Dakar, Senegal - Stein Travel
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After three centuries of French colonial rule, Senegal became independent in 1960. Before independence the city of Dakar was the capital of French West Africa, which included nine French-speaking states, and Dakar has been the capital of the independent Republic since then. The country retained strong ties with France and the French influence remains in the architecture of the city, where well preserved colonial buildings, the monumental government house and café terraces stand testimony to its history.

Situated on the tip of the Cap Vert Peninsula, the modern capital teems with life and boasts luxurious hotels, a wide range of restaurants, beaches and watersports, a casino and an active nightlife scene. It is also one of the busiest ports for cruise ships in Africa.

As the nearest African country to the United States, Senegal became the most important slave depot in West Africa and the island of Gorée, just two miles (3km) offshore, was the centre of the slave trade. For nearly four centuries thousands of men, women and children were kept locked in cells on the island, the 'Door of no Return', before being shipped to the Americas. Today Gorée is a UNESCO Historical Monument and visitors can experience the horrors of its past in 'La Maison des Enclaves' with its cells, shackles and the slave dealer's apartments, as well as at the many museums housed in former slave houses, and the forts built to protect the lucrative business.

Information & Facts


Dakar is in a tropical climate situation, but the characteristic heat and humidity are moderated in the city by cool breezes. The rainy season, between June and November, brings heavy downpours along with strong southeasterly winds. The dry season, from December to May, is exacerbated by the hot, dry harmattan winds.

Getting Around

Buses and minibuses operate on the main routes linking Dakar to other principal cities and towns in Senegal. The most common form of transportation is the car rapide- colourfully painted vehicles that are often very crowded and sometimes unsafe. Taxis are also available and it is best to negotiate the fare before leaving. Car rental agencies operate from Dakar, but rates are often very high.


The official language is French, but there are six other national languages spoken, including Wolof, which is the most widely used, as well as numerous other dialects.


The official currency is the West African CFA Franc (XOF), which is divided into 100 centimes. The CFA franc is fixed to the Euro at a rate of 1 Euro = 655.957 CFA francs, or 100 CFA francs = 0.152449 Euro, and only currency issued by the Bank of West African States ( Banque des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest)is considered valid. There are ATMs in Dakar, but banking facilities are limited in the rest of the country. Credit cards are only accepted by major establishments catering to the tourist trade, with American Express being the most widely accepted; commission is charged. Travellers cheques can be cashed in Dakar.


Shopping in Dakar is an attraction in and of itself. Visitors to Senegal will be delighted by the colourful markets scattered throughout the capital city. The city's markets are packed with local handicrafts including paintings, masks and ceramic pots. Senegal is particularly well known for batiks, glass jewellery and handmade skirts. Visitors to Dakar should head downtown to Kermel and the Sandaga markets. A short taxi trip from Dakar is the Soumbedioune Village which sells an extensive range of arts and crafts. Visitors should never accept the first price asked for by a vendor, rather browse the market, look at all there is available and then return and bargain hard.


A bustling city full of life, colour and commerce, Dakar is the cultural, political and economic capital of Senegal. There is much to see and do in Dakar for tourists, and a stop in Dakar is a must for anyone on holiday in Senegal.

The most famous attraction in Dakar is the controversial African Renaissance Monument, a massive sculpture meant to represent Africa's emergence from slavery and colonialism. There is much disagreement about the sentiment of the statue, which was made by North Korea and not in Africa. Nevertheless, the statue is an amazing site, as it is taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York.

There are some beautiful buildings worth seeing in Dakar as well, including the 18th-century Maison des Esclaves, city's cathedral and grand mosque. Another fascinating site is the ruined colonial architecture on Goree Island, including the landmark House of Slaves Museum.

Another great way to enjoy an afternoon in Dakar is by browsing the busy markets or having a picnic in one of the beautiful parks. Hann Park and Zoo is a great place to take kids in Dakar. Lake Retba is also an interesting sight, as you can watch the traditional salt harvesters at work.


Local time is GMT.

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