Name: Claire Donovan
Attractions: There is so much to do in Dakar! My favorite activities were going to the beach (usually Plage Mermoz) but also exploring to find new ones (I recommend Mamelles, free beaches in the Almadies, Cap Manuel). For island beaches, take a pirogue to N’Gor Island (Akon owns a house on this island) where you will find surfers, beachside cafes, and crowded beaches, or take a pirogue from marché soumbedioune to île de madeleine, where you will find an almost untouched island next to a shipwreck. We took an early afternoon pirogue to île de madeleine, brought along a picnic, and hiked around and swam all day. Make sure to barter (waxaale) for a fair price!
In addition to the incredible beaches, there are markets everywhere filled with goods such as wax fabric (Marché HLM), specialty foods (Marché Colombe), and anything you could possibly ever need (Marché Sandaga).
We also spent a good amount of time exploring the local pub scene. Pub Mermoz is close to school, has cheap beer, and free wifi, so it was a great afternoon homework spot. We also found a hole-in-the wall pub in the neighborhood Ouakam that had cheap beer and a fun regular crowd. Nightlife in Dakar ranges from reggae concerts to art exhibits to clubs filled with Senegalese youth and clubs more popular among the expat crowd. I suggest trying everything. Voyageur (in the neighborhood plateau, towards downtown) is a great time, a mix of Senegalese and western music and a fun dance floor. Make sure to bring your passport copy to get in! Clubs in the Almadies generally have a high cover and are filled with expats but are also a good time. Bar Charlie has amazing food, drinks, and a beautiful pool in the middle of the outside bar area.
Food: Food will be a huge part of your semester in Dakar, whether it’s ceebu jën (rice and fish) for lunch with your family or omelette sandwiches on the roof of CIEE. You will eat most meals with your host family (usually breakfast and dinner if you don’t have time to come home for lunch). There are plenty of opportunities, however, for exploring Dakar’s cuisine. I suggest stopping at fruit stands and filling your backpack with oranges, bananas, and mangoes. If you are looking for a cheap desert, go to the beignet lady on the corner of la rue de ouakam right by pub mermoz. I also loved stopping at the roadside nem (kind of fried spring roles) stands on my way to sacre coeur 3 from mermoz. If you need some ice cream or are feeling calcium-deprived, stop by nice cream (locations in sacre coeur 3 and centre ville) and you’ll feel like you are back in America. There is also some great international food (Ethiopian in SC3, mexican and mediteranian in centre ville, and kind of american at caesars in mermoz). Try everything and explore!
Transportation: I suggest traveling by car rapide or bus to get to different neighborhoods but after that, walk! Dakar is best seen on foot. Taxis are expensive (compared to car rapides) but are convenient and I always recommend taking them at night.
Faith: If you are Muslim or Catholic, you are in luck. There are mosques in every neighborhood and plenty of Catholic churches. It might be a little more difficult to find other churches/synagogues. I often went to a Catholic church in Sacre Coeur 2.
Senegal is an incredible country and Dakar is a vibrant, fun, and active city. Be safe but enjoy exploring and experiencing all the city has to offer!
Name: Liana Cramer
Attractions: When in Dakar, you will never be far from a beach; plage Mermoz, plage de mamelles, and yoff beach are some of my favorites. I’d recommend taking surfing lessons on yoff beach. I took lessons with Malika surf and really enjoyed them.
Explore the markets! Marche HLM sells all sorts of beautiful fabrics and Marche Sandaga has everything you could think of! Don’t be afraid if vendors start to hastle you upon your arrival, that is just how they work. Keep your purses close to you, use as much Wolof as you can, and never pay more than half the price that they originally give you. Getting to know prices (or taking along a host sibling) before you shop is a good idea.
There are also a variety of tourist attractions, which are worth a visit. Ile de Goree and la maison des esclaves, ile de la madeline, la statute de la renaissance africaine, N’Gor Island, etc.
There are frequently events at the Institut Francais, which draw locals and expats, and are of great quality. They publish an event book each month and you can find this information on their website.
Also, use the website agendakar.com to find out what is going on in Dakar that week. There are enough concerts, from reggae, to rap, jazz, and traditional music to keep you entertained throughout the week.
Faith: There are many Catholic churches and, of course, many mosques. Considering how welcoming people are here, I’m sure you’d be welcomed in any that you visit!
Food: In your host family you will eat lots of rice and fish. The food is typically very fresh and absolutely delicious. There are large supermarkets with typically Western foods (Casino and Citydia), if you are craving home. And if you are looking to get out, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Food: Here are some of the places I’ve frequented in Dakar:
Le Djolof- bar/restaurant on the roof of a hotel in the Fann-Hock neighbhorhood
NoFlaye Creperie- beautiful crepe restaurant with a perfect view of the Atlantic in the Almadies
Cabane du Surfeur- also beautiful ocean views in the Almadies, has live music
Il Patio – popular among expats and locals as a restaurant and a place to go out in the Almadies
Charly Bar- popular bar among expats in the Almadies with themed nights each day of the week
Le Terrou Bi- this large hotel has a brunch everyday of the week which is fabulous and which gives you access to the beach/pool all day. It’s worth a trip.
Cabane du Pecheur- this is located on the beach and has the most fresh seafood that I’ve ever tasted. They also have life music sometimes.
Le Bidew at L’Institut Francais- the atmosphere is ideal and the food is decent, but it is particularly great when you are craving the taste of home
Le Jardin Thailandais – fabulous thai food in Point E
La Fourchette – fancy restaurant downtown, probably the swankiest in town
Restaurant Ngor – beautiful view of the Atlantic, located in the Almadies
Cafe Presse – a Canadian cafe that is the closest thing you’ll find to Starbucks in town. They have free wifi, so it’s a great place to study.
Korean – there is a Korean place right right across from Cafe Presse, it is very nondescript and has no name, but it has great food
La Royaltine – french patisserie downtown with wifi and fabulous breads and desserts
Housing: You’re program will most likely place you in a Senegalese family, which is an important way to immerse yourself into the Senegalese culture. You’ll have the opportunity to practice your French/Wolof language skills and you’ll have quasi-family members to help you adjust to life in Senegal. One thing to note: in my experience in Senegal Muslim families tend to practice more traditional Senegalese customs (ie. everyone eats meals around a single bowl) whereas some Christian families are more Westernized. You may have the choice of whether you would like to live with a Muslim or Christian family, so this is something you should consider. About 95% of the country is Muslim, but I had many friends who stayed with Christian host families. So you get to choose the experience you would like to have.
Local Celebrations: If you have the opportunity to attend a wedding or other traditional celebration, do it! Your family and neighbors will more than likely extend an invitation to you to any holiday or celebration. And this will give you an excuse to get a traditional dress made, or to borrow one from one of your host siblings.
Transportation & Travel: Taxis cost from $1-4 within Dakar, so they are very affordable. There is a local bus systems, which your host brothers or sisters could show you how to use, as they are not very easy to figure out. But stick to taxis at night.