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Why Senegal is now on the winter sun map



 
 
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  #1  
Old December 14th, 2008, 07:42 PM posted to rec.travel.europe,rec.travel.africa
Crisis what crisis
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 14
Default Why Senegal is now on the winter sun map

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/200...r-sun?page=all

Why Senegal is now on the winter sun map
If you are looking for an affordable but exotic escape from the
British winter, look no further. Jill Crawshaw is one of the first
British tourists to sample a new range of package holidays which makes
the beaches of Senegal more accessible than ever before

* Jill Crawshaw
* The Observer, Sunday 14 December 2008
* Article history

As bright as butterflies in their billowing boubous, long iridescent
pink, blue, and lime green gowns of satin and lace, a clutch of women
sat gossiping on the sands of Kayar, Senegal's chief fishing port. The
men struggled to haul their boats ashore out of the crashing waves
while children darted about.

I soon became the focus of the women's attention: 'Where is your
husband? How many wives has he?' asked one of them in a mix of Wolof,
her own language, and fractured French. 'How many children have you? I
have nine, you take one of mine,' pretending to hand over the pretty
little girl she was holding. 'Are you French? English? Where is that?'

As I said my au revoirs, they all began to shake with mirth and my
guide explained apologetically: 'They are laughing at your clothes.
However poor they are they would never be seen outside their homes in
anything but their finery. It's a status thing.' So much for my trendy
cut-offs and new linen shirt.

The ladies of Kayar clearly had as little knowledge of the UK as most
Brits have of Senegal. Hopefully, this might soon change; tour
operator The Senegal Experience, whose parent company successfully
launched holidays to The Gambia more than 20 years ago, has put its
neighbour on the British holiday map this winter with a schedule of
flights to Dakar via Brussels and hotels based around the beach resort
of Saly and in the Sine Saloum Delta.

Bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau and encircling
The Gambia, the former French colony gained independence in 1960. It
is among the poorest countries in the world, though one of the most
stable, democratic and tolerant in West Africa. It also helps in the
tourism stakes that there is no jetlag from the UK as it is on GMT and
it is among the cheaper winter sun destinations. Most deals include
excellent full- or half-board accommodation.

Our pioneering group of holidaymakers were on only the second
departure from the UK and none of us had any idea what to expect.
Within 30 minutes of leaving the airport to travel to our various
hotels through the outskirts of steamy Dakar, we were treated to an
instant kaleidoscope of life in West Africa, the roadsides one long
continuous market heaped with oranges, melons, clothing, hubcaps,
bicycle sprockets, some even offering dental services. Among the dust
and rubble, exquisitely dressed women, the married ladies in
headscarves and single ones often wearing wigs of straight black hair
(there were far fewer veils than in London), picked an elegant path,
while young men strutted their stuff in hip T-shirts and jeans.

Our minibus threaded its way through wandering vendors, huge potholes
and 'bush taxis', a euphemism for the cheerfully decorated rickety
vehicles, their interiors packed with villagers returning home, roofs
piled with everything from live sheep to three-piece suites. At one
stage the driver of the taxi in front of us stopped suddenly and
leaped out to separate two lads scrapping at the side of the road; his
passengers cheered him on.

'Welcome to Senegal,' said our guide as he filled us in on his
country's customs and culture en route. He also pointed out a 'voodoo
village' or ndeup, where patients with psychiatric problems go to be
healed, partly by music, and sacred baobab trees where storytellers
have traditionally been buried.

Ninety per cent of the population practises a unique version of Islam
in which Muslim marabouts (leaders) and brotherhoods carry much of the
political and economic clout - but under the skin you feel that the
heartbeat of an ancient Africa is never far away.

Most of the beach hotels are on the gentle Petite Côte around the
cosmopolitan resort of Saly, a long-established favourite for Belgian
and French sunseekers and packed with international restaurants,
galleries, nightclubs and supermarkets - I even spotted a Rolls-Royce
Club.

