Dakar, Senegal's Capital City
As we rode into Dakar, Senegal, a few days after Christmas, I remember saying "now this is a city." Not meaning any disrespect to The Gambia's capital city of Banjul, Dakar was just a little more reminiscent of cities in the States. Downtown streets in Dakar bustled with business people, students, and children, mixing well with the hundreds of street vendors and salespeople selling their goods. There were lots of tall buildings, billboards, electric and neon signs advertising recognizeable names like Sony, Nike, and Mercedes; but everything else throughout the country is in French. Senegal is a totally French-speaking country with most written materials being in French. If the people were not speaking their native African language, they spoke French. Ironically, French is about the only foreign language I studied all through school, but that didn't help me much except for a few basic words. It had been years since I even thought about French, and I had forgotten all but a few essential words like "Merci" and "Bonjour".
Dakar has familiar looking city buses, mostly paved and well-maintained roads, modern homes and lots of apartment buildings. More people in Dakar are modernly dressed, although there are many who stay with their traditional modes of African and Islamic dress. Downtown Dakar is striving to become even more cosmopolitan as they court more businesses from Europe, Asia and the United States. But still, Dakar is coastal, so there are also miles and miles of beautiful beaches and ocean views. And as you move inland away from the city, there is no doubting that you are still in Africa, evident in the landscapes of the grasslands, the farmlands, and the small villages that still encompass the majority of the country.
Here is a distant view of Dakar's skyline. We are offshore on a Ferry. Once belonging to France, the official language is French.
A closer look shows the modern skyscrapers, along with a solitary fisherman in a canoe. A new world seems to be springing up in the shadow of an old world that is reluctant to let go.
Dakar's Chamber of Commerce building. Workers were rolling out the red carpet for a big event that evening.
This is the Independence Hotel right near the Plaza.
A city street near downtown.