Friday, June 04, 2010

Dakar, Senegal

Dakar, Senegal
Sunday, May 23, 2010

At 6:00 a.m., I looked out the balcony door to see that we were entering the port of Dakar; it was a large port, like entering the mouth of a river. The world had changed; suddenly, we were back in civilization again. As the light of dawn slowly emerged, I could see that we were in a real city, with real buildings, high rise buildings. Cars were passing on the streets. I felt excited to be in Dakar, the destination of many European tourists. As I stood on the balcony, I could also feel the cool, dry air, and it felt good to have left the heat and humidity behind.

Monique had arranged a tour guide for Dakar, and when she called him on her cell phone, he was already at the pier waiting for us. She called to say that we would exit the ship as soon as we were given clearance, so we hurried through breakfast to be ready to go as soon after 7:00 a.m. as possible. Jerome would not be our guide himself; he had a van and driver, and he introduced us to Oussey, who would be our guide. Monique gave him half the agreed upon price of 300 euros, and we were off.

Bas explained to Oussey that we were not interested in buildings, but people. Take us to where the people are. Well, that turned out to be somewhat difficult because we were in Dakar on Sunday, and most of the city was closed. The streets were almost empty, and Oussey explained that we were lucky because we would not normally be able to get through the traffic congestion. We stopped first at the beautiful train station, located next to the port. The station was closed on Sunday, but we took photos of the elegant fa├žade and we peeked through the fence to see the old trains still in service.

Next, Oussey took us past the Place de L’Independence, the center of Dakar, to the President’s house for photos, and I was struck at how much like the White House it looked. We had fun taking photos of the guard at the gate, who was dressed like the guards in London. We also took photos of some of the girls selling souvenirs nearby.

After leaving the President’s house, Oussey took us on a drive along the coast through a very wealthy area with beautiful large homes, including some of the homes of high-ranking government officials and homes of ambassadors to Senegal from other countries. We stopped on an overlook for several photos looking back toward the city. France controlled Senegal for more than 100 years. Dakar did not exist until the French decided to develop a port at this site, and built Dakar on undeveloped land. Thus, France was able to plan the city in their own style, and the French influence is everywhere. The streets were wide and beautiful, with large trees forming a shady canopy across them. I was reminded of Paris, and Senegal has adopted the French attitude toward beauty, promoting art and culture. How wonderful it is to be in a place that values beauty.

Next stop, Dakar’s central cathedral. It was confirmation Sunday, and many, many girls were outside the church in their white dresses looking very pretty. Bas waded in and began to take dozens of photos, laughing and playing to get them to smile. I was much more shy about taking photos of girls outside the church. We walked into the entrance of the church, but a service was underway, and I was quiet. Oussey told us “no photos in the church”, so Bas was the only one who got a good photo inside.

Oussey then took us along Route de la Corniche Est, the beautiful street along the eastern corniche or cliffs.

To be completed later.

No comments: