monument at Goree Island, Île de Gorée

 Art displays at Goree Island

Art displays at Goree Island

After close to three (3) hours in Goree Island, we left and took a Ferry back to Dakar. We thereafter made our way to the African Renaissance Monument in Dakar.

The monument was constructed by the former president, Abdoulaye Wade. It’s a gigantic statue showing Man, Woman and Child, with the child pointing forward.  Mame said the statue is not very popular amongst Senegalese. This was partly because of the cost and the ‘indiscrete’ dressing of the woman (in a mostly Muslim society). There was also a joke that the child was not actually pointing forward but to the West(which it was actually pointing to)…and thus the child was telling its parents to get out of Africa and move to North America.

The climb up the monument stairs were quite exacting, although there were lifts that allowed one to get to the top of the monument from within. The Ramadan period meant that entrance was closed early  by the time we arrived there.  Nonetheless the monument provided good picture opportunities and this was the end of my first day in Senegal.

 African Renaissance Monument

African Renaissance Monument

 African Renaissance Monument

African Renaissance Monument

 African Renaissance Monument

African Renaissance Monument

The next day, Day 2, I was relatively inactive as I only went to visit a grand mosque (Mosque of Divinity) close  the center of the city.  I also bought some clothes at the main Market with the help of Mame.

 Mosque of Divinity

Mosque of Divinity

 Mosque of Divinity

Mosque of Divinity

 Mosque of Divinity

Mosque of Divinity

On the third day, I arranged alongside Mame for a road trip from Dakar to the Land Border with Gambia, which was my next destination.  It was going to be a 5/6 hour road trip and we were supposed to have a stop-over at the Fathala Reserve along the way.

The journey was interesting as we had to pass through a lot of towns. We also had to load our vehicle on a ferry to cross the Sine-Saloum river at Fatick/Foundiogne. 

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At the junction going into Fatick (the hometown of the current present- Malcy Sall).

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The Saum- a salty desolate land after Fatick. Miles and miles without any green vegetation.

 Loaded on the Ferry were vehicles, goods, itinerant mercanhts and others

Loaded on the Ferry were vehicles, goods, itinerant mercanhts and others

After arriving at the other side of Foundiogne, we drove another two (2) hours before we got to the Fathala Reserve.

The reserve has an hotel but we were there to have a famous walk with Lions in the Reserve. I was initially scared about the prospect of walking without protection with Lions, but upon arrival I saw two Caucasian teenagers that had just completed their walk with the Lions as well. This emboldened me and Meme – so we had our walk with the lions too.

Two lion trainers joined us for the walk which took about 30 minutes. They said we had to hold a particular stick all the time as the Lions were trained with those sticks. I was anxious at first but the trainers were firmly controlling the movement of the lions (and feeding them intermittently with pieces of fresh meat).

The Lions, a male and female, were not fully grown yet as they were four year olds. They were nonetheless quite large. After about five minutes, I grew comfortable enough to even lightly touch  the rump of the male lion. It was a fabulous experience. The cost of the walk was about N25k as at the time.

After the walk with Lions, we drove for about a hour to Karang where Mame followed me through Senegalese and Gambian immigration as I moved to Gambia.  This ended my tour in Senegal

 Fathala Reserve

Fathala Reserve

 Fathala Reserve

Fathala Reserve

 Fathala Reserve

Fathala Reserve

 Fathala Reserve

Fathala Reserve

 Fathala Reserve

Fathala Reserve

Final thoughts on travelling within Senegal

Travelling is educative and enriching!.

Senegal is a perfect holiday destination, whether you want to chill by the beaches or a pirogue adventure experiencing lagoons and creeks. From the pulsating live music clubs to the busy markets of Dakar, there’s plenty to do Senegal. 

Boyyyyyy!. This is a complete reflection of the Travel Africa movement I started years ago. Africa has it all, but you need to be willing to see the beauty that lies within. Thank goodness, these days everyone has Africa on their travel calendars. I can't wait for visa fees to drop drastically so I can explore other continents. *jokes*. Like me warri brothers will say, "we die here" in Africa!.. 

Hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did. It was witty and extremely informative. Please feel free to share your stories with us, either in the comment section or as an article on the blog.

Fatha Kadiri , the contributor, is the Head of private trust and a Senior Trust Advisor in an Asset Management Firm. Thank you so much for agreeing to share your private travel stories with with us. It will most definitely inspire someone. 

Till our next adventure, be kind to one another

Margaret.

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Omenka Art Gallery

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