Senegal, Africa is divided into 14 regions, which are broken down into 45 departments, branching to 103 subdivisions, and several ethnicities. The term “African” should not be used loosely as a generalized term to identify people who are born or live on the continent. During my two week visit, I was able to visit 5 regions, plus the small country of The Gambia. Spending a day connected with nature provided a catharsis after the emotional day at Gorée Island.
Market in Nguéniène
Our day began with a trip to the Marché hebdomadaire de Nguéniène, or Market of Nguéniène. I have also seen it referred to as the Sine Saloum Market. This weekly gathering is similar to what American’s call a “Farmers Market.” The location in the Thiès Region is very remote and if it were not for my Garmin watch, I would not know the location.
The markets are very common and occur in every small village. The main mode of transportation are horse driven carts. Everything from fresh produce, livestock, and textiles are for sale or trade. I witnessed fabrics being sewn on the spot for custom orders. The social interaction is a major part of the market days.
There was an understandably mixed reception of me being an outsider taking photos and recording videos. Those images have been intentionally left out of this summary or cropped. It was explained to me that some are leary of journalists who go to their village taking photos, and profit off the publications.
On the other hand, there were some people who wanted their photo taken as a trade off for purchasing their items. Language was a barrier with most people associated with the Serer ethnic group speaking Wolof as their first language.
Most of the Serer people are muslim. They celebrate a holiday called Eid al-Adha to acknowledge when Abraham was going to sacrifice his son to God. My first question was why are Muslims using a Christian example to celebrate? It was interesting to learn that Muslims recognize Abraham as a prophet.
Bird Islands Fatick, Senegal
We went farther south to the Fatick Region that is home to Bird Islands and the Delta Saloum National Park.
The Restaurant Les Piroguiers was a nice open-air restaurant near the water. This area is usually very busy, so the merchants were happy to see us. We sipped apéritifs and enjoyed the social interactions while our meals were prepared.
One of the merchants arranged a pirogue excursion for us. It was so relaxing to have that feeling like you are gliding on top of the water. A combination of land and sea make this area one of the richest ecosystems in West Africa.
There are a lot of boats used for fishing and to transport people to different islands. The boaters are so intelligent to know how to get around. The archipelago consists of about 200 islands through mangroves, palm trees and baobabs.
God’s layout of this region is unique because the Serers have been able to protect their culture from European invasion due to their uncertainty of how to cross from island to island.
The Sacred Baobab was given its name for having a circumference of 32 meters, making it the largest baobab in Senegal. The friendly host of the site took his time while giving me an overview of how it took 850 years to reach this size.
Senegalese scientist and historian, Cheikh Anta Diop, developed the technique of carbon 14 dating. Diop’s research proved the amount of melanin in Egyptian mummies matched those of Africans today. His work was discredited at the time, but after his death his lab was raided only for his work to be stolen. I am currently reading one of his books called, The African Origin of Civilization to gain a better understanding of his research.
Baobabs are technically classified as plants although they have the visual characteristic of a tree. The Colonel at Gorée Island let me feel how fibrous the wood is.
The porous wood is not used for building. The baobabs have many uses. Not only are they gathering spots for relief from the sun, baobabs have medicinal value. One of the most common is the use of the leaves for a tonic to relieve stomach issues.
The Baobab Sacré teacher asked if I wanted to go inside. I was caught off guard because I didn’t think it was possible. He told me to touch the “tree” with my left hand, and make a wish for good luck. I was thinking about the tradition at Showtime at the Apollo as I made my wish.
After the excitement of being inside Senegal’s largest Baobab, I purchased some carved wooden masks from a vendor. I know they rely on visitors to make a living off their talents.
Akon City is in the beginning stages of an ultra modern design plan. We passed the construction site for the corporate offices during our day trip. It is in a very rural area of Nianing, along the Mbour-Joal route.
We pulled over to find out that Akon would be on site to check the progress of his project. A small crowd gathered with anticipation of his arrival. I just knew Akon was there based on a luxury SUV that was parked, but it wasn’t him. I love that Akon is giving back to his homeland.
Not too far from Akon City is the unique architecture of the Epiphany Church of the Lord Nianing. It is designed after the termite mounds that have a chimney like feature to release hot air.
We were on the go everyday except for Christmas. This two weeks vacation scratched the surface of what Senegal has to offer. Saint Louis and some of the islands off the coast of Senegal are on my wish list, along with the neighboring countries of Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania.
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Kelsie L. Smoot