Silvery Atlantic ripples lap its pale golden sands which are patrolled
by security guards to curb the enthusiasm of the vendors, and the
resort has an array of watersports ranging from windsurfing to deep
sea fishing.

My hotel, the Lamantin Beach, offered five-star comforts with superb
seafood buffets, home-made breads and gargantuan breakfasts. Its young
staff are friendly and eager to practise their English for the arrival
of British newcomers. 'Perhaps I can have a little conversation with
you later?' said my waitress Aimee in quaint textbook English. Her
French was fluent.

In the mid-19th-century carve-up of Africa, France helped herself to
Senegal while the British settled for the lilliputian Gambia, which
somewhat ludicrously slices Senegal into two. Both colonial powers
profited from the slave trade and, after that was abolished, from the
export of peanuts. But despite echoes of the French occupation - in
the language, cuisine and sense of fashion - the French influence is
waning as Senegal looks more towards China and South America. No
coincidence then that I had shared the flight from Brussels with more
than 100 Chinese labourers, all issued with identical kit bags and
sleeping mats on arrival - to work on the roads or the rice fields.

While most resort hotels are thoroughly westernised, few of the
excursions can be described as picture-book tourist fodder - though
for me that made them no less interesting.

One of the 'must sees' of the Ile de Gorée just outside Dakar is the
Maison des Esclaves, where slaves awaiting deportation were kept in
dungeons under warehouses surrounded by the mansions of the French
merchants.

On the Grande Côte I visited Lac Rose, Senegal's Dead Sea, its pink
hue the result of a high concentration of minerals; local men stand
for hours in the saline water collecting salt which the women then bag
- at €1 per 25kg sack. It was the only place where I was besieged by
souvenir sellers - and considering the bleakness of their surroundings
and employment prospects, you can hardly blame them.

The lake is also the finishing line for the Paris-Dakar motor rally;
you can stage your own rollercoaster rally by 4x4 on monster sand
dunes nearby and then drive along the firm breezy sands of the
Atlantic coast, utterly desolate apart from wheeling cormorants, terns
and sea eagles. No developer will ever be able to build hotels on
these glorious beaches - the waves are far too dangerous.

On another excursion my guide Yamar, who speaks fluent English, French
and several tribal tongues, drove me deep into the bush, the
relentlessly flat savannah punctuated only by flat-topped acacias and
thousand-year-old baobab trees. In the fields women harvested peanuts
by beating them with sticks.

When we reached the tiny farming community of Gnignig, I was
introduced to the headman who invited me to visit the compound he
shares with 17 relatives; it's a collection of thatched huts (his own
has a corrugated iron roof) with a communal bucket shower and a wooden
shrine to his ancestors. There is no electricity, no running water.

For a few moments the women and children sitting in the shade of a
tree and I gazed at each other silently, separated by an abyss of
communication and culture. Then, in a flash of inspiration, thanks to
my football-mad sons, I scored. 'Diouf,' I dredged up the name from
memories of conversations about the Senegalese soccer stars who play
in our Premiership. The floodgates opened: 'Beckham, Lampard, Michael
Owen,' they shouted back at me.

I used the same ploy when I met the pupils of the primary school,
L'Ecole Mbafaya Sandock, a breezeblock construction for six- to 14-
year-olds, where there can be up to 80 in a class. The top class,
however, were quietly studying the complexities of volume and density
in French. The only classroom aids were a blackboard and chalk - and
the latter was in short supply.

'My girls are good keen students,' said their teacher Karamba Bayo,
'but not all the boys,' he looked sternly at two reprobates sitting in
the front of the class. They grinned at me, unabashed and curious - I
was the first Brit they'd ever met. Humbled, I handed over pencils,
rubbers and pens I'd brought from the UK and wished I'd added exercise
books, crayons and chalk. Schooling is free but parents must pay for
all extras.

