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If Dakar Wasn’t on Your Bucket List, It Will Be Now

Annie Gabillet

Each year, Folasade Adeoso travels to Dakar, Senegal for at least a month. Although the creative director and co-owner of the East Harlem restaurant Teranga lives in New York City, Dakar is home to some of her best memories. And we can see why: Dakar has colorful markets, beautiful beaches, and a vibrant nightlife. On the Atlantic coast, Dakar is the westernmost city on the African mainland and definitely on our bucket list. Read on for Folasade’s insider guide that will surely make you add Dakar to your dream travel list, too. 

What keeps you coming back to Dakar?

The Senegalese people. The rich culture. The love and respect for the arts. The beaches. The everyday adventures. The parties. The amazing food. And the friends I’ve made over the years.

 

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What is something only a local would know?

The best meal is at someone’s house and eating together around the bowl.

How should we dress for the climate?

I usually travel to Dakar during NYC late winter months (February through April). Dakar is pretty hot during the day, so think summer attire. At night Dakar can drop down to low 70s, which can feel a little chilly because of the ocean breeze, so I recommend packing a light sweater or a leather jacket. Senegal is a majority Islamic country, yet pretty liberal. Bathing suits are welcomed at the beach, mini-dresses at night when going dancing. During the day I keep my style a little more conservative, but chic at the same time.

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What’s the best way to get around?

The taxi drivers are human GPS systems, and if they don’t know where you’re going they will stop and ask other locals. Always negotiate your taxi fares. Drivers will most likely always bump up your fare knowing that you are a tourist. Also knowing basic French helps a ton!

 

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Gorée Island is a historical slave port and a very important part of African and African-American history.

What is a tourist activity that’s totally worth it?

Dakar is full of tourist activities. It’s hard to name just one, but a must-see is Gorée Island. It’s a historical slave port. The Obamas, the Clintons, and Nelson Mandela have been to Gorée. It’s a very important part of African and African-American history.

What is your favorite neighborhood?

Mamelles, hands down. It’s right along the corniche, a quick taxi over to the American Embassy, and close to the night clubs. Also Mamelles’ beach is a hidden beach ran by the Baye-Falls (think Rastas, but Muslim). It’s the most beautiful, clean, fun, carefree beach ever. You can buy local beers and finger foods and chill as the waves come in and out. The sunsets on the beach are unreal.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Dakar?

Chez Loutcha. It’s pretty popular, but a gem indeed. Located in the heart of downtown and only open for lunch. It’s ran by a Cape Verdean man that used to live in Queens, NY and moved to Dakar to start the restaurant. They have a large menu of Senegalese, Cape Verdean and seafood dishes. The food is cheap and always great.

Best place to people watch?

The Workout Beach. When the sun starts to set, it seems like the whole nation is out working out.  The workout beach overlooks the ocean and is equipped with tons of workout equipment. You’ll find groups of people working out, people playing soccer, and the most beautiful thing to watch is the men who practice a traditional type of wrestling called Laamb Wrestling. I can watch the wrestlers all evening long. They’re so strong, beautiful, and graceful.

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Best place to have a moment of peace?

Magdalen Islands. A quick ferry ride takes you to the uninhabited. It’s the world’s smallest national park. Best part of it is that nobody rarely goes there.

Best photo op spot?

Honestly, Dakar is one big photo op.

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What’s worth the splurge?

Buying tons of fabric at the fabric market.

Best place to get a nightcap?

Seoul 2. An indoor/outdoor restaurant known for it’s Senegalese style barbecue called Dibi you can buy wines or beers to go with the barbecue.

The Senegalese people are some of the most mystical, generous, graceful, and beautiful people that I know.

What do you hope people visiting Dakar discover about it?

Take the time to get to know the locals. The Senegalese people are some of the most mystical, generous, graceful, and beautiful people that I know. Have tea at someone’s house and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.