Dakar Things to Do

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  • Things to Do
    by brendareed
  • Things to Do
    by brendareed

Most Recent Things to Do in Dakar

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    Monument to the African Renaissance

    by brendareed Updated Nov 4, 2014

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    This massive monument can be seen from most places in Dakar. Taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York City, the African Renaissance Monument is the tallest monument in Africa, standing 49 meters tall (161 feet) atop a large hill (100 meters high) located on the coast.

    We arrived by taxi and were dropped off at the base of the steps beside the pedestrian only zone. From that point, we began our climb the many steps to the top. In the heat of the day, we took it slow although the breezes felt very nice once we got there.

    The first thing we did was walk around the entire sculpture, absorbing just how big this bronze sculpture really is. The piece shows a family – father, mother, and young son – standing with the son pointing out over the Atlantic (our guide told us he is pointing towards the Statue of Liberty). The statue is quite new, just completed in 2010, but not before it caused a lot of controversy over the design and cost. The local Muslims were not happy with the design since it reflected not only humans, but humans with very little clothing. The people of Dakar, not pleased with the president’s decision to build the expensive statue with all of the economic problems the country was experiencing, protested by rioting.

    It is not a Senegalese statue, but an African one. It was supported by other countries and many dignitaries from African nations traveled to Senegal for the unveiling. The company which built the statue was from North Korea named Mansudae Art Studio (visit VTer wabat's excellent review of his visit to the Mansudae Art Studio on his page about P'yongyang, North Korea).

    After walking around the monument, we headed inside to the museum (see other tip) and to take the elevator to the top of the statue, where we were able to get a close up look at the sculpture from the windows in the man’s hat.

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    Réserve de Bandia

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    This was a special outing for Daughter-in-Law, who wanted to go to this animal reserve based on what her coworkers had told her about their adventures. It is located over an hour south of Dakar and required some special arrangements for a driver for the day. Our driver picked us up promptly and we drove down to a very desolate area, passing only a few towns along the way. After turning off the highway, we arrived at the reserve a little more than an hour later. Our driver was directed to park in a specific area while we went and purchased the tickets.

    Tickets are required for each individual person (10,000 CFA), plus the required guide (5,000 CFA) in addition to paying 10,000 CFA for vehicle entry. During the rainy season, you are also required to use or rent a 4x4 vehicle. It was not the rainy season, but looking at the small car we came in and realizing we would need to put our guide in there, too, we opted to splurge and rent the vehicle at 40,000 CFA. It actually was not a bad deal since we didn’t have to pay for our driver or the car in selecting this option. Mid-way through the two-hour tour, we all agreed that this had been a great decision since we were out in the fresh air with a breeze and able to get up close to the animals (see my video of the ostrich!). Plus, the ruts in the dried dirt roads were too deep for the car and the driver would not have been able to navigate this well. With the 4x4 vehicle and its driver who is used to the reserve, we had the ability to get off-road as we looked for the animals.

    Our guide spoke French and some English, but we were all able to understand each other quite well. He enjoyed making references to the Disney movie, “The Lion King” when we saw certain animals.

    What did we see? During our two-hour tour, we saw lots of giraffes, ostriches, warthog and antelope, plus monkeys, zebra, gazelles, hyenas (caged), crocodiles, and the elusive rhino. There are only two rhinos in the reserve and all the guides were radioing back and forth in search of one. When the male was finally discovered, all the vehicles in the reserve seemed to converge at the same time. Surprisingly, the rhino wasn’t bothered at all by all the paparazzi taking its photo.

    During the tour, we stopped at the baobab graveyard – the tree in which people had been buried within because they were not allowed to be buried in the earth. As singers, these people had not worked the soil and the culture did not allow them to return to the earth if they didn’t work on the land. The tree was massive and allowed us to get some good photos of our group and our guide.

    At the end of the tour, we were brought to the shop and restaurant area. However, our driver cautioned us that that restaurant was overly expensive and he didn’t recommend it. Apparently this is where monkeys come around to your table and try to grab your food. The restaurant gives you water bottles to squirt the monkeys to keep them away. We took our guide’s advice and, after saying good-bye and giving him a tip, we headed back to Dakar.

