SENEGAL: LAND OF TERANGA
I am told, by my new chum, Bath, that “Teranga” Means welcome in the local Wolof language.
Well, I certainly got a welcome when I arrived a Dakar airport, but I am not sure it is the one that the Senegal Tourist Board had in mind or would wish to be reported by any visitor.
My plane did not get in until midnight and, the moment I stepped through customs into the grim arrivals hall, I was besieged by touts selling everything from phone cards to chewing gum. That in itself was not a problem. I have become used to that with my recent travels across India and Africa. What I have not become used to is being physically manhandled by taxi drivers, having people try to push me over to steal my phone and bags and having to fork over $10 to some one to be my “bodyguard”
By the time I finally met up with the people who had been struggling to get through security to find me, I was ready to get back on the plane and go, well just about anywhere.
It says something about the country and my guide, Bath (pronounced Batch) that now, four days later, I am desperately sorry to be leaving what is one of the most fascinating and hospitable places I have been on the whole EAT MY GLOBE trip.
Bath knows everybody and has been taking me on extended walks through the city of Dakar to see the markets, shops and restaurants including small, bustling local joints where bowls of steaming, fiery Maffe (stews) are served for a little less than £1 and, my own particular favourite, Chez Loucha, Bath’s favourite in the city, where I tried the spicy goodness of Yassa Chicken soured with olives and local palm vinegar.
In between meals, I have taken the opportunity to see the other limited sights Dakar has to offer including a day trip to the infamous Isle De Goree, a former slave pen from which 15-20 million slaves were sent off, through “The Door of No Return” to The Americas, 6 million of them died en route.
Best of all, however, was Bath’s suggestion that I join him for a night in his home town of Rufisque some 20 miles along the coast from the capital. Famous for being the first town of any consequence in Senegal, it has suffered a decline in proportion to the rise of Dakar, but for all that, is a laid back, easy going city with not a French tourist in sight.
Bath took me to his home near the railway station where his family extended incredible hospitality and fed me another local speciality Thiebou Wekh, fish with rice. One of the great tastes of the trip with bits of crunchy rice from the bottom of the pan being laced with “soul” a local mix of spices both of which complimented the sweet flesh of the bony fish.
Last night, we went out on the town. Well, we went to a small local bar call Diobasse, where Bath introduced me to the favourite tipples, Gazelle beer and Pinchez, a rather potent local rose wine which in context goes wonderfully with Diba, chunks of roasted beef which have been marinated in garlic and chilli
It’s been a fun few days and I would like to return, all the more suprising given my first impressions of the country and the people on my arrival at the airport when I would rather have been anywhere but here.
Next, I am off to do a “Bob & Bing”
On the road to Morocco