Because of spending a month in Senegal in October 2017, I came to feel a real appreciation for the country and its people. Once I start to feel that level of connection, I find myself wanting to go back, and I do feel that pull to return to Senegal for a visit.
What would I do if I went back for a visit? This is my wish list. I really don’t think it would be feasible to do all of these things in a single visit, but I would enjoy doing what I can!
Visit the local people that I had an opportunity to get to know during my month there. Reconnect, get an update on their lives.
Return to Pink Lake with a swimsuit, and go for a swim in the salt water.
Return to Terrou-Bi, which was the original hotel that we stayed at for our first two weeks in Senegal, before we had to change hotels. Go for walks at sunset along its stretch of beach.
Dine at the seafront restaurants in the Almadies part of Dakar. That was something I was really fond of doing when I was there the first time!
Go inside the African Renaissance Monument, and climb to the top to look out of the windows in the man’s crown.
Seek out opportunities to see performances of sabar music and dance. Perhaps even take lessons in sabar dancing myself.
Seek out a ndeup ceremony.
Go back to Gorée Island, and this time allow a full day to explore the entire island.
Will I actually go? It’s hard to say. I’d like to have at least one travel companion that I can dine with, plan with, and share the experience with. I also would need to figure out how it fits into everything else going on in my life. For now, it’s on the back burner. But life can take interesting directions, and if the right opportunity were to present itself, I’d be happy to return.
When I originally decided to start this site, I visited some other travel blogs to see what they were like. I needed to create some kind of online journal as part of my job responsibility for the month I spent in Senegal with the IBM Corporate Service Corps. IBM lets participants decide what specific approach to take, so long as we create something. I chose to use this as a starting point for a more general travel blog that would talk about not only my month in Senegal, but also other places I visit.
I noticed that most of the blogs I looked at fell into one of these categories:
“Here’s what I did on my vacation” stories accompanied by selfies and anecdotes.
Showcase for hobbyist or professional photographers’ travel photos.
Guidebook approach: suggesting things to do and providing a little background information about the place, along with logistical information such as address, how to get there, cost to get in, hours open, etc.
Monetized blogs that promote mediocre products which will generate payouts to the blog owner via affiliate programs.
I gave some thought to where I wanted to fit in, and proceeded accordingly.
I started by posting photos of things I had seen with some narrative about the content of the photos. It was a good place to start, but it felt a bit superficial to me. I wanted to offer more of a back story that would show why I thought the topic of the photo was interesting enough to write about.
I experimented with adding my personal impressions and experiences to tell a story, but didn’t want to go too far down the path of centering myself in a story about somebody else’s homeland. Also, I want to be respectful in how I talk about the people I meet and their culture, so I think carefully before writing about my personal reactions to things. I try to imagine how one of the people I’m writing about would feel if they were to read it. Something that looks like a funny story to me might look insulting to people whose homeland I’m writing about.
At this point in time, I have not monetized my blog and I don’t have any plans to. I suppose it could happen in the future, it’s just not where my priorities lie today. I do know this – if I do monetize the blog, I will include only affiliate links for products I have personally tried and liked.
My Current Thinking
Now that I have been doing this for 8 months, I’m feeling comfortable that I have found my voice as a travel blogger.
I like taking photos and sharing them, so I’ll keep doing that. I like exploring only one topic per blog entry, featuring multiple photos related to that topic. For example, I created a post about the Agricultural Museum in Cairo specifically centered around the diorama showing a rural wedding celebration. There are many other exhibits in the museum, but I wanted to keep that post focused on the topic of the wedding. I may decide to post other photos of other exhibits from that museum in the future.
I have decided I want to try to include background about the subject of the photo that will go a little deeper than what a typical guidebook might tell you, especially with respect to history and culture. For example, when I posted my blog entry about the tannoura whirling shows in Cairo, I offered a bit of background about the history behind Sufi whirling and the form it takes in Egypt.
Traveling offers many opportunities to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets. In this blog post, I’d like to share my photos taken in Morocco and Senegal. These are all my original photos, and my property. Please do not steal them.
Sunset in Essaouira, Morocco
Essaouira is a seaside community in Morocco, facing onto the Atlantic Ocean. It offers beautiful views of the ocean, and also of sunsets. I was there for Funoon Dance Camp, which was organized by my friend Nawarra.
Sunrises in Dakar, Senegal
These two photos were both taken at sunrise (approximately 7:30 a.m.) in November, 2017, from the Pullman Hotel in Dakar, Senegal.
I’ve taken so many photos of sunrises and sunsets in Egypt, that I’ve given Egypt its own page. However, I wanted to include at least one photo of Egypt on this page since, after all, Egypt is in Africa! Here’s one I took in 2016, and if you’d like to see more, follow this link to my Egypt page!
One of the more spectacular landmarks in Dakar, Senegal is the African Renaissance Monument, known in French as Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine. It shows a man, woman, and child emerging from a volcano. It sits high on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. At 160 feet (45 meters) tall, it’s the tallest statue in Africa, making it taller than the Statue of Liberty.
At the time this status was unveiled in 2010, marking 50 years of independence from France, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade said, “It brings to life our common destiny. Africa has arrived in the 21st century standing tall and more ready than ever to take its destiny into its hands”. The event featured hundreds of drummers and dancers. I would have loved to have seen that!
Many people in Senegal were not supportive of the statue, criticizing it for various reasons. For example:
Local Senegalese artists criticized the fact that the contract to design it was awarded to a Romanian architect and the contract to build it was awarded to a North Korean company. Why not use local talent?
Some have pointed out that the facial features don’t look particularly African.
It cost $27 million dollars, which was a big concern in a country where many live below the poverty line.
The skimpy clothing of the family does not represent the more modest preferences of the country’s Muslim majority. (95% of Senegalese people are Muslim.)
We had a chance to see this statue up close during our city tour on October 7, 2017, which is when I took this photo. At night, lighting effects give it a beautiful glow.
It’s possible to pay an entrance fee and go inside it. I did not do this during my visit. There are stairs you can take to the top, and look out of windows in the man’s crown.
The Mosque of Divinity is a beautiful structure located in Dakar, Senegal. Its members personally built it, entirely on a volunteer work. No money was paid to anybody involved in constructing it. All work was done by hand, without the help of cranes or other construction equipment. The project took 5 1/2 years to complete, from Spring of 1992 to October of 1997.
We visited it because Tidiane Gueye, our local contact for our stay in Senegal, was a member of the mosque and wanted to share this part of his life with us. It was a landmark near our hotel, which we drove past every day, and it was great to learn something of the history, as well as feel the personal connection to it.
The day I visited this mosque, October 7, the congregation was gearing up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of completing construction. The women had set up a fire with a cooking kettle to cook the meal they intended to serve for the celebration.
Behind the Mosque of Divinity is a beach that lies on the Atlantic Ocean. There are fishing boats parked along this beach, that people take out on the water to fish.
This beach is also a place where young people enjoy playing football (soccer).
I felt so inspired, visiting the Mosque of Divinity, because it clearly was a place created from the love that the members of the community feel for not only their faith, but also their relationship with each other.