Ethnographic adventures at Europe's African frontier
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Dakar Dem Dikk
Sandy streets, handpainted and fume-belching cars rapides, tinny Mande music and crusty baguettes: bienvenue à Dakar, a city whose airport disgorges more French tourists than you could shake an eponymous stick at, half of them seemingly with their sights set on feelgood development projects on lush Senegalese islands. Dakar is an alluring, fast-paced place brimming with leisure migrants and labour migrants, businessfolk and beggars, stoic commuters and frantic street hawkers who seem to flog as little of their stuff as their colleagues on the Canary Islands. One of them, a newspaper vendor working the city's clogged suburban thoroughfares, gets excited when I say what I study. "Eh, l'anthropologie, c'est vraiment intéressant!" He studiedEnglish and Arabic at Dakar's Cheikh Anta Diop university, until he ran out of money. Now he flogs smudgy papers at 100 CFA - about 10p - apiece. I say goodbye as I get on my bus, run by Dakar Dem Dikk - "Dakar to and fro" in Wolof and a motto if any for my first few days in this seething, traffic-jammed labyrinth of a city.