– Or all we would like to know before we came to Dakar!
Arriving Dakar, an African city at 2am is no desired situation, but unfortunately it was so our flight added up. I must admit that it had worried me for weeks and my anxiety were no less after I read some horror stories on Wikitravel about just Dakar Airport.
Dakar airport, officially called Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport, named after Senegal’s first president from 1960 to 1980, is small and rather shabby. According to Wikitravel we could risk being stripped of our entire luggage straight from the baggage band and you could be fooled by fake taxi drivers and kidnapped. We hoped that this was greatly exaggerated!
We stood a bit confused in the dark outside the airport and wondered where the taxis were. Around us people were crowding together and shouted taxi, taxi and pointing in all directions. Taxis should be yellow, I had read beforehand and about 100 meters away we saw a number of yellow cars. We paved the way toward the first taxi in the queue and I had ta piece of paper with the address we were going to. One thing I had forgotten was that you cannot be guaranteed that all taxi drivers can read and they can rarely read maps!
Perhaps we had luck, we enter an old taxi, possibly a Toyota, and was finally heading into the center of the town Dakar. We do not speak French and our taxi driver could not a word of English. But he could fortunately read and studied the note I had given him with great interest. There was also a phone number to the night watchman where we would stay and the driver had luckily enough circulation in the head to call this number and was guided to the correct address without any problems. But the driver had to get paid along the road; otherwise we could not arrive at the correct address. Around 3 dollar + tip for the half-hour drive through the silent streets of Dakar is inexpensive. An interesting start on our stay in Dakar.
First meeting with Dakar went better than feared. We were pretty excited, but went to bed hoping to fall a sleep. After a few hours of sleep we woke up at 6am by the Islamic early prayers and to an incredibly beautiful garden where we would spend the next 17 days in a rented studio with kitchen access….
Dakar is the capital of Senegal and situated on a promontory in the far west of Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. It is an important seaport and Per have actually been here before, 44 years ago. It lives almost 3 million people here, spread over a fairly large area.
Best way to get to know a new city is to walk along the streets. But it is not all cities in Africa where you can walk safely along the streets so it was with some excitement we opened the iron gate and went out in the alley and into the street.
First impressions of Dakar are chaotic, dusty and exotic. Even for us who have been many times in Africa, this is the first time we will be so long in a big city. Morning coffee was our first goal this first morning in Dakar. We found a bakery / snack bar La Gondole just 500 meters down the street and they served good coffee and fresh croissants. It came to be our regular spot every morning while we were in Dakar.
We forgot to bring a Norwegian-French phrasebook! Very few here speak English and it took two days before we realized that the pronunciation of the place where we stayed, Point E is pronounced completely differently in French, so no wonder no one realized what we said! After a few days we found out that we stayed right by a post office that everyone knew where was, so we let it be our new home address.
We continued to walk along the streets and it has not presented any problems. People are mostly friendly and will happily chat. That’s when we think it’s sad that we do not speak French. I can a few words, enough that people realize that I am trying and give me a big smile. But some intelligent conversation is not possible from my side. But the few times we meet someone who speaks a little English, we have a good time.
It’s just at the typical tourist spots that you meet pushy salesperson that rarely give up until you are clearly annoyed. This applies especially down in the city center, in the streets around the big market. There they will persuade you to enter the market to visit just their little shop. Otherwise we are all the time welcomed to Dakar and Senegal by people who just want just that!