Shopping in Dakar`s markets

At Dakar`s markets you will find almost everything, but what should one buy to bring back home?

African masks outside Kermel Market in Dakar.
African masks outside Kermel Market in Dakar. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.

Per and I are strolling around in Dakar`s downtown and most of the time we are left in peace. Street vendors do not address us and we can quietly go around and look at the offers in the stores we visit. But then suddenly the mood changes. We are approached by young men who want to take us around the next corner to look at their little booth in on of Dakar`s markets. Just look, they say, you do not have to buy anything. They are ongoing and do not take no for an answer. We have approached Dakar’s largest market, Sandanga.

There is a widespread misconception that it is cheaper to shop at markets. Our experience after many years of traveling in many different African countries is that you get goods of better quality and equally cheap in real stores. Here it is most often fixed prices, although slightly haggling is possible here too. But it is easier to consider the price level when the output price is realistic and not just put out to find out how dupe or inexperienced you are.

Nevertheless, one should visit some markets to get an impression of the lively and buzzy folklore. Moreover, there are special markets that are not intended for tourists, as the textile market HLM.

Senegal is expensive compared to many other African countries, particularly in relation to East Africa. But the assortment is huge and you can find African art from all over Africa here. Should you buy antiques, you should either have extensive knowledge yourself or bring with you an expert. You can also do like us, we buy what we like whether it is old or new, if we think it’s worth the price. Much of what looks old is really made very recently.

Senegal has a greater supply and variety of African fabrics than many other countries in Africa and it is certainly something you should buy and take home.

Sandanga Market main entrance. Dakars markeder.
Sandanga Market main entrance. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.
Tailor at Sandanga market. Dakars markeder.
Tailor at Sandanga market. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.

Sandanga Market:

Sandanga lies roughly midway on Plateau center in Dakar and is the biggest of Dakar`s markets. If you are not familiar with African markets is worth a visit, but be careful with your valuables and do not be fooled to follow strangers. Sandanga is a mix of flea market and tourist market. It is fussy and chaotic and sellers are ongoing. Try to visit Sandanga early in the morning. It is less crowded at that time of day and fruits and vegetables are fresh and look attractive.

On the outskirts of Sandanga, on Lamine Gueye, is the fabric stores densely packed and it’s not as fussy as in the market itself. The fabric is in packs of many meters, but they are happy to divide them for you. The price is about 1000 CFA per meter, a little more if there are particular patterns or extra good quality – or if they think they can fool you because you are a foreigner!

Kermel Market main entrance. Dakars markeder.
Kermel Market main entrance. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.

Kermel Market:

Dakar has other markets that are quieter and in my opinion more exciting than Sandanga. Kermel Market is a little further south on the Plateau, near Novotel and Aveny Hassan II.

This is a must visit, one of the best of Dakar`s markets! In a beautiful circular building the fish traders has their place in the center. Then comes butchers in the next circle, vegetable and fruit dealers outside there together with florists. Outside the building you will find typical African souvenirs such as jewelry, masks and sculptures.

A walk around the market gives you a good idea of the various fish species and we discover fish types we’ve never seen before. People are nice and welcoming. The stalls outside the food market is a little fussier with many pushy sellers. We showed some interest in some sculptures, but the price that was first suggested was so high that we saw no point in starting to haggle. Later it was suggested a price to around one third of which was first mentioned, which confirmed our suspicion that bargain opportunity should be large.

Kermel Market was built in 1860 in Victorian style. The building burned down in 1994, but was gently restored and was completed in 1997 in all its glory.

Kermel Market victoian restored building. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.
Kermel Market and young men selling fish and sea food. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.
Kermel Market, some incredible fish types. Lipstick!

HLM Market:

Marche HLM is located in the HLM district of Dakar and is the place to get African textiles. The offer is varied and a goldmine for a textile lover like me. We had several visits to HLM Market during our time in Dakar. In this market you can walk relatively undisturbed. At HLM you can also get your clothes tailored, whether you want something modern or in a traditional African style.

The colorful, large patterned African fabric can be great to use as tablecloths. Wash the fabric at 90 degrees in the washing machine before use. Many substances are inserted with a kind of wax to make them stiff. The prize are basically the same whether you are trading in the stalls in the middle of the street or in the small shops along the street. I shopped in one of the more decent shops and there I met Thiermo-Diouf who spoke a little English and gave me super service. I paid 1000 CFA per meter of 100% cotton in typical African patterns, the same, as they demanded in the open stalls.

HLM Market. Thiermo-Diouf helped me to pick out some wonderful african fabric. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.
HLM Market. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.
HLM Market. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.
HLM Market. Some colorful fashion! Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.
HLM Market. Dakars markeder. Dakar`s markets.

Soumbedioune Village artisane:

Arts and crafts market in Dakar Medina, just south of Magic Land.


Marche Colobane:

Colobane is a district in Dakar and the whole town looks almost like a flea market!


Special shops:

El-Hadji Ibra Thiam Antiquaire, 16 Rue Mohamed V.

Antique shop for masks and sculptures.

Arts Primitif Antiquite, Hotel Teranga, 3320 Place de l`Union

Antique shop for masks and sculptures.

I.F.A.N. Museum, Place Pascher

Antique shop for masks and sculptures.

La Calebasse, Restaurant Traditionelle Africain

Route des Mamelles

The restaurant is located on the 2nd Floor and everything is for sale; tables, chairs and other furnishing. On the ground floor is a shop with African masks and sculpture and the prices are not higher than at the market. The selection is huge and most goods are marked with country of origin.

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