My Dakar

Obopay’s Deepak Chandnani finds the local bazaars fascinating at Senegal

Published: Dec 11, 2010 06:55:16 AM IST
Updated: Dec 11, 2010 10:51:57 PM IST
My Dakar
Image: Corbis

One of the first things you notice in Senegal is the people. They are very fit and take their exercise very seriously. You will notice people running rigorously any time of the day to stay fit.

The best part about the city is its laid-back environment. The people are very relaxed and helpful. Senegal has people from various cultures. They live harmoniously and hence setting up trade is relatively easier than other African countries. Due to a long period of French rule, people are more comfortable with French and the French influence is visible almost everywhere.

Unlike other African countries, people here are very Net-savvy. Senegal has almost 100 percent Internet connectivity due to the mini-boom which took place in 1996. Another striking thing about Senegal is that there are no high-rises. Most of the houses are single-storey homes that house families of various sizes.


I stay at the Hotel Terrou-Bi. It has a sea-facing restaurant and bar, and houses a casino, a marina, and a fishing centre which attracts lots of foreign tourists. It is conveniently located near the business area.

One of my favourite places to eat is the Le Lagon Restaurant, in a French hotel of the same name. Their specialty is oysters.

Local taxis are the best way to commute. They come in all shapes, sizes and conditions and will charge atrociously. People should be prepared to bargain to at least one-third of the stated amount.

The best shopping is at the local markets. Their arts and crafts are very unique to their culture. I have a Senegalese mask from the local crafts market that hangs on my bedroom wall.

Almost everyone on the streets is selling something. Be it a SIM card for a telecom provider, or eatables, or tourist knick-knacks.

As a tourist you are immediately besieged by a sensory overload. The street business is thriving, and that in turn paves the way for mobile banking business in the country. A visitor should avoid venturing out alone in the evening.

Visit the Pink Lake at Retba Senegal. It is exactly as it sounds: The water is pink, the colour caused by cyanobacteria. The lake also has a high salt content, which allows people to float easily. The main occupation of people living in the area is collecting salt.

Another interesting tourist attraction is the Slave Island, close-by. It is a premiere tourist site, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. It serves mostly as a memorial, showing tourists the horrors of the slave trade throughout the Atlantic coast.

Deepak Chandnani is President, Obopay

(Co-ordinated by Abhishek Raghunath)

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(This story appears in the 17 December, 2010 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Cyrus Farivar

    Sorry -- Senegal's Internet penetration rate is at about 10 percent, not 100 percent. Cyrus Farivar Author, "The Internet of Elsewhere" (Rutgers University Press, 2011)

    on Dec 12, 2010