DN: Tell us a bit about yourself ?
SD: My name is Sarah Diouf, I am 26, and the founder of a digital platform called Ghubar magazine, showcasing worldwide culture, lifestyle and fashion. I was born in Paris, France from a half Senegalese-Congolese father and a Central African Mother, and raised in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire until I was 12 years old. Because it was what I knew best, I used to consider Ivory Coast as my homeland until not so long ago when I started questioning my identity as an African. I often felt lost at times facing all the cultures running through my veins and the challenging perception of people given my typically Senegalese name (and appearance) vs my limited knowledge about the country. I then started looking for ways to fill in the blanks and get closer to something I felt was part of me and that was slowly taking over. One of my best friends (who happens to be Senegalese) invited me to her house two years ago, and connected me to the missing pieces of my puzzle. Ever since then, and as cheesy as it might sounds, Dakar is where I feel the most complete, happy and at peace. It is definitely where I belong.
DN: How would you describe Dakar, Senegal?
SD: Dakar could be described as a crossroad in Western Africa. It’s a living and very open city, with high touristic, economic and cultural potential. Half of the city is built on a ledge which creates a very pleasant environment, there’s a boom of creative and digital activities giving birth to a new economy, and everything about the Senegalese culture is a fundamental pillar of the lifestyle. I believe in the next 5 to 10 years, Dakar will be one of the main players in the African Culture and Arts scene.
What should we pack when coming to Dakar?
SD:At least 2 swimsuits (!), flip flops, a shirt, a pair of fluid pants, a « cabas » (shopping bag), and sunglasses. As paradoxical it might seems, it’s a very modern, but still religious environment, so just make sure you’re not wearing anything indecent or too revealing during the day. Right now, it’s started getting a little breezy at night (they call it the Senegalese Winter), so a light sweater is not a bad idea.
How is the art scene in Dakar? What galleries are worth seeing?
SD: Dakar is a living art city. Everything - from the people, the energy and the atmosphere screams art. Senegalese are very good at crafting and visual arts. Note that it’s the only city in Western Africa holding an international contemporary art event: the Dak’art, which takes place every 2 years. I think you can feel there’s a will from our generation to spread our know-how into the world, by all means possible. With a little bit more structure, pretty soon, we won’t have anything to envy about Art Basel or Paris Photo. It’s good to visit the Ifan Museum (Black Africa Fundamental Institute), it’s mainly dedicated to arts and tradition of Western Africa, and also one of the official sites welcoming the pieces exhibited during the Dak’Art.
What are your favourite spots?
SD: I like to start my day with a good breakfast, as it is sometimes too hot at noon to have a proper or heavy meal. I stop by the Presse Café, in Dakar Plateau. Even if it doesn’t look like it, I am always working when I am there. A lot of people meet there for business meetings…and the wi-fi! If you want to have lunch in Heaven, go to the Radisson Blu and enjoy their pool bar. You’ll see for yourself. I always stop by La pointe des Almadies. It’s very low-key, super relaxing, and the food is amazing. You can enjoy great fish (I recommend the carp) with frozen ‘bissap’ (a local drink) and relax while watching the sunset. Also, believe it or not, but the best sushi I have ever had was in Dakar (I swear)! There’s no word to describe how good it is, and beyond their exquisite decor, Fuji is a great place for a ‘Sex & the City moment’ with the girls on a Friday night. Last but not least, La cabane du Surfeur/ Chez Abdou (Plage du Vivier) is the week-end spot to tan (if that’s what you’re into), have a cocktail, and get your feet in the water during low tide. In my spare time, I love to wander at Sandaga Market, I can spend hours there… bargaining. If it’s your first time it’s imperative to visit Gorée Island (the ferry leaves from Dakar multiple times a day) and the Pink Lake which is a 1 hour drive from the city.
What hotel do you recommend for friends and newcomers visiting Dakar?
SD: I have recently stayed at the Sokhamon, it’s one of my favourite places to have a drink and watch the sunset (they have an infinity pool facing the sea and the view is insane). I feel at peace there and the staff is charming! It’s also perfectly located: Dakar Plateau is the centre of the city, if you like to explore; you can access everything, restaurants, markets, banks, by walking distance. If you book there, tell Ibrahima (the manager) I have sent you.
Written by: Diane Audrey Ngako
Photography by: Sarah Diouf