The star attraction in Senegal is the Sine Saloum Delta, 180,000
hectares of labyrinthine watery wilderness made up of limpid lagoons,
shimmering salt plains, sandy spits, tangled mangroves and bolongs,
hidden creeks and estuaries which are home to a rich collection of
wildlife from pelicans and flamingos (there are 600 bird species in
the country) to manatees and the occasional dolphin. Haunting and
mysterious, it seemed a privilege to intrude on this world.

I explored its magic in a pirogue with wildlife expert Bashir who
identified pied kingfishers for me, herons hiding in the mangroves and
tiny oysters and mussels clinging to the mangrove roots. For three
months each year local women move into the little shell mounds in the
delta to smoke and dry the oysters, leaving their shells to form new
islets: recent research has shown that their ancestors have probably
been doing the same for thousands of years.

Boatman Babou had his own priorities. At every stop, rather than let
me wade ashore, he lifted me out as if I were as light as a feather
(I'm not). It turned out he was in training for the local wrestling
contest; wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Senegal.

You can visit the delta from the five-star Royal Lodge, set on a
peerless beach nearby and oozing luxury. You can also stay in a couple
of tiny and highly imaginative eco-lodges, simple but stylish, with
all the necessary mod cons plus pools and views to die for. The Lodge
des Collines, on a shell mound in a grove of palm and tamarind trees,
is the brainchild of French woman Sylvie Gaborit, with accommodation
consisting of a pair of tree houses which wrap themselves around the
branches of huge baobabs, three water bungalows on stilts and adobe
cottages, all furnished in local style.

I was lucky enough to spend a night at Souimanga Lodge (souimanga
means sunbird) where French owner Denis Mencière lives out his dream.
Here at dawn I was woken by an orchestra of terns and pelicans,
herons, avocets, cormorants and egrets. I spent a lazy day watching
hornbills feeding their young, gaudy finches and weavers dipping in
the pool, and tiny bee-eaters quivering among dusky pink hibiscus
blossoms. Towards sunset I sipped a hibiscus juice and sat spellbound
as egrets returned in their hundreds to roost, wishing I could have
holed up there for the winter.
The 60-second guide to Senegal

Location
Senegal is on the west coast of Africa, with Mauritania to the north,
Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The
Gambia is surrounded almost entirely by Senegal, stretching 300km
inland from its western coastline.

Government
There are an incredible 80 political parties, and Senegal has one of
the most successful democratic cultures in Africa. It is a republic,
with presidential elections every five years. However, religous
leaders also exercise strong political influence.

Language
Many languages are spoken due to the different ethnic groups which
make up the population of 11 million. Around 43 per cent of people
speak Wolof and in many areas, particularly the capital, Dakar, this
is the main language. However, there are colonial links to France and
a sizeable expatriate population. The official language is French.

Climate
Senegal has well-defined seasons, with most of the rainfall occurring
between June and October, when temperatures are at their hottest.
Temperatures are at their coolest (a minimum of around 63F) between
December and February, but they differ widely between the coast and
inland.

Religion
Islam is by far the biggest religion; approximately 95 per cent of the
population are practising Muslims. Many children are educated in
formal Koranic schools (a daara), where much time is spent memorising
as much of the Koran as possible.

Food
There is a strong French influence in Senegalese food; rich chicken
and fish casseroles, served with piles of couscous and rice. Roasted
peanuts - one of the country's biggest crops - are everywhere.

Health
Yellow-fever innoculations and malaria tablets are both necessary for
travel in Senegal.

Is it safe?
The Foreign Office classes Senegal as 'generally calm and stable',
although it advises against road travel in the Casamance region south
of the Gambia due to landmines and some fighting with rebels.
Essentials

Jill Crawshaw travelled with The Senegal Experience (0845 338 8706;
senegal.co.uk). Seven-night holidays start at £799. A week at the five-
star Lamantin Beach Hotel starts at £919. A seven-night stay combining
the Royal Lodge and a tree house at the Lodge des Collines starts at
£1,154. Trips combining four nights at Souimanga Lodge and four at the
Coconut Residence in Gambia, cost £1,322. All prices include half-
board and flights with Brussels Airlines.
  #2  
Old December 14th, 2008, 08:54 PM posted to rec.travel.europe,rec.travel.africa
Runge13[_2_]
external usenet poster
 
Posts: 495
Default Michaelnewpoort sees Senegal in Europe and spams with viruses

The perfect jerk.

