“Thank God you’re not old!”
Those were the first words we heard from Sineta, our guide for the day in Dakar – words that were as surprising to us as they were a relief to her.
It was 10h30 on a warn Sunday morning, we’d arrived at our hotel 8 hours earlier, and were excited to get going on our city tour.
She had expected older people, and was relieved to have younger folk stepping out the hotel.
We had expected a Senegalese man with a car, and were surprised to see an African-American woman with dreads and 2 motorbikes.
Yep, the city tour Senegalese Style way! Our hotel had neglected to mention to us that the city tour they organized on our behalf would be on motorbikes – something I would have changed immediately, had I known.
Not only were there no helmets, but despite having passed my bike exam a few months earlier, I had sworn off getting on a motorbike before I got to Timbuku – and now I was only a few days away from that, and certainly not going to compromise.
Despite Sineta’s comments that “we have the best roads and infrastructure in Africa!”, I was not going to risk it this time. Maybe we were older than we looked, but she did understand, and she did apologise for the comment, once we had explained that in South Africa the roads are even better (and Dakar does have some excellent roads!)
Sineta moved here 10 years ago with her 3 kids, to prevent them becoming mall rats in Florida – she owned a store in a mall, and her kids were spending way too much time there.
After Sineta arranged for a car and driver to meet us, we headed to the lighthouse. It was better this way – we could all talk as we drove in one car. I was sad that we didn’t have time to go to Goree Island – I was really looking forward to that, but there was nothing I could do. In the lighthouse we were shown the huge old lightbulbs and the newer small halogen lamps that are used – a massive difference. We went right to the top where the lights turn – quite interesting, especially with the Mexican soap operas dubbed into French on the TV in the lighthouse keeper’s main room!
One thing that had dominated the landscape since we arrived, was huge and brown. From the angle we saw this thing from the hotel, it looked either like a tall and skinny hill, or a massive turd. Once we got closer though, we could see that it is a statue of a man, woman and child, which is absolutely huge. Think of the biggest statue you’ve seen, and then double it in size. Put it on a hill, add steps going up to it, and put holes in the guy’s head, and that is roughly what this “African Renaissance” Statue looks like. The president wanted to leave his mark, a legacy. But when the majority of the Dakarians objected to it, he simply had the statue tuned through 180 degrees, so that the butt faces Dakar, and the Statue faces away – if you don’t like it, you don’t see the best part!
It was only almost finished, so we couldn’t walk up inside, but we did get a great view from up close…
From there we stopped briefly at a beach with many ex-pats on it, and then headed for our first lesson in negotiation. This is something that we would perfect on this 2 week intensive “course” in West Africa – the art of negotiation and not feeling (too) bad when you and the seller take a flying chance with the price asked or offered.
We were the only people at this market – and I’m not sure if this was good for us or bad. Either we got really good prices, because we were their only hope for a sale, but we were also offered ridiculous starting prices, in the hope that we would pay them, as this is their only sale of the day.
The Marche Carmel sells everything from South African fruit to raw fish and meat (with or without flies, but mostly with), to vegetables, soccer t-shirts, clothes, masks and several other curios.
We spent most of our time with the curios and African artifacts – and some clothes that Ruth wanted to buy for her niece. We had to bargain hard – the starting prices were often more expensive than the similar item at home.
And everyone wanted a piece of you – “come look my stall”, “where you from?”, “I have nice [whatever you’re looking at]” or showing you items that you’re totally not interested in. Like Senegalese soccer team t-shirts. Sure some people might like them, but I am completely not interested in that – and they were very surprised by that!
Anyway, after a bit of shopping we went back to the hotel, and got a transfer to the airport, for our afternoon flight to Bamako – on Kenya Airways.