I learnt on my ride to my hosts’ house from the airport that Senegal is 95% Muslim. The first reaction was shock, mostly because my knowledge that the country had been colonized by France had led me to believing that it was a Christian nation. I grew terribly nervous because I had not packed for a Muslim location, but my fears were soon allayed because;
2. Moderate Islam
When you hear a Muslim state, you imagine the middle East, a country where almost all activity is run on the foundation of religion. The Senegalese will respond to any matters regarding religion with “Je suis musulman modéré” (I am a moderate muslim). As strange as this may sound, in the two weeks I was in Dakar, I could count the number of hijabs I saw. While the dressing is mostly conservative, the freedom of dress is almost bewildering.
French was expected, it is an ex-Frence colony after all. (Is there any anything like ex-France? If you know about ex-France colonies….anyway, I digress) What I did not expect, however, was that the uneducated populace is only conversant in Wolof. This meant a bit of trouble communicating with cab drivers and a few other people on the ground.
4. Road network
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I’ll put it out there that traveling humbles you. Between growing up in a household of patriots and being constantly bombarded by the media, regarding Kenya as a giant economy in Africa, I have had had a diminished view of other African countries. Having toured 8 African countries in the last one year has been eye opening. People have GOOD ROADS. You leave Nairobi and discover the whole world doesn’t waste 3 hours daily in traffic like you do. Dakar has a good road network, complete with proper dedicated pedestrian walkways, which means;
5. Exercise culture
Driving/walking around Dakar in the evening is a sight to behold. It’s like there’s an alarm that reminds everyone to go out on the streets and jog. On the beaches, crowds are jogging and doing sit-ups and press-ups and squats. This was quite a sight!
6. The love of ‘citron’
Citron goes with everything. It goes with the communal lunch meal (squeezed into ready food), it goes with vodka, it goes with ice-cold water. The lemons in Senegal are extra juicy and loved by all.
7. The love of coffee/tea shots
On the streets of Senegal are men seated in groups brewing tea and coffee for leisure. This is taken in shot glasses and is strong and bitter. It would be interesting to find out the source of this tradition which also extends into people’s homes.
8. Price of goods
My magnified sense of Kenya had led me to believe that Senegal would be cheaper. However, I found the price of most things slightly higher. This includes small things like soda to the larger ones like furniture.
9. Taxi decorations
The taxis in Senegal are the driver’s art gallery. From dangling baby shoes on the rear view mirror to soap dishes attached to the windshield, all manner of paraphernalia are to be found.
10. Skin bleaching
Bleaching is a monstrous problem in Senegal. You see bleached women all over the streets, which I find baffling. Don’t they realise that it’s obvious to all that they have bleached? Do they prefer the red skin with several dotted blemishes to their fair dark skin that oozes African magic?
Until next time,