Facts About Dakar
|Lat Long Coordinates||14°41′34″N17°26′48″W|
|Time Zone||GMT (UTC+0)|
|area Code||8, +221 8|
|Language||French, Wolof, Soninke, Serer|
|Point of interest||Gorée, Lake Retba, African Renaissance Monument, IFAN Museum of African Arts, Îles des Madeleines, Dakar Grand Mosque|
Dakar is the capital of Senegal and has a population of over 1 million. It is the administrative and political center of the country.
Although, the nearby Goree Island had been inhabited by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British since the early 16th century, it was the French colonial empire which originally founded Dakar in 1857 by establishing a military outpost at Ndakaaru and naming it Dakar. The city was one of the major trade centers of the French colonial empire due to its strategic coastal location and became a part of the Goree commune in 1872. Dakar further grew as the commune of Dakar was formed in 1887 and subsequently, in the year 1902, the city was named the capital of French West Africa.
Finally, in the year 1960, the country got its freedom and the Republic of Senegal was established with Dakar as their national capital. Since 1978, the city has been the most frequent end point for the international annual Dakar Rally. The official language here is French.
Dakar lies on the western coast of the country, right along the Atlantic Ocean. It is situated on the peninsula of Cape Verde and spreads over a total area of about 83 sq km. The city is right between the mouths of the rivers of Gambia and Sénégal which flow on the southeastern side of the peninsula. Its location, along with the fact that it is well sheltered by limestone cliffs belonging to the cape makes it one of the best port cities on the coast of West Africa.
How to Reach (Transport)
Dakar is served by the Léopold Sédar Senghor International Airport which is located at a distance of about 10 miles to the northwest of the city. The city connects Dakar to several cities like Dubai, Johannesburg, Paris, Milan, Istanbul, Madrid, Bamako and Lisbon. It is also accessible via the bi-weekly ferry from Zinguinchor called the Wilis. Dakar is also connected by road and taxis are available from Zinguinchor, Karang and even to the Gambian border.
Inside the city, one can avail of the Dakar bus system, also called the Dakar Demm Dikk although the routes can be a little confusing for a newcomer. Mini buses, usually in shades of white, blue and yellow are a safer option to move around the city and traverse the neighboring cities as well. Taxis are the safest means of transport inside Dakar, and also cheap and reliable although it is highly advisable to keep an eye on the meter.
When to Visit
Dakar features a semi-arid climate and is mostly warm. From the month of July until October, the city experiences heavy rainfall along with high temperatures. The best time to visit is from December to April when the weather is pleasant and it is relatively drier than the rest of the year.
Fairs and Festivals
The following are some of the annual events of Dakar:
- The Festival International du Film de Quartier, held in December, is the country’s biggest film festival. It was started in 1999 and acts as a huge platform for local aspiring film makers.
- The Kaay Fecc, held in the months of May and June, is a contemporary dance festival mainly concentrated on the local artistic talents.
- The Dak’Art Biennale, celebrated in May, is an art festival showcasing local and contemporary talent. Sculptors and painters from all across Africa come together in order to display their pieces and celebrate this event.
Other events include the Senegal Independence Day and the Paris-Dakar Rally.
Points of Interest (Places to Visit)
The following are the noteworthy places of visit in Dakar:
- Ile de Goree, known as Goree Island in English, is a minor island located just off the coast of and is accessible by daily ferries. It provides a relaxed atmosphere and is a nice getaway from the city. The “House of Slaves” which was originally used to transport slaves to America is also located here.
- IFAN Museum of African Arts has an exquisite collection of statues as well as masks belonging to the entire West Africa.
- Les Almadies, located at the western end of the city just off the ocean, is an excellent site to spot seabirds. It also has several popular food joints which serve the local cuisine.
- The African Renaissance Monument, opened in 2010, is dedicated to the independence of Africa from the colonial rule of Europe and also the end of the slave trade. However, since the colossal structure was built by North Korea, several Africans refrain from feeling the pride and honor it is meant to evoke.
Other important places to see are the Grand Mosque, Hann Park, Iles de la Madeleine and Lake Retba.
Among the wide range of accommodation offered by Dakar, the popular options for the ones with a budget constraint include Onomo hotel, Auberge Pulagou and Auberge Kingz Plaza which offer decent rooms and food for a reasonable price. Oceanium is a good and cheap hostel located right next to the fisherman’s village named Terrou Bye Sogui.
Al Afifa Hotel and Seneganne Guest House are the popular mid range options for accommodation in this city. Luxury hotels include the Radisson Blu Hotel, Pullman Teranga Ex Sofitel, King Fahd Palace, Le Meridien President and Hotel Astoria all equipped with services.