An Introduction to Senegal
Hi again HONeys!
I have been in Dakar, Senegal for quite a while now, and I really like it. Even though I never had the chance to grow up here, I wanted to have lived here for a while. As you also know, I really like to share my experiences, therefore, I will try to share as many as I can with you. Through my stories, I hope to encourage other people to visit the places I've gone to. Today, I want to give you an introduction to Senegal. What should you know about Senegal before visiting? Well, let me tell you. Here's... Senegal: an introduction!
Senegal is a West-African country that is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, Mauritania in the north, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau in the south and east. Not to forget that The Gambia actually lies within Senegal and until 1989, Senegal and The Gambia were one country called Senegambia. Which is super cool right? I actually had the chance to visit The Gambia last November. In addition, Senegal is divided into 14 districts and Dakar is the capital with the most citizens. Senegal used to be colonized by the French and gained independence in 1960. Meaning that besides Wolof, most people speak French. People however are starting to speak English more and more, but do not expect it. Unless it is for touristic activities etc.
Senegalese culture is very diverse. There are so many ethnic groups living in Senegal. For example, you have the Wolof, Fulani, Serer, Soninke, Mandinka and many more tribes. Yet, we should not forget about the other many tribes that have migrated from surrounding countries and even Nigeria, Cameroon and western, Asian and Middle-Eastern countries. In my experience, all these people of different nationalities and backgrounds can live perfectly together. For example, Senegal is about 98% Muslim, however, they can live perfectly together with Christians and people of other religions. Yes, in Senegal you will be constantly confronted with Islam, but you do not have to be religious to visit Senegal. Another important cultural thing about Senegal is hospitality, the Senegalese teranga. People are so welcoming, and always ready to help you with something or to invite you for lunch or dinner.
WHAT NOT TO DO?
Of course, there are some basic things in Senegal which you should avoid. For example, giving people things with your left hand is not done. People use their left hand to wipe after going to the toilet. Therefore, if you give something with your left hand, it can be seen as very disrespectful. That is also the same reason why you do not eat with your left hand. Of course, it is not a big scandal if you accidentally give someone something with your left hand. However, you should really avoid it, especially eating with your left hand. Because the hand that wipes cannot be the same hand that feeds. Another thing that is not really done, is talking back to elders. In Senegalese culture, older people have the most knowledge, and are the wisest. Of course, we all know that does not mean they are always right. I honestly think that everybody deserves respect, but respect is reciprocal. Do not let these older people disrespect you just because they were born before you.
Of course I cannot introduce Senegal without talking about food. And I will take the liberty to once and for all end the Jollof Rice war. So, traditional Senegalese food consists mostly of rice or couscous with fish, chicken or beef. The most popular dish is Thieboudienne also known as Jollof rice. The word Jollof originates from the name of the Wolof people in Senegal. However, in the language Wolof, Jollof rice is called Thieboudienne. The Jolof Empire used to rule the Senegambian region and it is believed that Jollof rice originated from this Empire. So, now that I ended the Jollof rice war, let’s get into other dishes. Yassa, is a great dish with onion sauce, fish or chicken and white rice. If well-prepared, it’s amazing. Another popular dish you should try is Soupou Kandia, which is prepared with okra, fish and palmoil.
Of course, there is so much more to Senegal than the things I just told you. Stay tuned for my upcoming posts to discover more about this wonderful country!