Senegal - They built funny stuff there

Looks funny and it is

It's located on the very left of Africa and I planned to visit for three days, which would have been totally enough to see the stuff like islands and monuments around Dakar. Dakar is OK for a short visit but after that, I felt the urge to leave, which I couldn’t, because my onward flight to the Gambia got canceled.

My plan was coming in from Mauritania, see Senegal and leaving to the Gambia afterward. Getting into Senegal worked well but leaving to the Gambia, not at all. Flight cancelations are the worst because now I have to reschedule for the Gambia which was supposed to be country 111.

The city of Dakar is not very centric and things to see are far apart from each other. Getting from one spot to another is time-consuming because of the huge traffic from 8am to 6pm. The beaches are on the very left of Dakar whereas the city center is on the very right and monuments and mosques somehow everywhere between.

Map of Dakar:
Tourist attractions on one map

January 7 – Arriving in Senegal and Visiting Ille de Goree

Came from Nouakchott early in the morning and gladfully arrived on time at 8am in Dakar. The new airport with 50km in distance is far away and as the highspeed train isn't finished yet and the bus takes too long. So a taxi is the next best choice. But with CFA 18000, not a cheap ride.

To solve the traffic problem, Senegal wanted or wants to move the center of Dakar a few dozen kilometers further to the mainland of Senegal, instead of covering up all of Dakar's coast. New highways and hundreds or thousands of apartment are currently being constructed and visible on the way from the airport. A good thing is that the airport train is to be finished in 2019 and that helps a lot getting quicker to and from the center.

With the taxi along the highway to Plateau
Entering the city center in the morningPeople dont like being on photos - be aware!Dakar city center

Plateau-Area is convenient

There are two main areas to be for tourists in Dakar. Almadies and city center Plateau. Almadies is the beach area on the north coast, but as I don't need a beach I chose to stay in Plateau-Area.

Also because I knew there is an easy bus back to the airport from place de independence and also it's more convenient to visit Ile de gore and other things to see in Dakar.

This station is supposed to be finished by 2019 to bring people to and from the airport
Standing on a ballRoundabout with statue on topHosts the ferry to the slave island

To the tourist island Ile de Goree

The ferry to the island departs approximately every 90 minutes either way. The coast is CFA 5200 for tourists and to buy a ticket they wanted to see an ID. The trip is only 20 minutes with a comfortable ferry.

Millions of tourists already saw this thing
Ferry towards ille de GoreFerry brings tourists to the Ile de GoreThe ride takes about 20 minutes from Port of Dakar

This island is a place on which the locals are still residing but previously was used to accommodate the slaves. The island is about 2-3 km in length and it's possible to walk through the aisles of the village and residential houses. Many restaurants are there too which aren’t necessarily cheap but in worst are also not too expensive.

Canons in front of the Musuem
Its used accomodate slavesBack in history this was used to select slavesOn the south side of Ile de GoreIts a small island and can be covered in about 30 minutesIle de Gores is full of sales person who wants to sell woodUsed to trade slaves but now people live in it

Its a very touristy island and many people try to sell stuff which is annoying. They are very nerve-wracking as they expect me to buy things like meters of fabrics or a wooden drum:

Monsieur, come here, look this is my shop. I have 5-meter of cotton for very low price today.

Shiploads of people are transferred here every 90 minutes and that sums up to many tourists per day.

Every day from 7am to 6pm the ferry brings the tourists
Covered with restaurants to accomodate departing tourists, like on a airportToo many souvenirs and annyoing sellersSome tourists even spend time here to have vacation

I didn't want to spend much time there as it had a bit an artificial scenery, like a big open-air museum in which people live. So I planned to quickly walk around and leave again, but I stayed about 2 hours on the island which I found was necessary to see at least the minimum the island has to offer. However, I didn’t read a lot about what it is all about and didn’t have the nerves to listen and follow one of these guides, because I tend to forget the information I get anyway too soon again.

The best thing to see on ile de gore
Atlantic slave trade needed safteyDakar mainland on the backgroundToo many souvenirs to be sold

January 8 – The Renaissance Monument... and beaches

From the city center of Dakar run many buses to everywhere but there is a tremendous traffic jam all the time and finding the right bus is not easy. Also its very slow to ride a bus in Dakar - because - traffic jams.

Packed with stalls
Big market is covered over dozens of corners and streetsSlaves comic paintingStreets of dakar

The mosque by the bay

Too time-consuming using the bus and so told the taxi driver to bring me to renaissance monument, but then, when it out of a sudden was possible to see the huge monument and the mosque from many kilometers away already, I continued by walking towards there along the coast.

