Thursday, November 15, 2012

Senegal Reflections

Senegal is a feast for the senses in every way.  Living in downtown Dakar was definitely overwhelming but also very interesting and exciting.  We stayed in downtown August and September until we moved to a house in a quieter suburb.   The weather this time of the year is sweltering with humidity in the 80 – 90%.   On weekdays the streets begin to get crowded around 11 am and by noon the traffic is bumper to bumper.  There are small street vendors and beggars lined up on the sidewalks on every street.  It is loud with the sounds of the people speaking French, Wolof and Arabic, vendors hawking their wares and trying to gain attention and vehicles honking and slowly making their way through traffic. We could even hear the noise from our apartment on the 6th floor.  There are strong smells of diesel, trash, food, and people.
 Traditional Senegalese food is strongly flavored with peanuts, fish, peppers and onion flavors.  So far I have only tasted a chicken and onion dish called Yassa Poulet.  It was good.  When we get a car, I hope to be able to sample other selections.  Fast food dishes popular in America are popular here as well.  Almost every café and tea house sell hamburgers and the Senegalese version of pizza.  Schwarma, a pulled meat wrap/pita with a kind of curry like sauce, are also a popular cafe food item.  A surprise to me was the number of bakeries selling fancy pastries, quiches, ice cream and chocolate.  The ice cream and quiches are as good as in any artisanal bakery in the US.  
One thing that really captivated me is the Senegalese fashion sense.  It is diverse and they wear Western style, traditional African and Arabic clothing.  Some women cover their hair, some do not.  It appears to be up to the individual.  Here are some photos from local fashion magazines.  As you can see, Senegalese love color and embroidery and the top row of pictures are of fancy dress.    The men in the top row are wearing 'boubous.'  Brightly colored wax prints are popular for daily wear as seen in the bottom row on the left and right. The women’s outfits are known as a 'complet.' Tradional clothing for casual wear by women could be western or a 'pagne' which is a sarong style skirt of fabric (usually the wax block print) with a western style shirt, such as a t-shirt.  Senegalese also have a sense of humor in thier dress; yesterday I saw a woman in the market with a dress with garden sprinklers printed on it. 

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