There is nothing I would recommend of Dakar. My Mexican friend Rocîo, whom I met there, and me had the same feeling: the word Dakar has something that makes it sound like the name of an amazing city. I didn’t really know what would be so interesting, but I was eager to see. I failed to find any wonderful thing and I’d actually advise to use it just as a landing port in West Africa. It doesn’t have the appeal of other African cities and has all what’s awful in them, but made worse because of its location in a narrow peninsula: the people, the dirt, the traffic, the dense pollution, everything is caged in a few square kilometres.
But for one thing: Île de Gorée, Gorée island. For political and business reasons, the Senegalese exaggerate its role in the steal of millions of Africans by the slave ships. It wasn’t so important. But it’s beautiful anyway, with its feeling of colonial decadence. And a great relief after a few days in Dakar.
Its main official sight is the Maison des Esclaves, the houses of slaves, which was renovated by someone without the slightest idea of art and time. Not worth it. In the other hand, what’s not meant to be a tourist attraction is lovely, as residences in ruins where you can explore and hear the whisper of the centuries past.
Arriving to the island you may feel you are in the Caribbean: the colonial French buildings, the locals idle by the quay, the sleepy gendarme. Life seems just normal, not made-up for tourists, except for the artisans and their works. In the early 20th century, the French fortified the island and now the bunkers and cannons have been transformed in humble ateliers and galleries.
This I recommend: land in Dakar, go straight to Gorée, enjoy it and head off elsewhere.
December 16th, 2010
This is a Bozo tribe lady in Mopti’s Thursday market. On top of her head, she carries her seat for the long journey on the pinasse (boat) from her river village. All fine in Niamey, tomorrow there are presidential elections here, organised by the military junta who gave last year’s coup d’Etat. Besos!
I heard music and went in… a group of French retirees, from the Association Les Amis de Yorola, were on their 7th yearly trip to Mali bringing aid. Despite all alerts, they drove from Strasbourg with 4,000 kilos of rice, medical stuff and other things, for a group of handicapped Malians who received them with theater (on the photo) and dance.
The Musée National du Mali shows its pride for its transport system by exhibiting a replica of a minibus… but I got the feeling that it was after a terrible crash where all its passengers died burned… burned but happy, anyway, you can see their smiles!
(Not that it encourages you to travel by minibus)
Full moon over the port of Mopti, Mali
The clouds made me think we’d have no sunset. But the star made it’s way through the thick layer and showed up, for the last time in the day, before heading off to shine over my beautiful country.
A wonderful day wandering by a small Peulh tribe village, near Sevaré (Mali), needed a sunset like this one… not to show off, of course.
My dad loves the desert. He taught me to love it too. And he particularly loves desert-meets-sea love scenes. I thought of him for days, as I was travelling from Dakhla, in the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, to Mauritania’s capital city, Nouakchott: he would have greatly enjoyed admiring the diversity of these arid lands as they come near to the Ocean. Sand dunes, green bushes, red soils, flaming sunsets, nomadic tents, wild camels, a ships cemetery and even an Al Qaeda-hit road.
That was in December 3-5, 2010.
Find the photo album here
In the 529 kms-long Nouadhibou-Nouakchott road, we passed 8 police checkpoints: documents, drugs and weapons searches. I understand: three Catalans were kidnapped by Al Qaeda on this route a year ago. But the agents seem to be there only to harass citizens (not me ’cause they don’t want to annoy foreigners) and demand bribes. Business as usual
I took this picture on kilometre 60, where the Spanish travellers were kidnaped: