It took a while to write this blog post on my trip to Senegal last summer. It is hard for me to write about it because it was a life changing experience and even after 5 months it is still in my head and I feel the African blues every single day of my life. I want to go back and I know that I will but the urge sometimes is unbearable.
It was my first time in Africa: I have been dreaming of it for more than 20 years but I was so scared of my reaction that I postponed this trip forever until I decided that it was something that I had to do, a dream that I wanted to make come true.
I brought with me a notebook because I wanted to write down everything but I was so overwhelmed by all my emotions and feelings that I came back home with a blank notepad. Everything was impacting me beyond words and even now I am unable to express my feelings by words.
My trip to Dakar in Senegal was a kind of test for my reaction, just for your understanding: I was tempted to stay there for the rest of my life and for the first time in my life I tried to postpone my ticket to go back to Italy. Also when I came back to Italy I suffered a lot: I missed everything from food to people, perfumes and familiar noises, the call for worship, the rhythm of mbalax, the wolof, the laughs, the constant happiness of those days, the kindness of people. I finally understood why they call it the country of “Teranga”, hospitality.
I had the chance to live with a Senegalese family (who is now my second family) in Dakar and I decided to visit the town and its surroundings during my stay. I leave the tour of the country from North to South for my next trip.
Dakar is a town full of life night and day: it is noisy and crowded but irresistible at the same time. It is easy to meet people, to talk to everyone and to enjoy the beaches, the rhythm and the food almost everywhere! On some days I just wandered in the streets of Dakar without destination using taxis or the famous colored buses: the Medina, the Almadies area, Place de l’Indépendance, the Corniche, the beautiful beach of Yoff, the amazing markets of Sandaga, Kermel, Tilène, the mosques, the Museums and Galleries (my favorite ones were the Galérie Antenna and the IFAN museum).
I started my tour with a special visit to the African Renaissance monument and the museum where you can also admire a wonderful view of the town, especially if you walk down the hill until the beach.
The surroundings of Dakar are also breathtaking: I will write a dedicated post to Gorée Island, which was for me a very special experience but I took the boat a second time to head to Ngor Island from the amazing Ngor beach. As it was August the island was pretty crowded on the beach side but if you walk to the rocky side of the island you will be surprised by the awesomeness of the views and maybe for the first time you will be completely alone.
I also headed by bus (this was a bit more complicated trip!) to the Pink Lake (Lac Retba) where I toured the lake on a pirogue…but unfortunately that day the lake wasn’t as pink as I imagined. Its salt content is very high which gives it its pink color but only in particular weather conditions.
So if you are not afraid of the African Blues (believe me, it’s the hardest thing) just book a flight to this amazing country and live it fully, breathe the love and buy all the amazing things that you can buy there (wax fabrics, African handmade jewels, colored baskets). Eat the best plates of the Senegalese cuisine (mafé, thieboudienne), the juicy mangoes or drink the bissap, the ginger and the buoy (the fruit of the baobab tree) and enjoy the incredible nature (you can see the most beautiful baobab trees and animals).
It can be a life changing experience especially if you decide to live it like locals: staying in small B&B instead of fancy hotels, going around by bus or shared taxis, walking, talking to people, basically enjoy the real Senegalese life.