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Category: Lifestyle

A Dakar Apartment Tour

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After two years, our apartment is finally starting to come together. I feel like we’ve managed to create a simple, stylish, yet comfortable space on a budget, something which can be quite hard to do in an expensive city like Dakar.

I thought I’d share some hints and tips on how we achieved a chic, yet affordable look.

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We had almost all our furniture made by a great local carpenter. The rest, we were lucky enough to inherit from family who were leaving. We find having furniture made using strong and sturdy local wood lasts much longer than the more expensive items you find at big department stores.

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Colourful Ghanaian throw on the sofa.

As it’s a rental apartment and we can’t change the walls, we used colourful, mainly African-inspired accessories like pillows, throws, rugs and baskets to add pops of colours to the neutral background.

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In one corner we have a couple of rainbow-coloured storage baskets which not only look pretty but are extremely useful for tidying away bits and pieces. We use them to store books, magazines and blankets for those (rare) chilly nights.

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I love succulents as they’re so easy to look after and do well in this climate. I put these into glass and steel bowls and added some colourful stones around the cactus.
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Our coffee table is actually two benches from our dining table pushed together. We almost always use them in this way, unless we’re having people over for dinner.
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Fairy lights along the top of the living room door add some sparkle at night-time.

Our hallway is quite spacious so we decided to use it as a separate dining room. We had this chunky wooden table and benches made by our carpenter.

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These glasses were formerly pasta sauce jars. They don’t break as easily as normal glasses, look lovely, and of course come free with your next pasta meal!

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into our living space. Let me know if you have any money-saving décor tips in the comments, and also if you would like to see more posts like this in the future.

Décor Details

White candles from Casino supermarket, wooden table and benches made by carpenter, curtain rails made by carpenter, curtain fabric bought and curtains made at Decotex, cream coloured rug from Orca, plates from shop next to Ouakam Market (a bargain at only 1000 CFA each!), catci and storage baskets bought from roadside vendors.

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Karité: The West African Wonder Balm

With one single pot of Karité (or Shea Butter as it’s more commonly known) you would be well equipped to deal with most of your skin and haircare needs, and many of your medicinal ones too. This multi-purpose wonder balm, a staple in most West African homes, is truly a superfood for the skin.

Karitè nuts, photo by Andrea Moroni
Karitè nuts, photo by Andrea Moroni

Karité is an edible oil that comes from the nut of the Karité tree, a species indigenous to West and Central Africa. As it’s extracted by hand, the oil retains all of its amazing natural properties such as vitamins A and E and essential fatty acids, which are the key to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and healing powers.

When raw and unprocessed, it’s thick and golden, with a wonderfully sweet, minty smell. It’s sold at markets all over West Africa in huge slabs, of which smaller pieces are sliced off. Though solid, like a bar of soap, it melts easily when rubbed into warm hands for a few seconds.

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Karitè at the Malian market in Dakar
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The Karitè I purchased was being kept wrapped in a tree root to preserve its freshness

Women in the region have known about its beautifying and anti-aging properties for thousands of years; it provides deep moisture for dry skin and hair.

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Karitè is an excellent moisturiser for dry and curly hair
Karitè is an excellent moisturiser for dry and curly hair

Because it’s anti-inflammatory, it helps soothe a host of skin conditions such as acne, scars, stretch marks, psoriasis and eczema. And as its 100% natural, it’s suitable for even the most sensitive of skins, as evidenced by its widespread use for baby massage, and protecting against nappy rash.

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I use Karitè as a lip balm and on the delicate neck and chest area as it has low levels of naturally occurring UV to help protect against the sun

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Karité also has medicinal properties; it soothes muscle pains and works wonders when rubbed into an aching lower back. It can help ease cold symptoms when rubbed into the chest, and sinus congestion in the nose. Mildly antiseptic, you can even use it as an ointment for minor cuts, burns and insect bites.

Karité is, quite simply, a miracle product. I’m not sure how I ever managed without it!

You can find Karité at markets across West Africa. US based company 24KariteGold produce high quality 100% raw and wild crafted Shea butter, made for them by a women’s cooperative in Ghana. By purchasing this product you actively support a sustainable economy for the women employed at the cooperative and their families.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Palm Tree Tea by adding your email address to the form on right!

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10 Tips for Life in Dakar

1.Walk Downtown on a Sunday. On a Sunday, you can wander peacefully around downtown Dakar (Plateau) to your heart’s content, without having to dodge traffic. Discover old colonial architecture on the roads around Rue Jules Ferry and Marché Kermel, and explore the Corniche (coast road) for spectacular views of Gorée Island and the beach at Anse Bernard.     

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2.Get to Know Your BBBs. This stands for Brochettes de Lotte, Beach and Bissap (or Beer!). If you’re wondering how to spend a free afternoon, this simple formula always works: find a place with a sea view, order some tasty fish kebabs along with your refreshing beverage of choice and you’ll have a wonderfully restorative couple of hours. Try the seafood shacks at Pointe des Almadies, Africa’s westernmost point.