"Crisis what crisis" a écrit dans le message de
...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/200...r-sun?page=all

Why Senegal is now on the winter sun map
If you are looking for an affordable but exotic escape from the
British winter, look no further. Jill Crawshaw is one of the first
British tourists to sample a new range of package holidays which makes
the beaches of Senegal more accessible than ever before

* Jill Crawshaw
* The Observer, Sunday 14 December 2008
* Article history

As bright as butterflies in their billowing boubous, long iridescent
pink, blue, and lime green gowns of satin and lace, a clutch of women
sat gossiping on the sands of Kayar, Senegal's chief fishing port. The
men struggled to haul their boats ashore out of the crashing waves
while children darted about.

I soon became the focus of the women's attention: 'Where is your
husband? How many wives has he?' asked one of them in a mix of Wolof,
her own language, and fractured French. 'How many children have you? I
have nine, you take one of mine,' pretending to hand over the pretty
little girl she was holding. 'Are you French? English? Where is that?'

As I said my au revoirs, they all began to shake with mirth and my
guide explained apologetically: 'They are laughing at your clothes.
However poor they are they would never be seen outside their homes in
anything but their finery. It's a status thing.' So much for my trendy
cut-offs and new linen shirt.

The ladies of Kayar clearly had as little knowledge of the UK as most
Brits have of Senegal. Hopefully, this might soon change; tour
operator The Senegal Experience, whose parent company successfully
launched holidays to The Gambia more than 20 years ago, has put its
neighbour on the British holiday map this winter with a schedule of
flights to Dakar via Brussels and hotels based around the beach resort
of Saly and in the Sine Saloum Delta.

Bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau and encircling
The Gambia, the former French colony gained independence in 1960. It
is among the poorest countries in the world, though one of the most
stable, democratic and tolerant in West Africa. It also helps in the
tourism stakes that there is no jetlag from the UK as it is on GMT and
it is among the cheaper winter sun destinations. Most deals include
excellent full- or half-board accommodation.

Our pioneering group of holidaymakers were on only the second
departure from the UK and none of us had any idea what to expect.
Within 30 minutes of leaving the airport to travel to our various
hotels through the outskirts of steamy Dakar, we were treated to an
instant kaleidoscope of life in West Africa, the roadsides one long
continuous market heaped with oranges, melons, clothing, hubcaps,
bicycle sprockets, some even offering dental services. Among the dust
and rubble, exquisitely dressed women, the married ladies in
headscarves and single ones often wearing wigs of straight black hair
(there were far fewer veils than in London), picked an elegant path,
while young men strutted their stuff in hip T-shirts and jeans.

Our minibus threaded its way through wandering vendors, huge potholes
and 'bush taxis', a euphemism for the cheerfully decorated rickety
vehicles, their interiors packed with villagers returning home, roofs
piled with everything from live sheep to three-piece suites. At one
stage the driver of the taxi in front of us stopped suddenly and
leaped out to separate two lads scrapping at the side of the road; his
passengers cheered him on.

'Welcome to Senegal,' said our guide as he filled us in on his
country's customs and culture en route. He also pointed out a 'voodoo
village' or ndeup, where patients with psychiatric problems go to be
healed, partly by music, and sacred baobab trees where storytellers
have traditionally been buried.

Ninety per cent of the population practises a unique version of Islam
in which Muslim marabouts (leaders) and brotherhoods carry much of the
political and economic clout - but under the skin you feel that the
heartbeat of an ancient Africa is never far away.

Most of the beach hotels are on the gentle Petite Côte around the
cosmopolitan resort of Saly, a long-established favourite for Belgian
and French sunseekers and packed with international restaurants,
galleries, nightclubs and supermarkets - I even spotted a Rolls-Royce
Club.

