Dakar Cruise

Bustling city markets 
IFAN Museum of African Arts
Gorée's House of Slaves

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A city of contradictions

Arriving to Senegal with an MSC cruise, Dakar’s great restaurants, outstanding music scene and alluring beaches give other African capitals a real run for their money.

The architecture and leafy boulevards of the downtown “Plateau” area – a peninsula poking south into the Atlantic – are more evocative of southern France than Africa: to be reminded where you are, visit the IFAN Museum, with its large collections of crafts and ritual objects, or any of Dakar’s lively markets. Kermel has souvenirs, fish, flowers and fruit, Sandaga offers household goods, CDs and attaché cases made of beer cans, and the Cour des Orfèvres has Moorish silverware.

Youssou N’Dour’s home town of Dakar has been a musical hotbed ever since his career took off in the 1980s, with artists from the region flocking to the city’s clubs and studios. A twenty-minute voyage from frenetic Dakar, an highly recommended MSC excursion will allow you to visit the UNESCO-protected island of Gorée, sheltered from the Atlantic by the Dakar peninsula. Gorée’s notorious history as a slave depot and its sleepy, slightly scholarly present-day incarnation – pastel-coloured mansions and a clutch of museums above the shore – make it an excellent and instructive escape from the city.

The Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) was used to store “pieces of ebony” before they were shipped to the Americas, and the IFAN Historical Museum, housed in the Fort d’Estrées, takes you through the history of Dakar.

Must see places in Dakar

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    Peanut fields and empty savannas
    Peanut fields and empty savannas

    Senegal is the biggest holiday destination in West Africa, with dozens of beach hotels, mostly catering to French visitors, to the north and south of the relatively handsome capital, Dakar, which a cruise to Senegal will show you.

    Head north towards the Mauritanian border, and you reach France’s first trading post in the country, the time-warped colonial capital of St-Louis. Turn south and the beaches splinter into sandbars and creeks in the delta of the Saloum River, a fine birdwatching area. Inland, much of the country is flat, baobab-specked savannah and peanut fields, but there are interesting areas, culturally, in the far southeast, where you also find one of West Africa’s best national parks, Niokolo-Koba, with significant big game. Senegal is a highly stratified society based on class and caste differences and dominated by its biggest tribe, the Wolof. They figure prominently in government and business and their kingdoms used to cover the heart of the country – an area now largely under fields of all-important peanuts.

    French style and Islamic convictions coexist with great success, though both elements are introductions of the last century and a half. In the far south of Senegal, on the other side of The Gambia, a completely different tribal and social structure prevails in the forests and creeks.