It has been likened to France’s Paris although I’m not too sure why. Dakar is the largest city in Senegal and lies along the Cape Verde peninsula. It has developed into a major port, and the comings and goings of foreign shipments just adds to its cosmopolitan feel. But the city is also essentially African and a day and night spent exploring its streets will bear surprising meetings, soulful music and a society abuzz with culture.
Lonely Planet emphasises that Dakar is a city of drumbeats, loud markets and an inexhaustible nightlife. But before you begin exploring the city upclose you need to remember that while Africa can be exotic, refreshing and magical, there are elements of darkness and brutality. Be aware of shady characters trying to get money off of you with their “too-good-to-be-true” offers. Be street-smart and you won’t fall into the money-grabbers’ traps.
You can spend the morning browsing one of the many colourful markets in the city such as the Sandaga market. Expect to pick up a few traditional curios or some second-hand clothing. The bustle of these markets is a way to fully immerse yourself in the day-to-day lives of the locals. You will see farmers selling produce and livestock and other things as you walk amongst the stalls and will get a sense of the poignancy of a people bartering with one another in an attempt to make a living.
You will get dusty and the streets can be chaotic considering the amount of people living and working in the city centre. Go Africa suggests you use the Place d’ Independence to orientate yourself if you feel you are getting lost. The locals will generally speak French so if you have a grasp of the language you will do well.
Go Africa also suggests that a visit to the IFAN museum will yield a few hours of visual and historical stimulation. See the masks, carvings and musical instruments of an age long-past. And, after a day of walking around, you should spend some time resting in your room to ready yourself for a night out on the town.
World66 proclaims that the night-time activities of Dakar are the best of West Africa. From 11pm the clubs, bars and disco-parties are full up with patrons wanting to embrace the night-time fun. You will find locals and visitors enjoying passionate evenings filled with dancing, talking, music and cocktails on an average night out. The uncertainty of being in a foreign country just adds to the excitement and possibilities of letting loose.