Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, nestled along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, offers even to the most pretentious traveller a great shopping adventure!
What to drink
Dare to try the famous bissap drink – a fresh cold tea infusion made from the dried red flowers of Hibiscus sabdariffa, a variation of the hibiscus plant, boldly mixed with cooling mint, sweet vanilla, refreshing lemon and tantalizing sugar of the warm lands. It’s incredibly delicious and it is often adorned with the grand title of “the national drink of Senegal”. Avoid drinking it in the streets as it has to be made with safe drinking water. Women sell naturally organic hibiscus dried flowers everywhere; the only problem is that Dakar is a very very dusty place, so if you buy them, make sure to rinse them with plenty of water and dry them again (or just buy the already packed ones).
What to eat
When the mango season dawns upon the land of Senegal (May-July) the streets are full with huge mangos that one can buy from women almost everywhere at about 1200 CFA /kg (about 2 Eur). Always remember that if they see you are a foreigner, obviously the price asked will be 4 times more. But you can always draw up your sleeves and get ready to bargain.
What to buy
HLM Market was my favorite place for fabrics! It is a popular market for Senegalese, no tourists whatsoever, and must say i totally loved mingling with the locals, drawn in by the alluring and captivating fabric colors! Tip: avoid the first few stands with fabrics (cheeky fellows, they will always charge more!). Boldly go where your intuition takes you and find bigger stands where they sell in big quantities. One meter of cotton fabric costs around 600-700 CFA (1 Eur! Really!?) depending on the width at the retail sellers, you can also negotiate with them and they will sell you even small quantities. A smile will surely facilitate a better deal for you! You can also buy a 20 m package at 14.000- 16.000 CFA (about 20- 22 Eur). This was my favourite fabric and I bought tens of meters of all colors. Just free your fantasy, never, mind your dusty feet, and imagine all the fancy places where you will wear that sea blue silk or wrap your fragrant shoulders in the coral cotton and will glow just knowing that you don not simply wear an mass produced item but one with history and spirit that you picked with your very hands!
You can also go to one of the hundreds of couturiers that can make you whatever your heart desires. Just go for the very very simple things if you really want to, because otherwise the result will be disappointing . You can also find the traditional wax-dyed bazin. There are various qualities, a top quality one will be about 10.000 CFA (14 Eur) per meter though. There are plenty of traditional print African fabric called wax. They are sold in coupons of 6 m and they go from 2.500-4.000 CFA the coupon, depending on the quality. No need to pay more, just walk around and bargain.
Kermel Market – located at Plateau area. It is quite good for vegetables, but very busy and a bit touristic. Outside you will also find a lot of stands with souvenirs. Plenty of beautiful African style necklaces, for which pay more than 1.500-2.000 CFA (the sellers will ask for at least 6.000 at the beginning). Basically, for everything you want to buy, if you bargain you pay one fourth of the original price, and the sellers will still be happy.
Soumbedioune Village Market – right next to the Soumbedioune Fish market which is ideal for every day fish supplies; in the Village along the road you can find souvenirs and leather goods.
Now, I personally don’t like the snake or crocodile bags but if you like them you can find them there. Again, pay one third of the price they ask of you, not more. And look very well how they are made, some are very poor quality, but some are decent.
They also have UNFORTUNATELY ivory products!
Did you know that every day across Africa, wild elephants are being slaughtered to meet the insatiable demand for ivory. Entire herds are being poached out of existence to supply the illegal trade of ivory carvings and trinkets.
Please remember that we are pilgrims, not tourists and we love and respect nature and its lovely creatures. Be informed, aware and responsible and do not buy these products. Stand out from the consumer crowd and make a difference!