Sunday, October 31, 2010

Driving Back to Dakar

Saint Louis was nice and relaxing, more calm than usual since it was a Sunday morning. We toured the museum at the southern end of the island as well as the art museum by the Hotel Sidone. Our plan was to drive back on the beach to Dakar but the tide was too high.

We ended up driving down the road to Kebemer and then to Tiougoune on the coast. There was a nice fishing village at the end of the road with a new fish processing area where the locals could clean and dry their catch in the sun. But still the tide was too high and we couldn't make the drive on the beach. Eventually we made it back to Theis where we ate lunch and then to home in Dakar.

Touba Day 2

My friends and i spent the day wandering around the hot sandy streets of Touba barefoot. We started the day with a late breakfast with our host followed by a tour of the Grande Mosque. The building is very impressive and i have never been inside anything else so elaborate or ornate.

The Grande Mosque took decades to be built and is continually being added onto and expanded. Across the street we visited the library and saw many of the books written by Cheikh Amadou Bamba and learned more of his story.  Our guide said that he wrote over 7.5 tons of books and all of it could not be read in a lifetime.

As soon as we left the mosque we were mobbed by people begging for money, both young and old. So many kids surrounded our vehicles and were tapping our windows that some started to climb onto the roof rack to try to get our attention. We had to cut our visit short so no one would get hurt.

We drove north through a couple hundred potholed kilometers of the Senegalese countryside to reach Saint Louis at the North Western corner of the country. We passed millions of goats and cows and a couple camel herds in the peanut fields in the middle of nowhere.
Peanut field on the left

Saint Louis was a nice change of pace and we wandered out to the fishing village and ate dinner overlooking the river as the sun set.
the Senegal River

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kaolack & Touba

Touba, Senegal
29 October 2010

This morning we woke up in Theis and drove down to the dirtiest, nastiest place in Senegal*. Kaolack had a nice mosque but the town was flooded with many buildings knee to hip deep in green water and a meter-wide stream of foul murky water running along the side of the road. Huge piles of garbage rotted everywhere you looked and it's ripe smell filled the air. Goats, cows, and people waded through the muck and cars and scooters were mired in traffic.

Somehow i found an oasis on the edge of town- a little resort on the river that was clean and didn't stink where we ate lunch. As we left two bus loads of white tourists pulled up to the hotel to discharge their unfortunate passengers. If Kaolack was their final destination in Senegal they were in for an disappointing vacation.

From Kaolack we drove three hours north to the holy city of Touba and met the spiritual leader of the Mouride Muslims. Upon arrival in the sandy city we were ushered into his large chamber where he greets his visitors and supplicants- a large room 20'x40' lined with couches and deep carpets. For the next half hour we discussed Islam and what they were doing in Touba for education and a new university they are founding outside of town.

After our meeting with the esteemed spiritual guide we met and dined with the president of an Islamic Education Program in Touba. We discussed the school he had developed that took Islamic education and added Senegalese culture programs as well as secular scientific training to develop the well rounded, spiritual Muslim.

After dinner we returned to my friends house in Touba where we spent the night. Their great grandfather had founded Touba and was enshrined in the grande mosque. His image is everywhere in Senegal- the image of a man in a white turban with a part of turban covering his mouth. My friends spent the night telling us stories about their great grandfather and his many accomplishments. He sounds like a fascinating person who went through many trials and was a great spiritual leader for Senegal. He was thrown into the lions den but emerged unharmed after two days, was put into a furnace but did not burn, and was exiled for many years. In the end he returned victorious to Senegal, wrote many books, taught many people, and preserved the Senegalese culture.

*A Senegalese friend in Dakar called Kaolack the dirtiest, nastiest place in Senegal

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Back in Theis

After a couple weeks stuck in Dakar working on College Apps for grad school next fall i was finally able to get on the road again. I had five friends fly in from Europe, Mozambique, and Ethiopia for a week to cruise around Senegal. The first couple days i took them around Dakar to the usual sites- Goree Island, African Renissance Monument, Place de l'independance, Ngor island, and even a boat dive off Ngor Island. Now we are driving inland and touring Theis and a couple other cities to give them a taste of the real Senegal.

The drive from Dakar thru Rufisque was surprisingly easy today but scared my European friends. We made the 70km drive in an amazing 90 mins given our 11am start time. In Theis they kept remarking about how many westerners were wandering around. My female African-American friend kept getting hit on by Senegalese men and even got a marriage proposal while we were waiting for lunch. Overall it was a good day despite my friends broken frenglish and temps soaring above 41*C. Tommorrow we are going further inland in search of a city described as the dirtiest, filthiest, downright worst city in Senegal to see if it lives up to it's reputation. Should be fun.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Museum visit

On my last day in Ghana we visited the monument and museum for first President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.  Its a nice park with an outdoor display of the many books he wrote, lots of trees planted by visiting dignitaries, and a huge pyramidesque monument surrounded by a large pond and many statues.  

The display tells the story of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and has many pictures of where he grew up, his influences, and his memorable quotes.  Inside the monument is his tomb.  

Behind the monument is a museum with more pictures and artifacts from the life of the first president of Ghana.  Including all his old dorm furniture from when he was an undergrad student in the states (Lincoln University, PA). 

Cape Coast & Rainforest Canopy Walk

Even though we left before 7am, it still took an hour to get out of Accra thanks to the permanent traffic in the city.  Three hours later we made it to Cape Coast and the huge fortress that was the point of no return for hundred of thousands of Africans shipped out as slaves.  The Cape Coast Castle is now a museum and popular tourist destination for millions of visitors despite its terrible past.

We started by visiting the museum and its collection of artifacts from Ghana's past.  They have a good display that explains a lot about the culture and daily life for Ghanians.  Then there is a larger section dedicated to the slave trade and how Africans and Europeans were enriched through the trade triangle.  I thought it was interesting that christian church leader in that time period advocated the importation of African slaves to the Americas as the Native Americans were too weak and dieing due to the European diseases.  The African slaves were recognized as much stronger, healthier, and disease resistant and therefore a better source of labor.  The Europeans gave weapons freely to the local African leaders to help them in their tribal wars and then accepted the prisoners of wars the Africans captured as slaves.

The most significant part of the tour to me was the visit to the dungeons or slave holding areas where they slaves were usually held for a minimum of four months while they were waiting to be loaded onto the westward bound ships.  Upwards of a thousand slaves could be held at a time with almost no light and a narrow channel gouged into the stone floor for the human waste to evacuate down the large chamber into the sea.  The unruly slaves were packed in a smaller chamber that measured about 20ft by 10ft, but held up to 200 at a time.  When the building was being renovated several years ago, excavators had to dig through two feet of human waste to reach the stone floor underneath.  A tunnel at the end of the large holding chamber where the main population of the slaves were held led to the door of no return and the ships waiting offshore.  Now that tunnel is blocked by a monument to represent the end of the slave trade.  The rest of the tour focuses on the white living quarters and the church above the dungeons and was anti-climatic to me.

After lunch, we drove out to Kakum National Park- a tropical rain forest that features the 1/4 mile long canopy walk, a narrow rope bridge suspended 120ft above the ground.  The bridge is hung in a circular route consisting of eight segments tied to huge trees.  12 inch wide planks form the walking surface and every movement and breeze makes the bridge swing.  It was a pretty cool view, but we couldn't see any animals or hardly even the ground through the thick trees.  

After sliding down the hill from the tree top platforms and walkways we drove two more hours back to Accra in order to fight another two hours to get back to our hotel.  Accra seems like a great place, but the traffic sucks!