When it comes to culture, Senegal is a very lively country, as proved by the two main events which have been taking place there for years; those are the Jazz Festival in Saint Louis and the Biennale of Art in Dakar.
The Jazz Festival is such an important event in the international music scene that the main artists attend it every year.
Artists like Archie Sheep, Randy Weston, Lucky Peterson, Jake DeJohnette, Mc Coy Tyner, Ali Farka Tourè, Abdoullah Ibrahim, and Joe Zawinul have walked the stages throughout the years. Artists who have changed Jazz’s history. When the sun goes down, the Jazz’s rhythms mix with the natural African ones. Liveliness, music, and theatre performances are the background of the Biennale of Art in Dakar which aims at showing contemporary African art.
Day 1, May 17 – Friday: DAKAR IN, Lac Rose
Transfer to hotel
Day 2, May 18-Saturday: PINK LAKE, from Lac Rose to Saint Louis
Lake Retba was called Lac Rose, a shallow saltwater lake surrounded by dunes.
Miles of exciting drive on the beach by 4×4 (depending on tides) will bring us to discover the largest fisherman village in Senegal. More than 4500 wooden painted pirogues come to the shore with the catch of the day… On the beach the fisherman sells to the local market women, after we meet the artisans carving the large pirogues, the painters decorating them with bright colors, and if we are lucky the “local saint” for final blessing before sailing…
We continue to Saint Louis, a charming old town that was the first capital of all French colonies in West Africa.
We will attend the main event of the Jazz festival.
Days 3 & 4, May 19 & 20-Sunday & Monday: JAZZ FESTIVAL
Saint Louis, known to locals as Ndar, is a charming ancient town that was a French territory from 1673 until 1895 and the capital of all French West Africa colonies from 1895 until 1902 when the capital was moved to Dakar. From 1920 to 1957, it also served as the capital of the neighbouring colony of Mauritania.
It has been the former base of the “Aeropostale” airmail pioneer operation between Europe, Africa, and South America. Saint Exupéry, the famous writer, author of “The Little Prince”, was one of Aeropostale pilots following this route.
Located on two islands between the Senegal river and the ocean at the southern edge of the Sahara, rich in three centuries of history, cultural background, geography, architecture, Saint-Louis is a “bridge” between the savannah and the desert, the ocean, the river, and the inland, between tradition and modernity, Islam and Christianity, Europe and Africa.
Home to a society with a distinctive lifestyle, Saint Louis has retained its unique identity. “No one comes without falling in love with the city,” proudly say its people who consider Saint Louis as the birthplace of Senegalese Teranga, the Wolof word for hospitability
The best way to visit the narrow lanes of Saint Louis is by calash, just as locals do, and walk in the fisherman quarters. Time to stroll in the tiny avenues and enjoy the unique atmosphere of this old town.
We will attend the main event of the Jazz festival.
Day 5, 21 May-Tuesday: NOMADS, from Saint Louis to Ferlo region
Early morning departure northwards to discover Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary (Parc National des Oiseaux du Djoudj), a natural oasis formed by hundreds of miles of partially flooded lands that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This “humid paradise” between the Sahara and Ferlo desert, is the best habitat and nesting site for over a million migratory and resident birds – lies on the southeastern bank of the Senegal River and offers a range of wetland habitats that are attended by many migrating birds, some getting here after crossing the Sahara. Out of more than 400 species, pelicans and flamingos are the most common, whereas aquatic warblers are a bit less conspicuous – migrating here from Europe, this park is their single most important wintering site yet discovered. Apart from birds, there is also a wide range of wildlife such as warthogs and crocodiles. Motorboat excursion led by a local guide-ornithologist.
Depending on the season, considering the time of migrations and level of water, the visit to Djoudj may be replaced by a similar experience in Langue de Barbarie, a thin, sandy peninsula, adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, located in western Senegal, in the neighborhoods of the city of Saint-Louis. The peninsula separates the ocean from the final section of the Senegal River. The Langue de Barbarie National Park is home to an abundant variety of bird species and three species of turtle.
In the afternoon continue to the Ferlo Desert to discover the arid region where nomadic Fulani tribes herd large herds of zebu. The Fulani (also called Peul) are the largest nomadic tribe roaming West African Savannahs, living in a vast area from Senegal to Chad. Their origins are still covered with mystery. They all share a common aristocratic cult for beauty and elegance. In the afternoon a local guide will join us for a visit to the neighboring villages and shelters. When the herds come back, we might even be invited to witness the milking process.
Day 6, 22 May-Wednesday: SACRED CITY, from Ferlo to Dakar
The rarely visited holy town of Tuba (Touba) is the right place to appreciate the hospitality of an African brotherhood. Tuba inhabitants follow Mouridism and the town itself is a sort of theocratic “state within the state”, ruled by a Caliph. The founder of Mouridi brotherhood was a Sufi named Amhadou Bàmba Mbake.
Amhadou Bàmba founded Touba in 1887. The holy site remained a tiny, isolated place in the wilderness until his death and burial at the site of the Great Mosque, 40 years later. The Great Mosque was finally completed in 1963 and since its inauguration, the city has grown at a rapid pace: from under 5,000 inhabitants in 1964, the population was officially estimated at 529,000 in 2007
The Mourides have a large social and economic impact in Senegal: thanks to their peaceful (and African) vision of Islam, Mouridism, with other brotherhoods following the cult of Marabouts, has become the bastion that protects Senegal from radical Islam.
During the Grand Magal, the annual pilgrimage, the town is visited by four million pilgrims.
Mourides welcome any interest in their traditions. Yet since Tuba is a sacred town, all visitors should accept traditional rules. Therefore, we must apply a considerate dress code: not smoke, not drink alcohol and not listen to music during the visit. If we follow these rules, we will be welcomed. A Baye Fall, a member of a colourful branch of Mouridism, will accompany us during the visit.
Day 7, 23 May -Thursday: DAKAR BIENNALE
The 15th edition of the Dakar Biennale: the wake / l’éveil – le sillage
We attend events and Dakar city tour.
Drive to the centre of Dakar, the large and vibrant African metropolis that was the cultural and intellectual capital of French West Africa. Reflecting that period, the Presidential Palace.
We will visit the Musée des Civilisations Noirs. Opened in December 2018, it is the realisation of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s vision (he was the first president of independent Senegal, a poet, and Nobel Prize winner). It is a museum that represents the historical and contemporary worldwide cultures and soul of Black people, which he called Negritude.
By ferry, we reach Gorée Island, to explore the island where slaves used to be crammed and then shipped to the Americas. Some restored buildings remain to bear witness of those times.
The Portuguese were the first to establish a presence on Gorée in 1450, where they built a small stone chapel. After the decline of the slave trade from Senegal in the 1770s and 1780s, the town became an important port for the shipment of peanuts, Arabic gum, ivory, and other products of legitimate trade. Thanks to the nice breeze, and the many restaurants and shops, Gorée today has become a pleasant and trendy location.
Day 8, 24 May-Friday: DAKAR BIENNALE
We attend events and we continue city tour.
In the evening transfer to the airport.