Apparently the autumn is the cool season in Senegal, though it took my body some time to catch up with this information. After the heat the next thing that hits is the noise: people talking, pushing, cars and all in competition with the sound of the Atlantic waves. Dakar is on the western-most tip of Africa (the nipple that sticks out on the left hand side of the map). The French colonial heritage is strong and the influence is seen in the food, the language and the ubiquitous young men selling Orange phone minutes on every street corner.
Many of the roads are dirt tracks, while the central streets are dual carriage ways. The slow lane is taken up with buses, horse and carts, huge potholes and burnt-out cars. Still, you can't stop in traffic without being offered a multitude of odd things to buy through your window, bedside lamps, rat poison... The cars themselves are motley, restored buses with no windows, taxis held together with yellow gloss paint and string, and the occasional limousine. Outside the boulangerie children beg for food – the contrasts are stark.
In Dakar textile lovers head for HLM market or Marche HLM: which stands for 'Habitations a Loyer Modere', meaning affordable housing. The predominant impression is of Dutch batik fabrics, and many Chinese copies, sold in six metre lengths in delicious colour combinations. Independent traders carry their loads on their heads with mud cloth and dyed yardage from neighbouring Mali and bazin prints and woven raffia from Mauritania. Most sought after are the older Bògòlanfini (mud-cloth), which have come to symbolise the traditional Malian way of life. Made up of narrow woven strips, the fabric is vegetable dyed and a relief pattern marked out with fermented mud…
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