If you are looking for hospitality, community, and togetherness, come to Senegal, the Land of “Teranga.” What is Teranga? This word is coined from the local dialect Wolof and means good hospitality. It can also be translated to mean community and togetherness. This word undoubtedly describes the experience any foreigner will remember the West African nation for, as a visit here will instantly make you feel at home.
Yet, teranga is only a bit of the unforgettable joys that await a visitor to Senegal. For instance, poetry lovers will be glad to know that Senegal is famed for griots – oral storytellers versed in legends, myths, and genealogies. It was once ruled by a poet, Léopold Sédar Senghor, who was the first president of the country. For music lovers, it is the home country of the pop singer Akon. For tourists, Senegal is blessed with beautiful beaches, scenic islands, fascinating cities, unforgettable monuments, delicious dishes, towering baobabs, impressive clothing and fabrics, and the most hospitable locals. Clearly, Senegal has an eclectic mix of experiences for any visitor, but here are some of the amazing places and things you will love about this Francophone country.
Check out 5 interesting things to do in Senegal…
#1. Enjoy the hospitality of the warm locals
The Senegalese are perhaps some of the kindest people you will meet in West Africa. Most of the locals are very friendly and welcoming to tourists and expatriates. The teranga attitude pervades the country, and the locals are generally polite and respectful. They’ll usually smile and look you in the eye when they greet you and say, “Comment ça va?” So, if you can speak French, you’ll certainly have a fun time mingling with them.
Enjoy a good conversation with these lovely people. A simple chat can be more insightful than whatever you have read about them. Take photographs and selfies with those you bond with. You will cherish the pictures later.
#2. Discover the wondrous poetry of Senegal
Senegal is a country of griots and poets. On Independence, a celebrated poet – Léopold Sédar Senghor – became its first president. But asides from politics, Senghor was one of the greatest poets from Africa. Senghor’s poetry will sweep you off your feet and strike your heart with beauty and the power of its imagery.
Also look out for the poetry of his compatriot David Diop, whose “Africa” is one of the best-loved poems on Africa you will ever read. It has the famous opening lines: “Africa, my Africa/ Africa of proud warriors in ancestral savannahs/Africa of whom my grandmother sings/On the banks of the distant river….” You will encounter poetry like never before, and you will find brooding over the places you will soon explore the calm, serene qualities of poetry.
#3. Relish the Senegalese national dish and others
Spice up your stay in Senegal with an exploration of Senegalese cuisine, which, I bet you, is delectable. Start with the National Dish of Senegal – Thieboudienne, or ceebu jën in the Wolof language. It literally means “rice and fish,” but it is a mouth-watering dish of rice, vegetables, and marinated fish, unlike any other.
Some people describe this Wolof rice as the Senegalese version of Nigeria’s jollof rice, but a taste of thieboudienne will prove to you that it’s a craft unto itself. So, sit back and taste it. It is Senegalese cuisine at its best.
Mafe (a sauce made with peanut butter, tomato paste, potato, and meat) is also worth trying with rice. There is a rich tea culture in Senegal; so a taste of attaya, or sweet mint tea, will make your day.
#4. Visit the small island of Gorée
Off the coast of the capital city of Dakar, Gorée lies in the bright West African sun, calm and scenic, flaunting its bright colors. Gorée is small and striking. There are no cars here. Gorée is a meeting place between Africa and the West; and for the African diaspora, it can feel like a peaceful pilgrimage destination, with no noise of cars to roil the peace.
Join the likes of Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama to explore this island of memories, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Gorée has museums for you – IFAN Museum of African Arts and the Henriette Bathily Women’s Museum, or Place du Souvenir Africain et de la Diaspora. This island also has the House of Slaves, or Maison des Esclaves, which was built in 1780 – 1784, reminding you that this place, though now a sublime tourist attraction, was once where thousands of Africans crossed the notorious “Door of No Return” onto ships in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Yes, this chilling house in Gorée will send you on a mental flight; you will imagine the experience of black Africans uprooted from their homelands and transported through the horrendous door, never to return.
#5. Explore the beautiful beach town of Saly
It’s not hard to see why Saly attracts tourists. Cutting-edge facilities and luxurious accommodations mingle with exquisite beaches and rustic scenery to create the charm that Saly is known for, and for which it is often called “the Riviera of Senegal.” True, there is something calm and poetic about Saly. A quiet and relatively uncrowded setting to soothe your mind, especially if your busy lifestyle demands some inner peace.
Besides the beaches, Saly has other attractions to enrich your experience. Art lovers will find Galerie Mémoires Africaines a great place to feast their eyes on lovely art and pick some for sale. A trip to Musée Khelcom, a modern art museum displaying the creativity of local artists and artifacts unique to Saly, will enrich your experience of this place. There is also Casino Terrou Saly for lovers of poker games or slot machines, and lovers of golf will fancy a visit to Golf de Saly.
Whether you are sitting under thatch-roofed sheds by the sea and sipping a cocktail or you are wandering deep into the rustic settings of Saly, you will experience how special this slow beach town of Saly is – a place to come back to whenever you feel harried by life.
Featured image: @tourismesenegal_/Instagram
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A writer fascinated by humanity and diversity. He is the author of Do Not Say It’s Not Your Country.