You know you’re in Dakar when…


You know you’re in Dakar when…

You see colorful buses everywhere

They are car rapides (“fast buses” in French) and are a Senegalese symbol. Although there are talks about taking them off the streets in the near future, I have trouble imagining Dakar without them.

You also see colorful pirogues, smell fish and see fishermen in lots of places

Aside from car rapides in the streets, Dakar has a lot of colorful pirogues on its beaches. While some pirogues transport tourists (from Ngor mainland to Ngor Island for instance), most are used to fish (I’ve seen hundreds in the fishing villages of Yoff, Soumebedioune and Ouakam).

The hamburger you ordered came with fries, cheese and a fried egg in it

At first I thought this type of burger was a specialty at the restaurant near our office. I concluded that it’s a Dakarois specialty when I ordered a hamburger and got the same dish in two other places.

There are men and women selling Nescafe (coffee) or offering attaya (tea) in pink cups on every street corner (and therefore crushed pink cups on the ground all over the city)

While Nescafe is a Swiss brand of coffee that Dakarois seem to attribute to every kind of coffee they drink, attaya is a three-stages social and cultural event surrounding foaming, minty, green tea. From what I understand, “attaya” is also the tea. I have had it a couple of times and like it, although I find it very sweet.

There is always someone running or exercising somewhere

People in Dakar seem to really care about being fit. Aside from water sports at the city’s beaches, I have seen lots of people exercise (work out) on Corniche Ouest in the evenings during the week and also mornings on weekends. I have also watched (in a non-creepy way :)) a few people run or stretch in “regular clothes.”

The same person can ask how you are are three or four times before starting a conversation

I learned this when I arrived and have experienced it a couple of times. It gets more interesting when I am sick or not having a really good day and, feeling like each question is a prompt to say how I truly feel and why, depart from my usual “Ca va bien, merci. Et vous?” (“All is well, thank you. What about you?” in French) answer.

People respond “on est ensemble” (“we are together” in French) when you thank them for doing you a favor

I wonder if the saying has something to do with the culture of teranga (“hospitality” in Wolof), which I have definitely experienced here in Senegal.

Children ask you for money

I read about them but it still takes some time adjusting to the fact that most of those children are talibés (“students”). Officially, they study the Quran with marabouts, but many here have questions and concerns about marabout-talibé relationships.

Everyone – even kids – wants to be your tour guide or helper

Everyone I meet offers to guide or help me, especially at markets and touristic places like Goree Island. I suppose this should be expected since Senegal has a large community of expatriates and tourism is a significant part of the economy.

It’s not uncommon to see people with teeth cleaning twigs – even behind the wheel of a luxury car

I was definitely caught off guard the first time I saw someone who looked like a businessman with one, but I have since come to terms with the fact that people from all social classes seem to enjoy brushing/ cleaning their teeth with twigs.

Businesses and offices are either closed early or completely every Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Although less than 10% of the population practices Christianity, most businesses and offices close both on Friday afternoons and Sundays. I also noticed that several close at 12 or 1pm on Saturdays, allowing their owners to enjoy relatively long weekends throughout the year. As a friend correctly pointed out recently, this schedule is more convenient for a worker or business owner than a customer…

Have you been to Dakar? What else did you notice about life here? How is it similar or different from life in the other African countries you have visited (if applicable)? How is it similar or different from where you come from?


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  1. 11 November 2017 / 1:03 am

    Going to Dakar is my dream! It seems like such a nice place with really cool people. How do you cope with the shops closing early on the weekend, though?

    • Oluwakemi Loriade
      13 November 2017 / 10:00 pm

      Hi! Thanks for stopping by and reading the post! Dakar is worth a visit and I hope you’ll be able to come here sometime.

      Thanks for asking the question. First, I should clarify that I did not mean retail shops. I meant businesses and offices like banks, real estate agents, or the TV, phone and internet service providers for instance – people and businesses you might not be concerned with as a tourist or visitor :). To answer your question, however, I’ll say that I cope by working around the schedule to the best of my ability. Since I work regular full time hours (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday), I get up early on Saturdays and hope I’m one of the first customers at the business so I can get what I need to get done before everyone else gets there and the staff gets swamped. Some of the places I mentioned open at 7:30am or 8am, so once I went to a service provider as soon as they opened to get what I needed to get done before going to work.

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