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    Île de Gorée - Fort d'Estrees

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    The remains of Fort d’Estrees on the northern end of the island clearly visible as the ferry approaches the island houses the Museum of Senegal History, which includes thirteen different rooms arranged chronologically from prehistoric era and archeological finds to when Senegal achieved its independence in 1960. The displays are in French and, while someone put a lot of effort into creating them, the lack of archival quality materials has led to the displays looking rather shabby now with faded photos and water stained documents.

    The fort was built by the Dutch and taken over by the French Vice-Admiral Jean d’Estrees (hence the fort’s name). Prior to becoming a museum, the fort was also a prison. After touring the museum, you can climb the steps to the top of the fort for a wonderful view and access to the cannons.

    Admission was 500 CFA ($1). There is a very small bookshop and bathrooms in the museum.

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    The Lighthouse - Phare Les Mamelles

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    Dakar has two very large hills – atop one is the African Renaissance Monument and the other has a lighthouse at the top. The hills are rather close to each other and we easily walked from one to the other. After touring the African Renaissance Monument, we headed over to the lighthouse.

    Walking up to the lighthouse was easy – if you consider walking uphill in the heat of the day with no protection from the sun easy. But, honestly, it wasn’t difficult. We walked up the road that takes vehicles from the street to the turnaround at the top of the hill and the entrance to the lighthouse. Very few vehicles stopped us and the climb was gentle most of the time.

    The lighthouse is really just a place to get some beautiful overviews of Dakar, the African Renaissance Monument, and the ocean, while also getting a nice look at the westernmost point in Africa. There was at least one home in the lighthouse, although I’m making this assumption based on the laundry hanging out to dry. The two guards sitting at the top of the entrance didn’t bother us as we walked past them to take some photos. There was no way to enter the lighthouse itself – everything looked closed up.

    But if you are interested in some scenic views, a stroll up to the lighthouse is worth your time. You could probably drive to the top as well and park in the turnaround area, which was quite large, although admittedly I didn’t see anyone doing this. Locals use this area as place to get some good exercise in while enjoying ocean breezes and beautiful scenery.

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    Museum to the African Renaissance

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    Inside the base of the African Renaissance Monument is a museum to Senegal, African culture, and the African Diaspora. While we waiting for our turn to ride the elevator to the top of the sculpture (only six people fit in the elevator, including the guide), we wandered around the exhibit which shows videos from the building of the sculpture and a second exhibit which shows historical photographs and drawings from the days of slavery and the colonial period. There was a unique sculpture on the floor depicting Senegalese wrestling, which our guide explained was extremely popular in the country with the winners becoming celebrities.

    After taking the elevator to the top and learning about the size of the sculpture, our guide took us to the fourth floor for the start of the museum tour, during which he spoke about what we were seeing. Our guide spoke very good English and was extremely patient with our many questions. Through the museum floors (we traveling by steps, stopping at each floor until we reached the first floor again), were art exhibitions, video rooms, a VIP room where the African leaders met with the Senegalese president the day the sculpture opened, masks, thrones, and paintings.

    The cost of the museum was high, but because we had a private guide, we didn’t mind paying the fee. It was 5,000 CFA ($10) for Hubby and I and Daughter-in-Law got in for a reduced rate since she was currently living in Senegal.

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    Place du Souvenir Africain

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    As we walked along the coast of Dakar from the Sea Plaza, we came across the Place du Souvenir Africain, which is a conference center type facility built to honor some of Africa’s great figures from history, science, and culture. Daughter-in-Law had been there before since the facility is used for private parties or events. On the afternoon we stopped by, it all was quiet, although we saw some men setting up for a future event.

    Approaching from the street, there is a long, flat area lined with flat poles and a large fountain. As we walked through this plaza towards the ocean, we headed down some steps and between the two event buildings which also house changing exhibitions. The buildings were not open on the day we were there (it was a Sunday). Continuing towards to water, we reached a large decorative pool with what appeared to be fountains. I saw “appeared to be” because the pool did not have any water in it. I can only imagine how beautiful this must be when filled. At the end of the walk, next to the beach is a very large sculpture featuring a map of the continent of Africa.

