Home visit and local tourism in Diamaynéne Village, Dakar
Would you follow a total stranger who you casually met at a market in an African city? It was exactly what we did here in Dakar and we got a great experience in the private home of a typical African family in a typical African neighborhood in Dakar, Senegal. Local tourism in Dakar is not organized as far as I know, you just have to take your chance. I must admit that my skepticism was great and I did have some worries about being framed. Was there a hidden agenda? For safety’s sake I left most of my money and all credit cards safe where we stayed in Dakar. If I was to be mugged, I did not want to be ripped off for more than I could afford!
Mustafa Mboye, the name of the man we met at Marche Kermel in Dakar, met us in the morning with a taxi. Together we went out of Dakar center on route de Rufisque, southwards. After about 15 minutes we took off from the main road and drove onto a gravel road, or more correctly a sandy path. Senegal is a desert country, though it is not so evident in the big city, but once you get outside the center, there is sand everywhere.
The village Diamaynéne is in practice divided in two by a broad highway, built 3 years ago. The cab stopped in one part and we walked across the bridge to Mustafa`s part of the village on the other side of the highway. It was hard to walk in the sand that covered all paths between the brick houses. Mustafa knows everyone and are sending greetings in all directions. A big advantage for us is that Mustafa speaks a great deal of English and that is rare here in Senegal. We have learned some simple pleasantries in French and say our greetings as best we can. The kids yell “white” after us, but it’s no offense. It is most probably a sign of wonder and curiosity, not often white people visit this village. Unemployment here is great and poverty is evident.
Mustafa has assured me that I can take as many pictures as I want. As long as we’re with him every thing is all right. Normally it is a problem to take pictures on the streets in Dakar. Especially women will not be photographed and can get quite angry when they see me with my big camera. So I walk around with long eyes and discover perfect photo motifs absolutely all the time without being able to do anything! Tragically, I think, but I can actually understand it too.
Things are a little bit easier here in Diamaynéne. The women are still reluctant, but they encourage me to take pictures of the kids. And the kids love to be photographed and of course they get to see them selves on the screen afterwards, a big advantage with digital cameras. As a gesture towards Mustafa, I beleive, some ladies agree to be photographed. I am happy to get som photos of my local tourism experience.
We arrive at Mustafa`s house where he lives with his wife and 4 children, his parents, sister in law and certainly many more. We do not completely understand how many people who actually live here. Mustafa invites us into his bedroom, the only room for him and his family. A large double bed and a monster of a closet dominate the room. The courtyard is common and there is a multitude of kids of all ages. Among many, we get to meet his mother Soda and his old father who is now blind.
The plan is to go to the market and buy fish and vegetables for lunch. We are invited to eat together with the large family. The market is a few blocks away and it is chaotic scenery. The stalls are close together and it’s almost impossible to walk between them. Flies are buzzing in dense swarms around the fish and freshly slaughtered meat, all laying open on the tables and the smell is sharp and unpleasant. Local tourism can be both problematic and exciting, and is not suited for everyone.
We manage to buy some commodities and are venturing on the way back to Mustafa`s home. The kitchen is at the back and it is just a narrow passage with sand and open sky. The food is prepared on fire and there is Nei Ami which stands for the cooking. I am joining her, but I don’t really feel that I can contribute with some thing under these conditions. Fortunately I can film and photograph as much as I want. Africa’s strong sun makes it difficult though to get good lighting, so I just snap away and hope for the best.
In the street outside there is shade and a little breath of wind, so we sit out there and are being offered Sengalesian tea. It taste very special, sweet and with a strong seasoning. Not quite my taste. Per quickly becomes accepted by the guys in the street and with a little help from Mustafa they all talk and laugh while drinking tea. Mustafa says that both Christians and Muslims live together in the village and there are no problems with that. What people believe in is a private matter, says Mustafa.
Life here is lived on the streets and in the large family. Extended family, is the African term, here we are all brothers! Mustafa tells the same story, the children go in and out to all families and when food is placed on the floor in large barrels, ever one present is invited to eat.
Eventually the food is ready and tablecloths are laid on the floor in the courtyard. Three large barrels are filled with food and we all sit down in a circle around the barrels. As guests we are being offered a spoon, the others eat with their fingers. We are anxious for our sensitive stomachs, but of course we have to eat, as we have accepted the invitation and are here as guests. The food tastes magnificent, gorgeous spicy and with ingredients that have shapes and colors we’ve never seen before. Good thing we are neither uptight nor afraid of the unknown, although we do not quite look forward to a probable diarrhea tomorrow! (As it turned out, we where never sick and our stomachs worked perfect the day after.)
Sometimes you have to take some chances in order to get some major experiences. The goal of traveling is to experience something new, get to know other cultures and being with ordinary people in the country you are traveling in. So thanks a lot to Mustafa and his family who gave us this wonderful experience and who shared their home with us.