Focus on Dakar, Banjul, Praia

African Update – 28/12/11

I would like to take you on a little tour through West Africa. It is my home region and a place I know well. Generally speaking, Africa is only two hours away from Central Europe but it might as well be light years off from a European point of view. Therefore, I shall try to disperse some of the usual mistaken notions by introducing you to three West African cities that can be visited on a single tour. Say, a week in Dakar and environs, three days in Banjul/Serekunda, three days in Praia and the last day in Dakar again for the homebound flight.

Read more in the travel report by Jojo Cobbinah, Senior Contributing Editor of The African Courier

Firstcomers get a fairly representative insight into African life and three different colonial traditions at a go: French in Dakar, British in Banjul and Portuguese in Praia. Where else does one get such opportunities at such close quarters?

Start off in Frankfurt, Vienna or Zurich, and fly only six hours. Welcome to West Africa! Big place: 17 countries, three major vegetational zones, about 220 million people, more than six hundred languages, just as many cultures, plenty of things to see and do. Of course, Abidjan, Lagos, Douala are also interesting.

Dakar! Step out of the air-conditioned plane with its subdued, artificial atmosphere and plunge into a world of sunshine, noise, bright colours, vivacity. In Dakar you are at Africa’s westernmost point but are at the heart of the continent. If your interest is in cultures, people, music and the exotic, you are at the right place.

Refreshingly different in West Africa, it is not the herds of lions, giraffes, elephants and the like that matters, here it is all about people. They will charm you with their openness, music, art and that type of vivacity which makes West Africa so unique. Metropolitan Dakar has over two million people, is flanked by the famous island of Gorée and stretches inland for about twenty kilometres. Though authentically African, Dakar’s history explains why French flair abounds. Which means you eat, drink and dress well here. Plus the African flair to boot.

But don’t bother to take this trip at all, if you want only sunshine and a miniature Europe in Africa. Because in all our focus countries, you are in Black Man’s country and that is what the whole trip is about. Few cities in West Africa give you more variety for your money. After a week, you have probably plunged into the lively markets, seen the city’s museums and galleries, taken refreshing baths in the idyllic beaches and visited Gorée. Still, you have not seen everything or even had enough. But it is time to move on now.

Your next stop should be Banjul/Serekunda in The Gambia. By car it takes between five to seven hours, and this way you get a unique opportunity to see a cross-section of Senegal, and you cross the mighty Gambia River. By plane it takes thirty-five minutes. Here, you are in the capital of Africa’s smallest country. Banjul will always remain medium-sized and relaxed, because its position on an island facing the Gambia River estuary does not offer room for expansion. But move on 12 km further to the sister city of Serekunda. This is where Gambia throbs. Notice the different way of life in English-speaking Gambia, but don’t forget to amuse yourself doing it. Visit a wrestling match, eat benachin with your fingers at a street corner, spend a relaxing day watching birds and paddling along the serene Gambia or visit a griot. He will play you centuries old rhythms, and if you pay him well, he will sing your praises. By the time you begin to ask yourself what next, you are on your way to your next destination.

Three times a week, there are flights from Dakar to Praia, capital of the Cape Verde Islands. After an hour, you are in Lusitanian Africa, a whole different world. The Africans here speak Portuguese as their mother tongue but make no mistake, you are still in Africa. Yesterday in busy Serekunda, today in serene Praia. Wait a minute! There was talk of flights from Dakar to Praia but not how to get from Serekunda to Praia. It’s like going to the flicks. You remain seated, but the film keeps changing. Learn to relax in Praia. Take in the insular charm, atmosphere and music. Spend a full day on the Boulevard Amilcar Cabral, get yourself an excellent espresso and just watch people come and go. In the evening, go dancing funana in any of the countless joints, relish the seafood and simply enjoy doing nothing. If you want, travel around the island, see the countryside and get acquainted with the problems too. By now, stressful Europe seems far, far away.

As usual, when you begin to like it, it’s time to go. Maybe you would even like to see more of Africa. If so, then Africa has won again! Most people come back for more. Africa’s magic does not come from sausages, beer, schnitzel, glitter, wealth, or even affluence. It is unseen, indescribable, but real. Welcome to the ever growing community of Africa fans. And next time stay longer! 


Jojo Cobbinah, Senior Contributing Editor of The African Courier, is the author of Ghana – Practical Traveller’s Guide to the Gold Coast of West Africa and Senegal – Gambia: Praktischer Reiseführer an die Westspitze Afrikas 

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A collection of recipes by Nelson Mandela's personal chef, this book contains the food served to visiting heads of state, celebrities, politicians for more than 20 years. Featuring some of the favourite former South African president's favourite meals including samp and beans, farm chicken, tripe, this book also features paella, peri-peri chicken, prawn curry, and myriad of other delights. With simple, delicious and nourishing recipes, it will interest those who wish to prepare meals that are both elegant and healthy.More

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New titles in our library 12/2016

Our library has aquired a number of new and interesting books. Here is the list of the latest titles.

  • Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith
  • Fashion Cities Africa by Hannah Azieb Pool
  • Frantz Fanon: Toward a Revolutionary Humanismby Christopher Lee
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Robinson, James A., Acemoglu, Daron
  • Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures With the Ever-Living Poet by Edward Wilson-Lee
  • A History of Modern Africa: 1800 to the Present by Richard J. Reid
  • Authentically African: Arts and the Transnational Politics of Congolese Culture by Sarah Van Beurden
  • Children in Slavery through the Ages by by Gwyn CampbellSuzanne MiersJoseph C. Miller
  • Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control by Tamara Giles-Vernick
  • Rumba on the River: A History of the Popular Music of the Two Congos by Gary  Stewart
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 1: Africa, the Indian Ocean World, and the Medieval North Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Women and Slavery, Vol. 2: The Modern Atlantic by Gwyn Campbell
  • Cahier d'un Retour Au Pays Natal by Aimé Cesaire
  • Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange and Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948 by Karen Elizabeth  Flint
  • Global Education Policy and International Development: New Agendas, Issues and Policies by Antoni Verger
  • Black Skin, White Coats: Nigerian Psychiatrists, Decolonization, and the Globalization of Psychiatry by Matthew M. Heaton

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