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3.Enjoy the Nightlife (during the day). Dakar is famous for its nightlife, but the best of the action doesn’t normally start before 1am. If you find it hard to stay up that late, doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Look on listings websites like Agendakar to see what’s on during the day. Places like Goethe Institute in Point E often have concerts and other cultural events in the afternoons or early evenings, and they’re usually free.

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4.Love Your Neighbour. Community is important here, and it’s worth taking the time to get to know your neighbours and people you see on a daily basis. These are the folks who will brighten your day by offering you a cup of Attaya (traditional tea) or who will bring you home-cooked food for absolutely no reason at all.

5.Find Your Secret Spot. Mine is Le Calao, next to the Ngor Dioarama. It’s a nondescript blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hotel which has a stunning surprise at the end of its long driveway; a beautiful natural rock pool which looks out to Ngor Island. Perfect for a quiet swims and peaceful sunsets. Never crowded.

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The Rock pool at Le Calao

6.Eat Communal. Something I’d never done before coming to Dakar but now counts as one of my favourite activities is to eat around a communal food bowl. It’s a fun and relaxed way of eating that never fails to bring people closer together.

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7.Get Culturally Orientated. Gather a group of work colleagues or friends together and spend half a day having a fun, but in-depth workshop on all aspects of Senegalese culture at the ACI Baobab Center, including the etiquette for sharing a communal food bowl and the proper way to do greetings and goodbyes. You will feel instantly more confident in settling in when you know some of the cultural subtleties that might otherwise take years to discover.

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Photo by Angela Sevin

8.Try Something New. Sabar drumming, African dance, Batik dyeing, Kora lessons; there are plenty of unique activities on offer here that will challenge your body and mind, and keep you entertained. Take advantage of your surroundings and try something different!

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9.Find Your Hole in the Wall. For tasty and inexpensive home-cooked food, look for places that get packed out at lunchtimes and join the queue. Le Prestige in Ouakam does a great Yassa Poulet (find it at the top of the road that goes from the Monument to the Brioche Dorée) and I have it on good authority that Mme Fatou Mbengue’s roadside stand is the go-to place for some of the tastiest Thieboudienne in Mermoz at 700 CFA per plate.

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Le Prestige

10.Get out often! Dakar can sometimes feel overwhelming, so make sure to take a break when you can. Head up the coast to a lovely spot like this, or if you’re pressed for time Ngor and Goree Islands provide the perfect quick escapes. Rest, re-charge and come back with a new appreciation for what this fantastic city has to offer.

View of Dakar from Ngor Island
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Papaya and Hibiscus Tea Smoothie

Inspired by my recent visit to the Lou Bess? Dakar Farmers Market and the wonderful array of local products I found there such as moringa and baobab powders, and lemongrass, hibiscus and kinkeliba teas, I thought about how I could combine some of these flavours to create a uniquely West African drink.

The result is a Papaya and Hibiscus Tea Smoothie, with a baobab powder boost. Adding tea to a smoothie is a great way of introducing an extra depth of flavour and added nutrients without adding calories. The sweetness of the papaya balances out the naturally tart flavours of the baobab and hibiscus, and the overall result is a zingy and refreshing antioxidant-infused treat.

Dried hibiscus flowers and baobab fruit

Here’s a closer look at some of the ingredients:

Hibiscus tea or Bissap, is a popular drink across West Africa. It helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol, supports a healthy immune system, and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

Baobab fruit has received a lot of attention in recent years as an African superfood, and deservedly so. It contains more vitamin c than oranges, more calcium than milk and a host of minerals like iron and magnesium.

Papaya is a rich source of antioxidants such as carotenes, and contains vitamin c and fibre.

I’ve been drinking this tasty concoction as a caffeine-free boost when my energy levels start to flag, and as a nutritious alternative to a cup of coffee or sugary snack mid-afternoon.

Recipe:

One tablespoon of dried hibiscus flowers (or a hibiscus tea bag)

A quarter of a medium sized papaya cut into chunks

One tablespoon of baobab fruit powder

One cup of milk (your choice of soy, almond, cow’s etc.)

A couple of teaspoons of honey

Half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon (optional)

Steep the hibiscus flowers (or tea bag) in a cup of boiling water for 3-5 minutes then strain.

Place the liquid from the hibiscus and all the rest of the ingredients into a blender.

Blend until a creamy consistency is achieved.

And enjoy your Papaya and Hibiscus Tea Smoothie; packed with West African flavours and bursting with vitamins and antioxidants. Your body will thank you for it!

 

You can easily make substitutions to this recipe to add variety. For a Southern African twist why not try rooibos instead of hibiscus tea, or mango instead of papaya?

