Thursday, 21 June 2012

Dakar Paradise

Dakar is genuinely the closest place I've ever lived to paradise. If I had to pick my second favourite country after the UK, it'd still be Uganda by a mile, but on every plausible measure of quality of life, Dakar's street's ahead.

First up, the weather. At the moment the three-month hot season is beginning, so it's starting to feel a bit sticky. The rest of the year, it's mid-20s, with a breeze, and sunny. Not much to speak of in the way of mosquitoes, cool enough to run, and still glorious blue skies. Which is basically perfect weather.

Then, there's the beach. Dakar is on a narrow peninsula, so the sea all but surrounds us. There are parts where it crashes against cliffs, there are sandy beaches with gently lapping waves, and there are beaches with all ranges of surf breaks. It means at the weekend its easy to get a taxi to the ferry point, go across to N'Gor island (or swim over) and chill on the beach, or to go surfing at Yoff, or go to the Radisson hotel and watch the sun dip into the sea. And it means that in the evening I can go running by the sea as the sun sets.

Then there's the food. Fresh seafood at point des Almadies, the westernmost point of mainland Africa, fruit and vegetables in the street, and tasty peanuts on every corner. That's for every day; for special occasions, there are the kind of restaurants I can't afford to go to in the UK - fancy sushi, Thai, French, Argentinian, you name it.

There's the music. Every bar we go to seems to have a live band, playing jazz, covers of pop songs, or their own beats. On Thursday-Saturday this weekend I went to three different bars, all of which had live jazz - and I wasn't even trying to see live jazz, it just happened. People don't always dance - a lot like British people, kind of all bopping in our chairs but not getting up - but the music's great.

Of course, I'm sure a lot of European cities are like this - glorious weather and great food - but I can't afford to live like this there. I suppose that's the key - my quality of life here is great because my money goes further. If I wanted to eat out in the centre of town every day it *wouldn't* go further, but I don't, so that's OK.

But a few weekends ago I was on the ferry to Isle de Goree, and spoke to a couple of Senegalese men living in France. They asked me how I liked Dakar, and I gave my standard answer, which goes along the lines of 'Dakar is amazing and wonderful and I don't understand why everyone doesn't want to live here'. They answered that everyone did want to live here, but there weren't the jobs. Obviously this works on two levels - *they* want to live here, but there aren't the jobs so they're in France; and everyone wants to live her but just hasn't had the chance yet.

I'm told by people who've been here a while that the honeymoon will wear off, but right now I still don't understand why everyone doesn't want to live in Dakar.

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