Nice to walk here in the morning hours along the coast with the sun lightening up the best attractions of Dakar. A few hundred meters before the monument is the Mosque of the Divinity. A funny mosque which was built all by hand of the locals and no machines were used.

The funniest mosque on the planet
Ouakam is an ancient villageNext to the mosque to feed the peopleNext to the mosque of divinity

They have chosen a perfect place in the bay, right at the ocean. I don’t know much about mosques at all but its always great to look at these kinds of constructions, as mosques often are built to completely not fitting into the surroundings and stand out from far away. Especially these mosques in Dakar.

No machines were used
Mosque of Divinity was built only by handsA mosque for the peopleMosque of Divinity is the best mosque on the planetPerfectly located in the baySeveral military encampments are located in the areaLies about 1 hour from Dakar by bus

Monument with an empty head

From the Mosque of the Divinity, it's about 300 meters onwards to the Renaissance monument. 

This thing was built by a North Korean construction company.

Impossible to miss it as it stands out like a skyscraper. I was there in the morning and the light wasn’t that good to make photos but found out there is no good time to be there for photos anyway. The faces of the figures are always hidden from the sun as they point towards direction north. The family stands on a pillar and is 49 meters tall and was finished only a "few years ago" in 2010.

The head of the man is empty and has an observation deck to overlook Dakar. But the price to walk in its head is another CFA 5000. Gladly there is no entrance fee to go up the stairs to the foot of the monument.

49 meters in height
Big monument of DakarThe head is empty and has an observation deckMe in frontThe monument is tall in every angleThere is an elevator up to the headAfrican Renaissance Monument Lookout is worth it

From the monument, its another few hundred meters to the next bus station from where buses run frequently to the Almadies beach-area and cost almost nothing.

Streets towards the beach
Its not a really nice placeDakar suburbAlong the streets in Almadies

The Dakar beaches

The highly praised beaches of Dakar, including the Almadies, didn’t really appeal. That beach is a place of destruction and renovation and I quickly moved through it. However, it seemed to me that they try to advertise this beach as if it probably was ten or twenty years ago. The restaurants are expensive and a bit run down. One part of the beach is completely covered in trash and one security guy didn’t even like that I unintentionally was coming from the trash direction – maybe was afraid that I take photos.

The westernmost point on the continent of Africa
Me at the beach in DakarIts not nearby to lisbonIs an ugly beach with run down restaurants

Further north is the Ngor beach for surfers, I guess. It's small and has a lot of fishing boats. I don’t know, but the beaches didn’t really appeal to me for swimming. And I didn’t see a lot of people swimming anyway. Maybe because it’s the Atlantic coast and a bit cold or rough?

Has a stadium next to the beach
Surfers like itThe beach seems chaoticThe beach is as popular with fishermen

January 9 – Leaving to Gambia? At least I thought so

In the early morning, I didn't know yet that the flight this afternoon from Senegal to Gambia will be canceled and so in the morning I went visiting the Mausoleum. This building has something like green balls on the roof.

Same as the other picturesque mosque, this Mausuleum is located at the coast as well and easy to find. From far it looks like an airport and that would be convenient for a tourist, to have the airport in the city and the mausoleum 50km outside.

2019 and the mausoleum is still up and running
With green balls on the roofIs visible from Dakar CitySome character is sitting in the monument along the Dakar Coastline

Along the coast of Dakar's "Rue de la Corniche".
Good for walking in the morning
Old people along the coastThe island is not named People like to sit on stones and watch in the ocean of Africa

Plans change quickly in Africa (no Gambia - no country 111 yet)

The worst part of the trip started after the visit of the green-ball-on-top mosque. I thought it's going to be some easy remaining hours until lunchtime, pack my things and leave early to the airport for the flight to the Gambia. On the way back to the apartment I went by the Brussels Air office to ask for a seat reservation, but they quickly told me:

Your ticket looks valid... but is not valid anymore! There are no flights to Gambia. Brussels Air is not allowed to pick up passengers anymore in Senegal, because the Government said so last month.

Called forth and back to find another flight but nothing helped. The next flight with another airline to Gambia would be tomorrow and that would be too expensive and also I would not have enough time in Gambia to look around and see something.

Meanwhile, its evening and I would be already in Gambia if the flight wasn't canceled. But now I'm still sitting in Senegal and I hate it. However, at least, if I didn't incidentally go drop by the Brussels Air office this morning, I would now be in the Airport of Dakar, 50km away.

