I’ve been in Dakar for a week now and believe me, this is a city of contrasts. I’ve driven along smooth motorways with blue French signs and brand new peage tollbooths and seen young kids begging by the roadside for food and coins. I’ve watched shiny new buses that wouldn’t look out of place in Paris overtake horses pulling carts. I’ve stepped into cool, clean supermarkets that seem to have been plucked straight from France and plonked down here in Senegal. And just like supermarkets in France there is wine; lots and lots of French wine.
I love that the main chain of fast food restaurants isn’t mcdonald’s or kfc but La Brioche Dorée – a boulangerie selling coffee, croissants, and baguettes. When the French did colonialism they did at least leave behind some of the best parts of French life.
We’re staying on the north side of the city at plage n’gor – a curved stretch of sandy beach facing the tiny îsle de n’gor a short way across the water.
This part of the burbs is super-popular with locals. Every day the beach is a playground, football pitch, wrestling arena, and fitness zone combined. Keeping fit is a major pastime for young Senegalese men and it can be quite exhausting just watching them do circuits up and down the beach. I’ve teased The Other Dr Scales that he should join in.
And last Friday Dakar’s youth arrived en masse, glammed up to the max, filling the beach and squeezing into laden boats to the island – all to celebrate reggae legend Bob Marley on the 31st anniversary of his death. I watched on from above, taking pictures from the roof of our hotel and playing with the miniaturisation effect on my new Lumix LX5.