Senegal - They built funny stuff there

Looks funny and it is

I planned to visit Senegal for three days, which would have been totally enough to see the stuff like islands and monuments around Dakar. Dakar is fine for a short visit but soon I felt the urge to leave.

But 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 annoying because now I have to reschedule for country Gambia, which was supposed to be country 111.

What to see in Dakar?

The city of Dakar is not very central 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 east of Dakar whereas the city center is on the very right and monuments and mosques somehow everywhere between.

Tourist attractions on one map

January 7 - Day 1 - Arriving in Senegal and Visiting "Ille de Goree"

Came from Nouakchott (Mauritania) early in the morning and arrived on time at 8am in Dakar. The new airport is 50km from the city center. That is far away and as the highspeed train isn't finished yet and the bus takes too long.

A good thing is that the airport train is also finished and that helps a lot getting quicker to and from the center. Although the new train was working at the time of visiting.

So a taxi is the next best choice. But with CFA 18000, not really cheap.

To solve the traffic problem, Senegal 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 apartments are currently being constructed and visible on the way from the airport.

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 for the accommodation as a tourist

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 only 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 tough.

Canons in front of the Musuem
Its used accomodate slavesBack in history this was used to select slavesUsed to trade slaves but now people live in it

It's 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 carpets or a wooden drum:

Monsieur, come here, look this is my shop. I have 10 boxes of 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 walk around the island and leave again, but I stayed about 2 hours on the island which I found was necessary for what the island has to offer.

However, I didn’t inform myself much about the history of the island and didn’t have the nerve 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

Day 2 – 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, it's very slow to ride a bus within Dakar because of the traffic.

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

The mosque by the bay "Mosque of the Divinity"

Too time-consuming to use the bus and so told the taxi driver to bring me to the renaissance monument.

But then, when out of a sudden it was possible to see the huge monument and the mosque from many kilometers away already, I continued walking towards there along the coast.

Nice to walk in the morning hours along the coast, with the sun brightening up the best attractions of Dakar.

A few hundred meters before the monument is the Mosque of the Divinity. A funny-looking mosque that was built by hand by the locals. No trucks were used they said.

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 it's always great to look at these kinds of constructions, as mosques often are built to completely not fit into the surroundings and stand out from far away.

Especially these mosques in Dakar.

No machines were used
A mosque for the peopleMosque of Divinity is the best mosque on the planetSeveral military encampments are located in the area

Monument with an empty head "Renaissance Monument"

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. Yes, North Korean.

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 toward the north.

The family stands on a pillar and is 49 meters tall. It 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 the 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 deckAfrican Renaissance Monument Lookout is worth it

From the monument, it's 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 "Almadies" and "Ngor"

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 that they try to advertise this beach the same as ten or twenty years ago.

The restaurants are expensive and 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 he was afraid that I take photos of the trash (which I did of course).

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. 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

Day 3 – Leaving to Gambia is not possible

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 to visit the Mausoleum.

This building has green balls on the roof.

Mausoleum of Dakar

Same as the other picturesque mosque, this Mausoleum is located on the coast as well and is easy to find.

From afar it looks like an airport and that would be convenient for a tourist, to have the airport in the city (as the airport is 50 km outside the city).

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 namedPeople 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 time of the day started after the visit of the green-ball-on-top Mausoleum.

I thought I'll have some relaxing remaining hours until lunchtime, pack my things and leave early for 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 instead, they told me:

Your ticket looks OK, but the flight is canceled. 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 so I would not have enough time in Gambia for a visit.

Meanwhile, it's 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.

Day 4 – I'm supposed to be in the Gambia now, but ain't 

I try to learn about the public transport system of Dakar.

Although I soon realized there were no proper maps of Senegal's bus and transport system and the only and also best option was to ask people along the way 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

Annoying locals (sometimes)

The people of Dakar were all friendly, but there is something I didn't like in their behavior.

It is annoying when asking someone for directions to a particular bus station and a few seconds later the person shouts around the street with the same question (including loss of information) and then suddenly 10 people stand around who want to help and shout in chaos:

Come, it's there, follow me, I show

All with the big expectation that they get paid for guide services, which in the end turns out it's the wrong bus station and not what I was looking for (after following the person for 10 minutes by walking).

I'm glad again google maps exists and even covers much of Africa in all detail. 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 stressfulDowntown 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.

Although the government is planning to phase out these so-called "cars rapides" because they're old and need to be replaced with buses that can hold more passengers.

However, this is Africa and the buses surely will remain here for 20 more years. 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 brings me to the Central Mosque.

The term central mosque sounds better than it is, it's just a tower with a 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

Day 5 – Finally I can leave Senegal

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 Gambia than have these extra days in Senegal.

Senegal has these five or six cool things to see, but after that good to move 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 though they mention the different transfer options. I don’t 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 center. A taxi will cost something around 15'000 – 30'000 CFA depending on what kind of Taxi, the taxi driver's mood, and the time of the day.

Public bus 404 is "the airport bus"

So far there is no shuttle bus that drives from the center to the airport.

But there is a public bus which takes about 1 hour 30 minutes, which is, of course, longer than a taxi ride of 45 minutes. But, with only 1'000 CFA, it's cheap.

So I got on that bus 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.

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