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    Les Almadies

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    The Almadies is the westernmost part of Dakar and features the westernmost point on the continent of Africa. It is generally a more wealthy area with embassies and homes of diplomats, as well as the luxurious King Fahd Hotel and Resort. Because of the posh location, I found there were less peddlers and beggars than other parts of Dakar. In fact, we were able to walk about a mile through the center of Les Almadies on the main thoroughfare, past numerous beautiful homes, without being bothered.

    At the far end of Les Almadies, where the westernmost point of Africa is located (just after the U.S. Embassy) is an artist market, some shops, and a restaurant (the goal of our excursion to Les Almadies). While we were not bothered in most of Les Almadies, the taxi drivers, peddlers, and beggars were prevalent at this part of the road. We did not enter the artist market, having been warned by others that it is very difficult to get out with your money intact due to the high pressure and tricks played by the shop keepers.

    We had dinner at Le Recif des Almadies, the restaurant at the end of the road, followed by ice cream at the little shop nearby, and then grabbed a taxi home. It was a pleasant afternoon in a nice part of town.

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    Senegal Army Museum

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    We wanted to tour the Senegal Army Museum, but we had difficulty finding it. Daughter-in-Law knew about where it was located, but no one could tell us exactly where it was. We walked from the Presidential Palace along Rue de la République for about 1 km before we found the museum.

    Getting into the museum was not like typical museums since it is really an exhibition within the army office building. We were greeted at the door by a soldier who, after learning what we were interested in, took us to an office where we paid our tickets (1,000 CFA per person = $2) and met our guide. The guide, a Senegalese sergeant, spoke mostly French so Daughter-in-Law translated for us as he took us around for a personalized tour of the exhibit.

    We were most impressed with the exhibit, although admittedly we’ve seen better presented museums, and the amount of time which our guide gave us. We were taken on a journey from the earliest days of Senegal, through the colonial period, the two world wars, and independence. There was a nice mix of photographs, actual uniforms and weapons, flags, paintings, and other items. A section in the World War I exhibit was designed to have visitors walk through a trench to experience life of a soldier. The tour ended with a memorial room to the 92 Senegalese soldiers who died in plane crash in 1991 while returning to base in a Saudi Air Force C-130.

    The museum has a museum bus which travels around the country providing a smaller version of the exhibits for those who cannot travel to Dakar. The bus was parked right in front of the museum, which could be useful in trying to find the museum. I was unable to locate either a website or an actual address for the museum. However, it is 1 km from the Presidential Palace. Walking from the palace down Rue de la République, the museum will be on the left side of the street.

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    Presidential Palace

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    We drove by the Presidential Palace and had our taxi driver drop us off as close as possible (he wasn’t allowed to stop near the palace). From there we walked over to have a look at the large white building where Senegal’s president lives. No photos are allowed of the building and there was an armed guard on the corner near us, so I wasn’t taking any chances. The single guard in the customary red uniform was standing at attention in front of the palace gates. We noticed the two flags flying above the palace – one large one with a smaller one below it – a symbol that the president was in residence at the time. Perhaps that is why there was the armed guard watching over the place.

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    Île de Gorée – Castle

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    As we continued towards the far end of the island (south side) away from where we left the ferry, we headed up the hill towards the ruins of the castle. Along the way we passed numerous artists selling their paintings. There is an artist’s school on the island which trains people in a specific style, obvious because most all of them sold similar paintings.

    We passed the old gate of the castle and the former walls, continuing to wind up the hill to the top. Once at the top we found the remains of some very large naval guns which had the ability to protect the island and harbor for great distances.

