Sightseeing in Dakar

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Things to do


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February, 2020

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Whilst sailing with “Variety Cruises” on their “Rivers of West Africa” cruise, we had a brief city tour of Senegal’s capital, Dakar, before heading out for lunch on “Gorée Island”.

Prior to this visit, the only thing I knew about Dakar is that it hosted the finishing stages of the Paris to Dakar Rally. Google revealed that although the route changed in 2009 due to security fears, it’s still known as the Dakar Rally.

As we had to be at the terminal to purchase our ferry tickets at 11.30am, most of our sightseeing was done from the coach. However, our local guide, Pape, entertained us with information about the country which gained independence from the French in 1960.

Our first stop was Marché Kermel, one of Dakar’s many markets, which was located in a wonderful circular-style building originally built in 1915. However, after a fire in 1974, it was rebuilt 5 years later. We wandered around the fruit and vegetables on the outer circles, the fish on the middle circles, where Pape joked about the smell of ‘Chanel minus 5’, and the meat in the central area.

After being besieged by traders selling t-shirts and pictures made from butterfly wings, we boarded the coach with Pape pointing out various sights as we drove around including: Independence Square with its travel agencies and Foreign Affairs Department, 5-star Pullman hotel (the best in Dakar) and Governor’s Office. We also passed Presidential Palace, although were told that the president lives in a private residence as the Palace is too formal for his young family, the hospital, Parliament and IFAN Museum of African Art.

Our next stop was the Catholic Our Ladies of Victory Cathedral built in 1923. Sculptures of four African angels have rested above the entrance since 1966 and were inspired by the Fulani tribe with their braided hair and distinctive noses. The central 30m-high dome, similar to that of a mosque, was painted in 1966 with an unusual pyramid of people, called the resurrection of the races. A sculpture of a tree was connected with a Papal visit by John Paul II in 1992 and was something to do with putting down roots and being grounded whilst French words said ‘n’ayez pas peur’ or ‘be not afraid’.

Back in the coach, we drove past another market, Marché Sandaga, where pick pockets are said to be rife and the designer goods fake.

Next stop was the Grand Mosque of Dakar, with its green and white tiles, built in 1966 with money donated by the King of Morocco. 95% of the population are Muslim but the country is very religiously tolerant. The minaret, 67m tall and 5m square, houses a school on different levels.

On our way to the ferry terminal, more sights were pointed out including an obelisk 1960 with the Roman numerals MCMLX, 1800-seater theatre built with Chinese money and Black Civilisation Museum.

Our afternoon was spent on “Gorée Island”: and, although we should have visited the African Renaissance Monument on our return it was 5.15pm, and having left the yacht at 9am, we decided to call it a day and were dropped off back at the port.

Whilst our tour of “Banjul”:, the capital of The Gambia, was easily done in half a day, there is much more to Dakar, and it would be easy to spend a couple of days exploring further either at the beginning or end of the cruise.

Our cruise was booked through “Seafarer Cruising and Sailing Holidays”:

Helen Jackson

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