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Dakar is the capital city of Senegal, located on the Cape Verde Peninsula, on the country’s Atlantic coast. It is Senegal’s largest city. Its position, on the western edge of Africa (it is the westernmost African city), is an advantageous departure point for trans-Atlantic and European trade ; this fact aided its growth into a major regional port.
The peninsula is delimited by two capes : the Pointe des Almadies in the north which welcomes a vast luxurious and residential suburb with beautiful views and is home to various fishing villages such as Ouakam, N’Gor, its beaches and “artists’ island” , and Yoff, a small and very lively fishing port.
The northern coast will reveal other fabulous attractions such as the beaches of Malika, the Keur Moussa Monastery and Kayar fishermen village leaving you with the memory of the fascinating sight of dozens of multicoloured dugouts (pirogues) returning with a backdrop of the setting sun.
Following the cliff road to the south, the Mamelles volcanic hills emerge, a place from which you can observe Cape Manuel and its lighthouse, the most southern part of the capital.
According to a recent census official estimates, the city of Dakar proper has a population of 3m people whereas the population of the Dakar metropolitan area is estimated at 2.45 million people.
Dakar, the economic and political capital of Senegal and an important cultural and university centre, is the symbol of an Africa that is resolutely open to the outside world and which has been able to reconcile this modernism with all aspects of traditional African life.
Sight seeing and Attractions
Most visitors having taken the time to discover this attractive city find it appealing. It is a dynamic and sparkling city, with its lively markets, important political decision-making centres such as the majestic presidential palace, banks, large international hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.Note too that the Senegalese capital is one of the essential cities for organising conventions and seminars, with various conference centres and luxurious hotels from international chains.
The musée de L’IFAN (place de Soweto) : This is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive and attractive museums in Senegal. It presents the wealth of the artistic and cultural heritage of Western Africa and retraces interesting scenes of daily life in this African region.
More than 1,200 collection objects are exhibited, including statuettes, masks, traditional costumes, fabric, and traditional musical instruments.
The Moustafla Diop collection will enable you to discover ancient royal artefacts from Cameroon.
The markets : Dakar’s markets, veritable commercial centres for the city, plunge you into a flood of sparkling colours, sounds and mellow smells that will awaken your taste buds and enable you to discover the ancestral know-how and expertise of Senegalese craftsmen.
Sandaga market, with its airs of an African caravanserai, attracts a dense, happy and noisy crowd. On the programme: culinary discoveries of a range of exotic fruit, meat, fresh fish and spices and mysterious discoveries of medicinal herbs, highly valued by the Senegalese for their miraculous healing properties. In the neighbouring streets, the fabric market will unveil its most beautiful, hand-embroidered and dyed lames; tailors and couturiers can also make you the made-to-measure clothing of your choice. Their skill will leave you speechless and amazed.
Kermel market : a tourist hotspot, is a small market in the heart of old Dakar, sheltering beautiful colonial houses. This magnificent building from 1860 was destroyed by fire in 1994 but has been reconstructed exactly as it was by a ceramist: the place is now a work of art. You can find prettily presented ‘European’ foodstuffs. On the esplanade surrounding this building, admire the flurry of flower sellers presenting their flowers in enormous armfuls balanced on their head, and the basketry, wood sculpting and leather goods crafts shops.
Tilene market has kept the charm of its colonial buildings and neo-Sudanese style. This most typical of markets, located at the heart of the medina, offers magical potions, various remedies and charms to a crowd of regular and expert customers. The pleasure essentially consists of watching and listening to the women haggle, elegantly draped with multicolour boubous.
The Médina : This huge city within the city harbours one of the most spectacular religious monuments in all of Africa: Dakar’s Great Mosque. Take the time to wander around the wall frescos, sources of popular creativity, and immerse yourself in typically local street scenes and sights, far from the market folklore.
Soumbedioune market : This craft village, located on the Western Cliff Road, benefits from unrestricted views onto the bay of Soumbedioune, where fishermen come home every evening in a festive atmosphere.
The sculptors and other grass-skirt manufacturers work under your very eyes, thus perpetuating ancestral techniques.
A real place for sharpening your bargaining skills: jewellers and leather artisans alike will be your first initiators.
The La Madeleine islands : Now a natural reserve, the La Madeleine islands offer a protected ecosystem with nests of cormorants, peregrine falcons, osprey and even superb black kites.
Senegal’s main tourist season is from mid-October to June, mostly during the dry, ‘cool’ season, when Dakar’s average daytime maximums are around 24°C (75°F). Most music festivals take place in December and between March and June.
During the wet months from mid-July to late September some national parks are inaccessible or even closed, but it’s also the time everything is green and beautiful, and many hotels reduce their prices by up to 50%.