5 Places to Visit in Senegal
A country on the west coast of Africa, the Republic of Senegal is bordered by Mauritania to the north and Mali to the east. Named after the Senegal River, Senegal covers an area of about 197,000 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 15 million people. The country’s economy relies on tourism and agriculture.
Being one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, Senegal is not surprisingly every traveller’s delight, with natural sites of great beauty, enchanting fauna and flora, breath-taking seaside resorts, a rich culture, and a warm welcome from its inhabitants. Bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Senegal features amazing wildlife, enchanting beaches, and spellbinding islands. If you are planning to visit, you need to know some of the most popular tourist attractions to explore. Let’s have a look at them.
Dakar, the capital of Senegal, is a lively and pleasant cosmopolitan city, and one of the chief seaports on the West African coast. It is located midway between the mouths of the Gambia and Sénégal Rivers. In 1857, Dakar was built by French colonists on the site of a small fishing village. Then in 1902, it became the capital of the Afrique Occidentale Française (A.O.F.), in place of Saint-Louis. The city earns its name from the word “Dakhar,” a Wolof name for the tamarind tree and the name of a coastal Lebu village that was located south of what is now the first pier.
Each district has its colours, charm, and animation. Dakar also houses some of the best markets and bazaars within West Africa. Another tourist attraction in Dakar are the stunning coastal beaches, as well as the Dakar IFAN Museum, where one can view an outstanding collection of West African masks, statues, and musical instruments. Arts and culture enthusiasts may also visit the Museum of African Arts and the ruins of the old Dutch slave trade on Gorée Island before delving into the curious medley of Lebanese eateries, African embroidery bazaars, roasted peanut stalls, and raucous beer bars around the wild Sandaga Market.
At first glance, Pink Lake, also known as Lake Retba, looks unreal, but it’s a real natural body of water that sits less than an hour away from Dakar. It stretches three square kilometers and is situated between sand dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. The dreamlike pinkness of Lake Retba comes from the Dunaliella salina bacteria. The bacteria can be found in the lake because of its high salt content. Its salinity compares to that of the Dead Sea, even exceeding it during the dry season. The bacteria produce a red pigment to absorb sunlight, and that’s how the pinkness of the lake comes about. Because of its unique colour, the lake is a well-known tourist attraction around the world. A trip to Senegal is certainly incomplete without a visit to this delightful gem of nature.
In 1659, Louis Caullier founded the city of Saint-Louis. The city is approximately 260km from Dakar and located on an island at the mouth of the Senegal River. Rich in beauty, culture, and history, Saint-Louis is every tourist’s dream with its magnificent beaches, two famous national parks, colonial houses with colourful façades, and the famous 500-meter-long Faidherbe Bridge linking Saint-Louis and the Sor district. The city is classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and it’s not surprising, as old European towns can be found there. The oldest church dates back to 1828 and is a prime tourist site, along with the unique Muslim cemetery also situated within the city.
Gorée is a tiny, car-free island with narrow streets off the coast of Dakar. It’s known for its role in the Atlantic slave trade (1400s-1800s). Colonial buildings include the Maison des Esclaves (Slave House), which was constructed in 1786 (and includes displays of slavery artefacts). The Fort d’Estrées (built in the 1850s) is the site of a historical museum and the museum of women’s history. In 1978, Gorée Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and several of its historic structures were restored in the 1980s and 1990s. Despite its dark history, Gorée Island is also a tranquil paradise of warm colours and sandy beaches—definitely ideal for an adventurous tourist.
Located 194km east of Dakar is the picturesque city of Touba. Known as the capital of the Muslim brotherhood of the Mourides, Touba was founded in 1887 by Cheick Ahmadou Bamba Khadimou Rassoul. At that time, Touba was little more than a village, but in the last 132 years, it has grown into Senegal’s second most populous city. The city also boasts the largest mosque in sub-Saharan Africa. The mosque’s 285-foot tower dominating the Touba skyline and its breath-taking interior make it one of Senegal’s main attractions.
Every year, millions of people participate in the Grand Magal, a religious pilgrimage that takes place at the Touba mosque. There are no hotels in Touba, but residents open up their homes to the pilgrims, providing them with food and shelter, adding to the friendly atmosphere that the Magal has become known for. Touba is definitely a must-visit destination, as it allows one to better enjoy the culture of Senegal.
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