Senegal & Gambia

Ile de Goree, Senegal
Dolls for sale on the Ile de Goree, a beautiful colonial island off the coast of Dakar.  Formerly a way station for slaves to be shipped across the Atlantic, it now serves as a weekend retreat for locals and a tourist attraction for foreigners.  Its casual ambience marks a welcome change from the hordes of scammers accosting non-blacks in Dakar and Saint Louis.
Street mural in downtown Dakar.  Some Senegalese icons, including the soccer player Diouf and the religious prophet Sheikh Amadou Bamba, figure prominently here and all over the country.

Saint Louis du Senegal
A street in the island city of Saint Louis, once the colonial capital for all French West Africa.  It is still a prominent city in Senegal, but Dakar, and even one of Dakar's distant suburbs Thies, have dwarfed modern day Saint Louis, which thrives as a tourist destination.

Saint Louis port
The fishing port of Saint Louis.  Local merchants await the afternoon haul from a fishing trawler.  Fishing is not as vital a part of Senegal's economy as is the case in Mauritania, but they do prepare it deliciously.  Senegalese cuisine is easily the class of West Africa, and I often found myself seeking out Senegalese restaurants in other regional countries with shoddy cuisine (notably in Mali and Burkina Faso)

Case a Impluvium, Enampor
A case a impluvium style house in the Casamance village of Enampor.  Rainfall is funneled in from the roof down into the circular central courtyard inside the house, around which the rooms are aligned.  Such traditional houses are no longer used but this, and other traditional styles, have been reconstructed as housing for tourists in community-based tourism projects.  Casamance, the strip of Senegal south of Gambia, has had separatist tensions with Dakar, and sporadic violence and war over the years, which has destroyed what was a prosperous tourist industry.  A shame too, because Casamance really is quite distinct from the rest of Senegal:  very laid back, none of the hassles you get in northern Senegal, a friendlier countenance, tropical ecosystems and white sandy beaches.  Culturally it is more similar to Guinea-Bissau to its south, and indeed they have shared phases of common history in the past.

a church in Banjul
One of many churches in the Gambian capital of Banjul.  In many ways, the Gambia is a mirror image of northern Senegal culturally, but spoken in English rather than in French.   Same hassles, same dependence on foreign tourism (including a lot of sex tourism), and the same disdain of white people as a cash cow.  There is no shame at all in lying or fooling white people to extract their money.  Hearing what locals really think of foreigners in Senegal and Gambia can be quite shocking, but it's not difficult to ascertain this by the way they try to manipulate you.  These countries have been marketed as safe tourist destinations with decent infrastructure and services, but the unfortunate reality is that there are some very unpleasant people who you have to deal with there.

Banjul market
The rundown market of Banjul doesn't offer much to captivate tourists.  However, low prices of textiles draw many industrial buyers from Dakar.  One difference between Gambia and Senegal that may stem from colonial differences is crime.  British colonies almost all have a certain sense of  seediness and implied violence that is absent in French colonies.  Loutish behaviour and a confrontational edge are much more apparent in former British colonies and indeed crime rates are higher.  The former  French African colonies, especially the muslim ones, are among the safest countries in the world, comparing favourably even to southeast Asia.

Bakau Gambia port
A fishing port in Bakau, a coastal suburb of Banjul.   "Hey mon" everybody will be shouting to you.  Before trying to make money off of you of course.  Many lower income British vacationers come to Gambia precisely because it is cheap and people can be easily bought to do whatever you want, and this has unfortunately encouraged the development of coastal Gambians as tourist whores.