DakarCopyright: Igor Grochev/Shutterstock.com
DakarThe Cape Verde Peninsula sticks out westward into the Atlantic Ocean, reaching from the Old World to the New, harbouring the westernmost city on the African mainland: Dakar. A city that represents Africa's development better than almost any other, Dakar boasts the comforts and luxuries of modern living, while firmly keeping a grasp on its history and traditions. The bustling markets of downtown are juxtaposed with the laid-back pace of Île de Gorée and the surrounding beaches, making a visit to Dakar a fascinating experience of contrasts.
The CityDakar has been for centuries a vital hub for travel and commerce, connecting Africa, Europe and the Americas. Once an important point for the Atlantic slave trade because of its strategic location, it still holds an important position for trade, transport and communication. Dakar's rich cultural heritage and a diverse and often difficult colonial history have bred a unique social blend that incorporates European, North African and West African elements, but stands out from all three. It is a blossoming city with a vibrant art scene, exciting diversity and enough natural wonders in the vicinity to warrant a few day trips. The mix of cultures is clearly visible in every aspect of the city, from the art and architecture to the cuisine and religious practices, and every quartier holds new things to discover.
Do & See
Giant bronze statues, fantastic art museums, mosques, cathedrals and tons of fascinating history mean that you're sure to find plenty to do in Dakar. If you feel like exploring a bit further outside the city, attractions like the pink Lake Retba, the Village des Tortues, and the nearby Gorée Island make for great day trips.
Like its population, Senegal's cuisine draws from North African, French, and Portuguese influences, all of which are mixed with local ingredients and the gastronomic traditions of the country's diverse ethnic groups. Fish is an important part of the food here, as are lamb, peas, peanuts, couscous, and lentils. Also, be sure to try some of the delicious juices made with fresh fruit like mango and soursop.
The coffee culture in Dakar has its quirks. There's nothing quite like buying a tiny plastic cup of extra sweetened coffee from a street vendor. But as the city has become ever more cosmopolitan and worldly, and as international influences have become more and more a part of life in the Senegalese capital, Western-style cafes have been popping up throughout the city. Below are some suggestions for those wanting to escape the hustle of the city to enjoy a hot coffee, a quick snack, or a creamy dessert.
Bars & Nightlife
Dakar boasts some of the best, liveliest, and most varied nightlife in West Africa. Bars provide cool and refreshing drinks, while nightclubs keep the crowds dancing till the morning. The selection of musical and cultural events is staggering, with concerts, movies, and performances always available throughout the city.
The best shopping to be found in Dakar is at the abundant and colourful markets all around the city. Some specialize in certain types of products, like fabrics or local produce, while others seem to offer just about anything you can think of. Be sure to haggle to ensure getting the best possible price, and beware of pickpockets, who tend to take advantage of the hectic bustle of markets.