It’s already been said that one doesn’t go to Dakar for the proper tourist attractions. Pick up a Lonely Planet guide to the entire country of Senegal and you’ll find a book about the size of the Kalamazoos. The draw to Senegal is not in its proper monuments or attractions, but rather in its people, history and culture.
That said, there are a few interesting sites to see if you’re looking for a day of relaxation, photo opportunities and maybe a little hassling from local trinket vendors. Break them up into a few days if you would like, but all three of these can be done in a good solid day.
Ile de Gorée (top photo)
Historically known as a slave trading hub (although the volume of slaves exported from here is questionable,) the island of Gorée 2km off the coast has been restored over the last few decades to pay respect to the ancient industry. Numerous buildings have been rebuilt to historical accuracy, with yellow and red painted walls brightly bordering the perimeter of the island. It’s a stark contrast to the buildings on the mainland, and a fairly obvious pull to tourists.
On the 45 acre island, one can visit the slave museum, history museum and any number of small shops and historical alcoves to piece together bits of Gorée’s past. Walking up to the crest of the island affords a beautiful view of Dakar as well the company of a towering concrete monument of mysterious origin.
Expect to find a wide variety of overpriced Senegalese trinkets and art on the island, as well as guides offering their service to take you around. Maintain a steady line and you’ll avoid most of the ruckus.
There is also a small beach on Goree, but it’s fairly overcrowded and not a safe place to leave your personal belongings. If you really fancy a visit to the beach, consider Ile de Ngor on the north side of Dakar (pictured above,) with quieter, safer and nicer beaches with attendants and umbrellas.
Entry into the museums is less than $5 each while the ferry for Goree leaves frequently from downtown Dakar.
Pointe Des Almadies
A small volume of tourist-centric commerce has been built around the westernmost point of continental Africa, Point Almadies (pictured below.) One can grab a meal of fresh fish and fries at one of the numerous restaurants then walk out to the pier and take photos near the lighthouse. Afterwards, an artisians market is nearby and on the way home there is even a casino that one can stop in and visit.
Cab fare from central Dakar should cost about $5.
Like Paris, Dakar is divided into several regions called arondissiments. Here, however, the divisions are purely bureaucratic, and the locals rarely refer to their neighborhoods by what arondissiment it’s in. Where government and popular opinon overlap, however, is in the Plateau, the southernmost point of Dakar and home to many of the embassies, officialities and pomp of Dakar.
Here you can scour around for cafés with wireless internet, mainstream restaurants and boutiques selling traditional Senegalese wear, all against the backdrop of street vendors hawking and taxis buzzing by.
The best place to do this is on Ave. George Pompidou (also known as Ponty) just west of Place de Independence. From here you can also walk south towards the Presedential Palace, in front of which it’s rumored that “even the trees hate the President.”
Unless you’re in Dakar during the dead of winter, it’s going to be a rather sweaty visit throughout the city, so make sure you bring a bottle of water and take plenty of breaks. Worst case scenario, you can always jump into the Atlantic and cool off between destinations.
Read more from Dakar here.