Another sea day away is our next port Dakar, Senegal. I have never been here before, so I was excited to arrive and get started. Senegal is situated on the most westerly part of Africa and Dakar is its capital. The official language here is French, but many speak English as well as many local dialects. Dakar is also known for it’s lively markets and rich musical culture. In one village, the chief had organized a cultural event for us highlighting their dance and music. The population of Senegal is over 17 million. They have an agricultural economy and around 42% of the people live in the rural areas and approximately one million live in the Dakar area. Most people are Muslim.
Our tour of Dakar took us through the downtown area. The markets we saw from the bus were varied, plentiful and busy. Our guide also told us the government is trying to build more housing for the people and we saw what looked like half-finished low rise apartments in many areas. In other areas, he told us that people would build so far and then work to get the money to continue and so on until it was finished. The construction industry is doing a booming business and there were many stores selling construction-related products like wood, cinder blocks and cement. The transportation of these products to the building sites is mainly done by horse and buggy and the horses vie with the trucks and cars, mopeds and buses for room on the narrow chaotic streets. It was really pandemonium in some places and though there were lots of cars and many little buses with riders overflowing out the back, it seemed like the majority of the people just walked.
Once we got through the downtown area, and it took us quite awhile to get through all the traffic, we stopped at a “hospital”. It wasn’t a hospital in the sense we know it. It was “Jardin des Plantes Medicinals”, the place where locals go to for health issues using natural herbs, leaves, roots etc from the plants in the area. If a person continues to be ill, then they will seek out a regular doctor or hospital, but many believe in the healing powers of these plants. I also learned that many of these plants are also found in some of the common medicines we use today at home. A young woman was sitting there filling little plastic bags with a powder that was supposed to heal or help with arthritis – $5.00 per bag – I don’t think anyone purchased the product.
Next was a visit to Pink Lake, so called because it appears to be pink. The colour is caused by the algae that grows at the bottom of the lake. However, because of heavy rains recently, the water was diluted and it certainly did not appear pink. It is however very salty, up to 40% and our guide told us it is saltier than the Dead Sea. And yes, apparently you can float in it. They also harvest the salt here. At Pink Lake we had a flat tire. After a repair we continued a rock and roll ride over sand dunes and finally we reached the beach. The 4×4 we were riding in was held together with wire and a prayer I think. After a stop at the beach where the water was ‘make your ankles ache’ cold, our 4×4 would not start. Once going again, we all held our breath as we made our way, with the motor revving to keep it from stalling, back to where we started.
On the way back to the ship we were invited by the chief of a local village to watch some local dances. The costumes were colourful and beautiful and the dancers were very energetic with music and drums. I can’t imagine how hot the dancers were in their costumes and thick makeup. We were dripping and we were sitting in the shade. The ladies passed the “baskets” afterwards, and I hope everyone was generous as I am sure the village could use the funds. These countries are not really ready for tourism. But you have to appreciate they did the best they could with the equipment they have and the people are all so friendly and smiling and obviously happy to have tourists back after the lack of same because of covid. Obviously they are not wealthy, but they seem to have enough food, the people dress nicely, particularly the women, always in beautiful colourful dresses. The children mostly seem to be in school uniforms and school is free for the lower schools.
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