January 10 – I'm supposed to be in the Gambia now

I'm supposed to be in Gambia now but what am I doing? I try to learn about the public transport system of Dakar's. Although I soon realized there no proper maps of Senegal's bus and transport system and the only and also best option was to ask people along the way on how to get from a to b.

Although it's still not that easy as most of the people only travel to the city center day in and day out on the same bus line and have no clue about other directions or “monuments” that a tourist like me wants to visit.

Some horse is used as donkey in Dakar
Important site for protests, demonstrations, parades, and other eventsIts the end of DakarSouth of Dakar

Everyone wants to be a tourist guide here

Dakar wasn’t a big problem and people were all friendly, even though it is annoying when asking someone and a few seconds later the questioned person shouts around the street with the same question (including loss of information) and then suddenly 5 people stand around which want to help and shout:

come, it's there, follow, I show

 All with the big expectation that they get paid for Guide services, which in the end turns out the bus station is completely wrong of what I have been looking for. I'm glad again google maps exist and even covers Africa in all details. This is probably the best invention and service available for a tourist in the early 21 century.

More African fabrics than many other countries in Africa
Busy markets of Dakar have everything you need and dont needDakar Markets are stressful Downtown Dakar Tower has a great view over the ocean

Cars rapides as a trademark of Senegal

Buses like these can be found everywhere in Dakar. The government is planning to phase out these so-called "cars rapides" by 2018 because they're old and need to be replaced with buses that can hold more passengers. However, this is Africa and it's 2019 and the buses are still there. The minibusses have been driving along the roads for decades and someone told me:

When you see them, you know you're in Senegal.

They are covered in Muslim slogans
Minibus that brings people around Dakar for CHEAPRenault shipped the first cars rapides in 1970Transport de Commune also used as house

Mosque hopping in Dakar

Strolls through Dakar and the main road of Boulevard de Gaulle finally brings me to the Central Mosque. The term central mosque sounds better than it is, its just a tower with some nice facade. Further up the road, the other second mosque (Mosque Massalikoul Jinan) is more impressive, but is currently under renovation and getting closer than 50 meters is prohibited.

In 2019 under construction
Mosquée Massalikoul Jinan is in the middle of Dakar PeninsulaSlim tower is uses as a MosqueMany people in all colors walking around in Dakar Markets and sell stuff

January 11 – I want to go home now

Happy that I can leave Senegal. My planned itinerary of 3 full days in Senegal would have been perfect and I'm frustrated that my onward flight to the Gambia was canceled. Instead of waiting two more days in Senegal for my flight back home, I definitely preferred to visit the Gambia than having these extra days in Senegal.

Flying out of Dakar over red sand
Senegal has these five six cool things to see, but after visiting them and in addition hearing that my flight got canceled, it's annoying and good to move on.

But this is Africa and plans often don't work out here as expected.

Now having some spare time until my flight leaves, I thought about describing some useful tip on:

How to get from Dakar Plateau to the airport?

Normally there is plenty of information on the web on how to get to and from the airport to the “center”. Although I had a problem with Senegal's Dakar.

They finished the new airport DSS and the information on their website is not helpful and not accurate, even they mention the different transfer options. I still don’t completely understand why Senegal decided to build the new airport so far away from the center and the beaches. I heard that the government wants to shift the core of the center or expand the core further inside the country to make the streets a bit easier in terms of traffic in the center. On the way from the airport, they are building thousands of new houses and apartments. Seems like they have some big vision for the country.

The old airport was in the middle of Dakar city, however, the new airport in Dakar is about 50km from the city centers Plateau area. A taxi will cost something around 15000 – 30000 CFA depending on what kind of Taxi, the taxi drivers mood, and the time of the day.

Public bus 404 is "the airport bus"

So far there is no train and no well-organized shuttle bus that brought me from the center to the airport. But there is a public bus which takes about 1 hour 20 minutes, which is, of course, longer than a taxi with 45 minutes. But, with only 1000 CFA it costs a twentieth of what a taxi costs.

I also contacted the car company Senecartours which advertises with airport transfer and went to their office which is in Plateau district, but they a) were closed the two times I passed by and b) the phone helpline was completely useless.

So I decided to get on that bus number 404 which departs from the Terminus Leclerc station in Dakar and picks up people right next to the place de independence. The first bus starts around 6am and the last one departs at 21pm from the Terminus Leclerc station. Location of Terminus station and location of first stop to get in, right next to the place de independence.

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