    While we were looking at these guns, we became intrigued by some plants nearby. A local man who lived in the area and sold his art there, came up to us and answered some of our questions. This man, who spoke pretty good English, was unlike most of the locals on the island – even though he had things to sell, he didn’t try to sell to us. Instead, he took my husband on an individualized tour of the castle area, telling stories from his memories and what he knew of the history as well as some of the geology of the island. He introduced us to a musician who lives in one of the batteries and has a sound studio in his home and introduced us to an artist who makes beautiful pictures from colored sand. After spending at least 45 minutes with us, we went back with him to his art and bought a wooden statue as a thank you. Now we have a memento from this wonderful learning experience.

    There is also a World War II memorial at the top of the castle – a tall white abstract piece situated in a large, flat open space.

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    Île de Gorée – Church of St. Charles Borromée

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    The oldest church in Senegal is the Church of Saint Charles Borromée on Goree Island. Located in the center of the island in the Place de l’Eglise, the provincial style church sits on one end of the square. Built in 1830, it was paid for by public contributions.

    It was free to enter the church and we wandered around the well-used and worn church. Not much stood out as unique except for the spiral staircase in the back corner and the huge shell that held the holy water near the front door. There are some statues and photos, although none were outstanding in design.

    Pope John Paul II spoke here in 1992 where he offered an apology to Africans.

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    Île de Gorée – House of Slaves

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    Most people come to Goree Island to see the House of Slaves, the original house where many Africans were placed on ships as slaves. There is some debate on how many actually left from Goree, with most believing that not very many left from Goree and the majority of slaves leaving from Saint Louis off the coast of northern Senegal. No matter how many, even one is too many.

    The house has been visited by numerous dignitaries, including Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

    We were too late to go into the museum having spent more time than planned at the Museum of History and the castle area. By the time we got to the House of Slaves, it had closed for the afternoon. However, we were able to walk around to the back of the house to get an idea of where the ships would have docked. While we didn’t see the infamous Door of No Return, we could envision how terrifying this must have been.

    Outside the house is a beautiful garden with a statue of a chained male slave being consoled by, what I assume, was a female family member.

    If you want to get into the House of Slaves, try to visit it in the morning as it closes for several hours in the afternoon.

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    Île de Gorée (Goree Island)

    by brendareed Written Nov 2, 2014

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    Île de Gorée (Goree Island) is a small island not far from the port of Dakar, accessible by ferry and a popular destination for tourists. There is so much history on this island along with several museums, including a Senegal history museum, the house of slaves, and the museum of the sea, an old church, and a number of narrow alleyways with colorful homes.

    The island is very walkable, although it would be difficult for people with mobility issues. There is a lot of sand with some pathways which are cobbled and uneven. The path to the castle area is uphill, but not too steep.

    What I enjoyed most about the island were the colorful buildings and the beautiful flowers that seemed to be blooming everywhere. What I enjoyed least about the island was that it was a tourist destination and there were many, many local peddlers who followed us and tried all kinds of ways to get us to buy things. One lady began on the ferry to the island and continued on and off with us until we later boarded the ferry to return to Dakar, including sitting near us at a restaurant to continue to hound us. I reached a point where I refused to buy anything from her, even though her prices were dropping drastically as we walked away.

    Plan to spend at least a day on Goree Island to not rush this beautiful place. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason – the history and the beauty. While there is no admission to the island itself, you will pay for the ferry and the museums have admission fees.

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    watch out for funny souvenirs

    by globetrott Written Jul 11, 2014

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    Watch out for these funny Souvenirs like you will find them at some souvenirshops : originally they had been inscriptions and advertisments for local shops or merchants, funny Cartoons that tried to explane the Kind of shop to People who were not able to read.
    This kind of souvenir mainly makes sense, when you understand some french !

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    Monument de la Renaissance africaine

    by globetrott Updated Jul 11, 2014

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    The Monument de la Renaissance africaine was built in 2009 by the architect Pierre Goudiaby Atepa. The giant Monument was placed on top of a small hill and has a hight of 52 metres, so it is the highest Monument in Africa. And for quite a poor Country like the Senegal the costs for this Monument were quite high: 23 Millions of Euros !
    It was the first of a series of monuments that were planned by Senegals president Abdoulaye Wade

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