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Tag: Bissap

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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Kinkeliba : the West African Super Tea

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In Senegal, Kinkeliba (Seh-Haw in Wolof) is the most popular of the bush teas. But despite amazing healing properties and higher antioxidant levels than Green tea, it’s not widely known outside West Africa.

The leaves of this shrub – when dried and boiled – produce a strong, earthy-tasting tea which is mineral-rich and caffeine-free.

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Dried Bissap (Hibiscus) and Kinkeliba at Tilene Market in Dakar
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Bag of dried Kinkeliba leaves

It’s drunk all year round but is especially popular during the colder months, and is used by Muslims to break the fast during Ramadan.

A non-exhaustive list of Kinkeliba’s health benefits would go something like this: aids liver disorders, sleep problems, digestion, skin complaints such as eczema and acne (due to anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties), general convalescence after illness, detoxification, and can be applied during the final rinse to strengthen dry and brittle hair. If that wasn’t enough, research suggests it may be beneficial in the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.

No wonder Kinkeliba is said to have mystical properties and is referred to as “tisane de longue vie” or infusion of long life.

Here’s how to make it:

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Add 20g of dried Kinkeliba leaves to a pot with a litre of boiling water
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Boil for 20-30 minutes until the water turns orangey-red (to make a weaker tea steep a tablespoon of leaves in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes)
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Add sugar or honey to sweeten, or mint, lemon or milk to your taste
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And voila, enjoy your refreshing West African antioxidant hit!

If you live in Senegal, you can find Kinkeliba leaves at most markets and supermarkets. In the United States, you can purchase Kinkeliba from a fantastic company called Saafara Teas, founded by Senegalese entrepreneur Ismael Diagne.

Diagne’s mission is to bring the healing herbal teas of West Africa to the world, while helping those who harvest the plants in Senegal. A percentage of each box of tea purchased goes towards improving facilities in the local community.

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

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Espace Sobo Badé

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Getting out of Dakar is hard. In a city with endless distractions, when it comes to the end of the week the temptation to stay put is strong. But these days with the new autoroute à péage which cuts travel time significantly, getting out of town for the day, or even just a few hours is easily done.

With two old friends in town for a visit and an afternoon to spare, it was the perfect opportunity to do just this. We went to the Espace Sobo Badè, a hotel, restaurant and arts centre in the fishing village of Toubab Dialaw, 50 kilometres from Dakar along the Petite Côte.

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Toasting with Ginger and Bissap (Hibiscus) juice

The hotel is owned – and was designed – by a sculptor and artist from Haiti and his wife, a dancer from France.

Toasting our arrival with Ginger and Bissap (Hibiscus) juices
Toasting our arrival with Ginger and Bissap (Hibiscus) juices

High up on a cliff overlooking the sea, the whimsical and wonderful architecture of Sobo Badè is straight out of a fairy-tale.

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It’s reminiscent of the works of Antoni Gaudí, especially Parc Güell in Barcelona, with an eclectic collection of colourful mosaic tiles, sculptures and seashells adorning the buildings.

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Grilled Prawns with Aloco (fried Plantain)

I highly recommend the restaurant here. Amazing seafood (be organised and call up the day before to order the Lobster – it’s worth it) but also simple and tasty home cooked dishes such as Lasagne.

While we waited for our food we explored the grounds, enjoyed the beautiful gardens, and took in the ocean views.

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A seasonal ‘butterfly storm’ also added to the magical atmosphere, when all of a sudden we were surrounded by hundreds of these little beauties who are on their yearly migration.

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As we went mid-week and it’s winter, we had the beach to ourselves.

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It’s no secret that I love the city, but a couple of hours away was a perfect antidote to the noise, dust, smog and constant commotion that can leave you feeling drained. It was also a reminder that you don’t have to go very far from Dakar to find stunning natural surroundings, peace and quiet. I’m already planning my next escape.

Espace Sobo Badé, Toubab Dialaw, Senegal (+221) 33 836 03 56 

sobobade@orange.sn

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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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10 Reasons Why I Love Dakar

1.The Atlantic. Dakar’s stunning location on a plateau above the Atlantic Ocean means a variety of great city beaches to choose from, and some very welcoming sea breezes when things heat up. The sunsets are incredible.

Photo by Jeff Attaway
Photo by Jeff Attaway

2.Style. The Dakarois take their personal style very seriously. Many people have their outfits handmade and there is a tailor on almost on every street corner. The stunning array of Boubous – always perfectly starched and worn with pointy Moroccan leather slippers – Taille Basse with matching headgear and Tunics in vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes.

3.Teranga. If there is one word that sums Senegal up it’s probably Teranga, the custom of hospitality. The Senegalese are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and will generally make a huge effort to welcome visitors into their homes and introduce them to their language and culture.

4.Music. The music scene in Dakar is buzzing with talent and you can go out every night of the week to hear both established and up-and-coming musicians. You wouldn’t expect any less from a country that has given the world the likes of Youssou N’dour, Baba Maal and Ismaël Lô.

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5.Culture and Creativity. Dakar plays host to an internationally renowned Art Biennale and is a hub for fast-developing media arts. It has recently been recognised by UNESCO as part of its Creative Cities Network .

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6.Weather. On average, Dakar gets about a gazillion hours of sunshine every year. Enough said.

7.Car Rapides. Dakar has the most charmingly and colourfully decorated public transport you will ever see, called the Car Rapide (literally, fast car). They are fun to look at and fun to take around the city (although not at rush hour, when the fast cars can slow down to a very slow crawl).

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8.The Mix. Dakar is a regional hub. There are people here from all over Africa, a huge Lebanese community, substantial numbers of French as well as expatriates from all over the world. This makes for a wonderfully cosmopolitan and international atmosphere.

9.The Food. Highlights include the ubiquitous Thiéboudienne (Senegal’s national dish of rice, fish and vegetables), juicy Brochettes de Lotte (monkfish kebabs), fancy French cuisine, amazing local teas and exotic juices like Bissap (Hibiscus flower), Baobab and Tamarind.

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10.Peace. Last but definitely not least, Dakar is located in one of the most stable and democratic countries in Africa. The population is mainly Muslim but there are also Christians and those of other faiths. Tolerance of all religions is paramount here, and as a result everyone rubs along together very nicely.

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