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Lou Bess? Dakar Farmers Market

 

Lou Bess? founders Raquel Wilson and Caamo Kane
Lou Bess? Dakar Farmers Market founders Raquel Wilson and Caamo Kane

There is no shortage of small, local producers doing amazing and innovative things with food, health and beauty products here in Senegal. But until recently it was hard to find out about the full range of artisanal goods on offer, and be able to purchase them easily and conveniently in one place. Step in Raquel Wilson and Caamo Kane, who came up with the inspired idea to bring all the producers together and create the Lou Bess? Dakar Farmers Market.

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Wilson, a communications consultant and brand development specialist, and Kane, a doctor-in-training, share a strong personal interest in food, wellness and supporting local economies. Lou Bess? (meaning ‘What’s New?’ in Wolof) is their way of combining all these interests.

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Nyara, founded by Dr. Aisha Conte (centre) offers natural beauty products and food supplements including baobab oil, liquid black soap, powdered ginger and custom-blended teas.
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A selection of products from Nyara
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Virgin coconut oil from Bégué Coco
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Savonnerie Francisco’s luxurious organic soaps are made with shea butter, neem oil and olive oil and are gentle enough to use on babies due to their all-natural ingredients.

The market is a buzzing social event where people come not just to stock up on groceries, but to meet old friends and make new ones, eat tasty food, and talk to the independent farmers, bakers, chefs, and health and wellness entrepreneurs who are eager to share their knowledge and their passion.

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Community spirit at Lou Bess?
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Fun for all the family (Imagination Afrika provides a dedicated play area for kids)

The vendors at Lou Bess? benefit from Wilson’s background in branding and receive advice and help with their business development plans. They are encouraged to share and spread knowledge amongst each other to create new networks, and develop a mutually supportive environment.

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A selection of the products available include: fruits and vegetables, hot pepper sauces, smoked cheeses, chutneys, fresh juices, teas, spices, and an assortment of delicious baked goods. Everything is 100% made in Senegal and often has a distinctly local flavour. Bissap ice-cream anyone?

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Organic produce from Taru Askan Farms
Taaru Askan Farms sell a variety of seasonal and organic  fruits and vegetables including produce not commonly grown in Senegal such as Fennel and Bok Choy, at competitive prices.

Lou Bess? Dakar Farmers Market is much more than simply a platform for selling; it’s an exciting new community that brings together local food-lovers, nurtures a diverse and growing collection of vendors and provides the chance to support local agricultural producers and entrepreneurs while having a fun day out. What’s not to love?

 

Lou Bess? Dakar Farmers Market takes place on the first Saturday of every month. The next market is on Saturday 6th February from 9 – 15h in front of the Ngor Restaurant on the Corniche des Almadies. See their website for more details.

Images courtesy of Lou Bess? Dakar Farmers Market.

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Marvellous Market Finds

Dakar has a thriving market scene; you can find arts and crafts, antiques, textiles, food and much more from all over Africa. It’s particularly well known as a mecca for textiles, with a huge variety to choose from.

There are markets that specialise (such as HLM for fabrics, Soumbedioune for crafts, Cour des Orfèvres for jewellery) and markets that sell everything (Sandaga, Colobane). Year round markets, and seasonal markets such as the DWG Christmas Fair and La Braderie at Place du Souvenir.

Recently we have had two very welcome additions on the market scene, Lou Bess?  a monthly farmers market, and Keur Marie Ganaar in Mermoz. Look out for more on both in a future post.

This year as a Christmas present, I thought I’d put together a ‘goodie bag’ of some of my recent finds.

Wax print bags from the DWG Christmas fair
Wax print bags from the DWG Christmas fair

Here’s what’s inside:

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Wax print earrings from the craft market at Marche Kermel
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Handmade soaps from Senegalese natural cosmetics company Chouette Mama (in karité, Bissap and Argile flavours). You can find their stock at Layu.

My best find were these small leather coin purses from one of the stalls by the Monument de la Renaissance. (Cheikh’s stall to be precise, in the middle with the orange tarpaulin over it).

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And not exactly a market find, but I thought this tropical jam gift set from local company Zena were great.

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The flavours are unusual (Baobab, Tamarind, Cashew etc.) and the jams are sample sized, so your lucky recipient gets to try all the flavours. They also do a range of chillies and savoury sauces, and are available in most supermarkets in Dakar.

The completed 'goodie' bag
The completed ‘goodie’ bag

Other ideas of what you could include: wax fabric, peanuts/cashew nuts, and dried Bissap flowers for making tea.

What would be your must haves for a Dakar Christmas goodie bag?

Lou Bess? takes place this Saturday  5th December from 9-15h along the Corniche des Almadies. La Braderie is on Saturday and Sunday  5th and 6th  December from 10-19h at Place du Souvenir.

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