1.Walk Downtown on a Sunday. During the week, downtown Dakar (Plateau) can seem impossibly busy; it’s hard to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings when you’re dodging traffic. On a Sunday, it’s almost eerily quiet and you can wander to your heart’s content, discovering old colonial architecture (especially the roads around Rue Jules Ferry and Marché Kermel) and exploring the downtown Corniche (coast road) for spectacular views of Gorée Island and the beach at Anse Bernard.
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 La Marée restaurant at Pointe des Almadies, Africa’s westernmost point.
3.Love Your Neighbour. Community is important here, and it’s worth taking the time to get to know your neighbours and all those you see on a daily basis. Smile, stop for a chat and be open. These are the folks you will count on in an emergency, who will brighten your day by offering you a cup of Attaya (traditional tea) or who will come round with some home-cooked food for absolutely no reason at all.
4.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.
5.Find Your Secret Spot. In the spirit of sharing, 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.
6.Eat Communal. Something I’d never done before coming to Dakar but that 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.
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 at the ACI Baobab Center on all aspects of Senegalese culture, 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.
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!
9.Find Your Hole in the Wall. For tasty and inexpensive home-cooked food, look for places, however small and unassuming, 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.
10.Get out often! Dakar is a big, busy and bustling city. It 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.