Dakar is the capital and largest city in Senegal with about 1 million people living in the city itself and over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area. It is one of the biggest cities in West Africa and the cultural, economic and industrial heart of the country. It is located at the most western tip of the country at the Cape Verde Peninsula along the Atlantic coastline. Although Dakar itself is not without its own attraction, it mostly is a very chaotic and busy place. The hustle and bustle is one of its attractions, and just off the coast is Gorée Island where many slaves were transported to the New World.
Gorée is an island, and the smallest district, in the city of Dakar. This island has a very large fort on it that was important to trade, although not the slave trade. The island was originally settled in the 15th century because the Europeans needed a place they could defend. With the lack of a natural water source no natives lived on the island, therefore the island made a prefect place to build a fort. The island is home to the House of Slaves (Maison des esclaves), which is one of the oldest houses on the island and also a good museum that shows the horrors of the slave trade.
The Grand Mosque of Dakar is one of the most important religious buildings in Dakar. Designed by French and Moroccan architects, this mosque has inspired many followers of Islam. It was originally opened in 1964 and its square minaret rises to 67 meters. Institut islamique de Dakar is located next door to the mosque and has been a major centre for Islamic research and teaching since 1974. A new library was opened in 2004.
Senegal celebrates its independence day on April 4, the day the territory first became independent from France as part of the short-lived Federation of Mali. Schools are closed for two weeks and most Senegalese spend this national holiday visiting family and friends. Drill teams and color guards from Senegal’s military and police forces march down Dakar’s streets during Senegal’s largest Independence Day parades.
This colorful Dakar festival may only take place once every other May, but it is well worth the wait. The festival attracts contemporary artists from throughout Africa, who display their paintings, sculptures, and other masterpieces in galleries and venues across Senegal’s capital.
Each December, Dakar hosts Senegal’s largest film festival, originally created in 1999 as a showcase for Media Centre of Dakar production trainees. Today, filmmakers from across Senegal can have their productions screened at restaurants, museums, and other centers of culture throughout Dakar. Many Dakar institutions mount special screens during the festival.
Dakar has a hot and humid tropical climate with temperatures well over 30 °C during the day most of the year. Night temperatures are above 20 °C but can drop below more inland, although it rarely gets colder than 15 °C. The rainy season lasts from June to October with most rain falling from mid-July to September.
Although on average the months of February to April are coolest, because of heath in the east, with winds blowing from the east, temperatures in these months can rise to over 40 °C in Dakar, but these days are rare and sometimes only last for several hours during a certain day!
Dakar-Yoff-Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport (DKR) receives all international flights, among which those with Air Senegal International, the national airline of the country. International flights include Abidjan, Bamako, Banjul, Bissau, Casablanca, Conakry, Cotonou, Lomé, Lyon, Marseille, Niamey, Nouakchott, Ouagadougou, Paris and Praia in Cape Verde. About 20 other airlines have flights to and from Dakar as well, including South African Airways (Johannesburg), Brussels Airlines (Brussels), Air France to Paris and airlines like those from Kenya and Saudi Arabia. Others are mainly within the West African region.
Theoretically, a weekly train travels between the capitals Dakar and Mali. The train is supposed to leave Dakar on Saturdays around 10am, arriving in Bamako just under 48 hours later. Because of works on the railway, the train now (since 2008) leaves every 8 or 9 days and there is no fixed schedule at the moment, so ask around in Dakar when the next train is supposed to leave.
The main method of travel around the country is by sept places (French for "seven seats"), questionable station wagons in which they will pack seven people so that you are basically sitting on the next person's lap throughout the journey. You can also come with a group and rent out an entire sept place, but this will be expensive. If you are obviously a tourist, they WILL try to rip you off, so make sure to set a price before you agree to a driver. There are set prices to often-travelled locations. The main sept place station in Dakar is Gare Routieres de Pompiers. Watch out for pickpockets!
A state-owned ferry runs between Dakar and Ziguinchor in Senegal's Casamance region (below The Gambia). The ferry runs overnight and takes around 16 hours in each direction. A seat costs XOF15,000. Cabins are available with 2-8 beds, but are more expensive (around €100) and are fully booked in advance, especially during tourist season. Departures from Dakar are Tuesdays & Fridays. Departures from Ziguinchor are Thursdays and Sundays (arriving in Dakar on Fridays & Mondays, respectively).
Cheap and safe and everywhere. Just don't mind the broken windshields. All taxi fares are negotiated beforehand and will require bargaining. If you're not from Senegal, you will probably have an outrageous price proposed, so check with locals before to get an idea of what they pay, in order to know what you will be able to get. Even if you have negotiated a price, once you arrive your taxi driver will pretend he has no change on him, even if he previously assured you he had.
The Dakar bus system, known as Dakar Demm Dikk (Dakar coming and going), is fairly dependable. Fares are XOF150 and there are no free transfers permissible with each ticket. Unfortunately, for newcomers, there's not much in the way of a map of the bus system, so you'll have to figure it out on your own. The number 10 bus runs along the Corniche de l'Ouest and turns into the suburbs at Rue Aime Cesaire. The number 1 bus runs along the VDN.
Cars Rapides are the usually blue, yellow or white minibuses that careen through Dakar and some of Senegal's other cities. There are somewhat fixed rates for certain distances, but you need to check with a Senegalese beforehand. As of 2011 XOF150 would cover most destinations. To find out where one is going, flag it down and shout out your destination at the apprenti, the boy in charge of collecting fares who hangs out the back. If she shouts back at you the destination you want, signal it to stop and hop aboard. To stop, bang loudly on the side of the bus, on the roof or signal to the apprenti you want off. Apprenti's don't always speak French, so be prepared to communicate otherwise if you do not speak Wolof. Be careful about asking for your destination, as the apprenti will often tell you it is going there just to get you on the bus, no matter its actual destination. If possible, ask where it is going rather than if it is going to your destination.
Gazelle is the local favourite beer - it comes in serious bottles, or Flag, which is stronger and more expensive.
There is a wide selection of hotels, from the basic to the best 4 star chains. Many first time visitors stay at the expensive Meridien. There are, however, some good and reasonably priced places to stay.
|Hotel du Phare Les Mamelles||THTC Sarl 36 Cité Mgistrats Les Mamelles||Hotel||-|
|Kingz Plaza Guest House||Sacré-Cœur 3 VDN||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Le Palal du Lac Rose||Lac Rose||Hotel||-|
|Ker Jahkarlo||Hachelem Grand Medina 218||Guesthouse||-|
|Annexe Kingz Plaza||10516 Sacre-Coeur 3||Hostel||72|
|La Voile D'or - Hotel||Hann Bel-Air, Dakar Etoile||HOTEL||-|
|Surfcamp NGor Island||Surfcamp NGor Island||CAMPSITE||-|
|Hôtel Monaco Plage||Bel Air Hann||Hotel||-|
|Ker Jahkarlo||218 Ker Jahkarlo||Guesthouse||-|
|Sunugal Village-Hôtel||Route de N'gor||Hotel||-|
See also International Telephone Calls
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