Silvery Atlantic ripples lap its pale golden sands which are patrolled
by security guards to curb the enthusiasm of the vendors, and the
resort has an array of watersports ranging from windsurfing to deep
sea fishing.

My hotel, the Lamantin Beach, offered five-star comforts with superb
seafood buffets, home-made breads and gargantuan breakfasts. Its young
staff are friendly and eager to practise their English for the arrival
of British newcomers. 'Perhaps I can have a little conversation with
you later?' said my waitress Aimee in quaint textbook English. Her
French was fluent.

In the mid-19th-century carve-up of Africa, France helped herself to
Senegal while the British settled for the lilliputian Gambia, which
somewhat ludicrously slices Senegal into two. Both colonial powers
profited from the slave trade and, after that was abolished, from the
export of peanuts. But despite echoes of the French occupation - in
the language, cuisine and sense of fashion - the French influence is
waning as Senegal looks more towards China and South America. No
coincidence then that I had shared the flight from Brussels with more
than 100 Chinese labourers, all issued with identical kit bags and
sleeping mats on arrival - to work on the roads or the rice fields.

While most resort hotels are thoroughly westernised, few of the
excursions can be described as picture-book tourist fodder - though
for me that made them no less interesting.

One of the 'must sees' of the Ile de Gorée just outside Dakar is the
Maison des Esclaves, where slaves awaiting deportation were kept in
dungeons under warehouses surrounded by the mansions of the French
merchants.

On the Grande Côte I visited Lac Rose, Senegal's Dead Sea, its pink
hue the result of a high concentration of minerals; local men stand
for hours in the saline water collecting salt which the women then bag
- at €1 per 25kg sack. It was the only place where I was besieged by
souvenir sellers - and considering the bleakness of their surroundings
and employment prospects, you can hardly blame them.

The lake is also the finishing line for the Paris-Dakar motor rally;
you can stage your own rollercoaster rally by 4x4 on monster sand
dunes nearby and then drive along the firm breezy sands of the
Atlantic coast, utterly desolate apart from wheeling cormorants, terns
and sea eagles. No developer will ever be able to build hotels on
these glorious beaches - the waves are far too dangerous.

On another excursion my guide Yamar, who speaks fluent English, French
and several tribal tongues, drove me deep into the bush, the
relentlessly flat savannah punctuated only by flat-topped acacias and
thousand-year-old baobab trees. In the fields women harvested peanuts
by beating them with sticks.

When we reached the tiny farming community of Gnignig, I was
introduced to the headman who invited me to visit the compound he
shares with 17 relatives; it's a collection of thatched huts (his own
has a corrugated iron roof) with a communal bucket shower and a wooden
shrine to his ancestors. There is no electricity, no running water.

For a few moments the women and children sitting in the shade of a
tree and I gazed at each other silently, separated by an abyss of
communication and culture. Then, in a flash of inspiration, thanks to
my football-mad sons, I scored. 'Diouf,' I dredged up the name from
memories of conversations about the Senegalese soccer stars who play
in our Premiership. The floodgates opened: 'Beckham, Lampard, Michael
Owen,' they shouted back at me.

I used the same ploy when I met the pupils of the primary school,
L'Ecole Mbafaya Sandock, a breezeblock construction for six- to 14-
year-olds, where there can be up to 80 in a class. The top class,
however, were quietly studying the complexities of volume and density
in French. The only classroom aids were a blackboard and chalk - and
the latter was in short supply.

'My girls are good keen students,' said their teacher Karamba Bayo,
'but not all the boys,' he looked sternly at two reprobates sitting in
the front of the class. They grinned at me, unabashed and curious - I
was the first Brit they'd ever met. Humbled, I handed over pencils,
rubbers and pens I'd brought from the UK and wished I'd added exercise
books, crayons and chalk. Schooling is free but parents must pay for
all extras.

