A city of contradictions
Arriving to Senegal with an MSC cruise, Dakar’s great restaurants, outstanding music scene and alluring beaches give other African capitals a real run for their money.
The architecture and leafy boulevards of the downtown “Plateau” area – a peninsula poking south into the Atlantic – are more evocative of southern France than Africa: to be reminded where you are, visit the IFAN Museum, with its large collections of crafts and ritual objects, or any of Dakar’s lively markets. Kermel has souvenirs, fish, flowers and fruit, Sandaga offers household goods, CDs and attaché cases made of beer cans, and the Cour des Orfèvres has Moorish silverware.
Youssou N’Dour’s home town of Dakar has been a musical hotbed ever since his career took off in the 1980s, with artists from the region flocking to the city’s clubs and studios. A twenty-minute voyage from frenetic Dakar, an highly recommended MSC excursion will allow you to visit the UNESCO-protected island of Gorée, sheltered from the Atlantic by the Dakar peninsula. Gorée’s notorious history as a slave depot and its sleepy, slightly scholarly present-day incarnation – pastel-coloured mansions and a clutch of museums above the shore – make it an excellent and instructive escape from the city.
The Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) was used to store “pieces of ebony” before they were shipped to the Americas, and the IFAN Historical Museum, housed in the Fort d’Estrées, takes you through the history of Dakar.