The star attraction in Senegal is the Sine Saloum Delta, 180,000
hectares of labyrinthine watery wilderness made up of limpid lagoons,
shimmering salt plains, sandy spits, tangled mangroves and bolongs,
hidden creeks and estuaries which are home to a rich collection of
wildlife from pelicans and flamingos (there are 600 bird species in
the country) to manatees and the occasional dolphin. Haunting and
mysterious, it seemed a privilege to intrude on this world.

I explored its magic in a pirogue with wildlife expert Bashir who
identified pied kingfishers for me, herons hiding in the mangroves and
tiny oysters and mussels clinging to the mangrove roots. For three
months each year local women move into the little shell mounds in the
delta to smoke and dry the oysters, leaving their shells to form new
islets: recent research has shown that their ancestors have probably
been doing the same for thousands of years.

Boatman Babou had his own priorities. At every stop, rather than let
me wade ashore, he lifted me out as if I were as light as a feather
(I'm not). It turned out he was in training for the local wrestling
contest; wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Senegal.

You can visit the delta from the five-star Royal Lodge, set on a
peerless beach nearby and oozing luxury. You can also stay in a couple
of tiny and highly imaginative eco-lodges, simple but stylish, with
all the necessary mod cons plus pools and views to die for. The Lodge
des Collines, on a shell mound in a grove of palm and tamarind trees,
is the brainchild of French woman Sylvie Gaborit, with accommodation
consisting of a pair of tree houses which wrap themselves around the
branches of huge baobabs, three water bungalows on stilts and adobe
cottages, all furnished in local style.

I was lucky enough to spend a night at Souimanga Lodge (souimanga
means sunbird) where French owner Denis Mencière lives out his dream.
Here at dawn I was woken by an orchestra of terns and pelicans,
herons, avocets, cormorants and egrets. I spent a lazy day watching
hornbills feeding their young, gaudy finches and weavers dipping in
the pool, and tiny bee-eaters quivering among dusky pink hibiscus
blossoms. Towards sunset I sipped a hibiscus juice and sat spellbound
as egrets returned in their hundreds to roost, wishing I could have
holed up there for the winter.
The 60-second guide to Senegal

Location
Senegal is on the west coast of Africa, with Mauritania to the north,
Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. The
Gambia is surrounded almost entirely by Senegal, stretching 300km
inland from its western coastline.

Government
There are an incredible 80 political parties, and Senegal has one of
the most successful democratic cultures in Africa. It is a republic,
with presidential elections every five years. However, religous
leaders also exercise strong political influence.

Language
Many languages are spoken due to the different ethnic groups which
make up the population of 11 million. Around 43 per cent of people
speak Wolof and in many areas, particularly the capital, Dakar, this
is the main language. However, there are colonial links to France and
a sizeable expatriate population. The official language is French.

Climate
Senegal has well-defined seasons, with most of the rainfall occurring
between June and October, when temperatures are at their hottest.
Temperatures are at their coolest (a minimum of around 63F) between
December and February, but they differ widely between the coast and
inland.

Religion
Islam is by far the biggest religion; approximately 95 per cent of the
population are practising Muslims. Many children are educated in
formal Koranic schools (a daara), where much time is spent memorising
as much of the Koran as possible.

Food
There is a strong French influence in Senegalese food; rich chicken
and fish casseroles, served with piles of couscous and rice. Roasted
peanuts - one of the country's biggest crops - are everywhere.

Health
Yellow-fever innoculations and malaria tablets are both necessary for
travel in Senegal.

Is it safe?
The Foreign Office classes Senegal as 'generally calm and stable',
although it advises against road travel in the Casamance region south
of the Gambia due to landmines and some fighting with rebels.
Essentials

Jill Crawshaw travelled with The Senegal Experience (0845 338 8706;
senegal.co.uk). Seven-night holidays start at £799. A week at the five-
star Lamantin Beach Hotel starts at £919. A seven-night stay combining
the Royal Lodge and a tree house at the Lodge des Collines starts at
£1,154. Trips combining four nights at Souimanga Lodge and four at the
Coconut Residence in Gambia, cost £1,322. All prices include half-
board and flights with Brussels Airlines.

 




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