Video Source: Youtube
Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
There is evidence that Senegal has been inhabited since prehistoric times, but little is known about its history before the Middle Ages, when several important elements of the country’s modern culture, including Islam and the Wolof ethnic group, planted roots in the area.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore Senegal, in the 15th century, although the area quickly came under the control of France and was its colony officially from 1815 to 1960. It received independence as part of the Mali Federation in 1960, although the union was short-lived and the two countries split up after four months. Gambia was merged with Senegal between 1982 and 1989. A separatist movement in the southern region of Casamance hopes to receive independence as well, although it has moved toward resolving its disagreements with the government. A democracy, Senegal has historically had a strong, stable executive branch, with only two preside
nts, both of the Socialist Party, between 1960 and 2000. A new constitution was adopted under the rule of the current president, Abdoulaye Wade, of the Senegalese Democratic Party.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. Senegal’s five official languages are French, Wolof, Pulaar, Jola, and Mandinka. Most business is done in French and Wolof, and it will be helpful to learn a few phrases in both languages.
2. Ninety-four percent of Senegal’s population is Muslim (the remaining 6 percent consists of either Christians or followers of indigenous religions). Although locals in Dakar and other tourist centers are accustomed to seeing visitors in Western garb, it is best to dress conservatively, especially in rural areas. Leave the low-cut tops and short shorts at home; instead, consider loose-fitting shirts, pants, and long skirts, which will also protect your skin from the region’s harsh sunlight.
3. Since Senegal’s short-lived 1982 union with Gambia, a violent separatist movement called the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance) in the southern region of Casamance has occasionally clashed with authorities. Peace talks with the group started in 2005. The MFDC does not target tourists, and Casamance’s beaches remain a popular destination. Locals are often happy to explain Senegalese politics to foreigners, but be careful not to start an argument.
4. Senegal’s currency is the West African CFA franc, which is fixed to the value of the euro and is used in seven other West African countries. It should not be confused with the Central African CFA franc, which looks similar but is not accepted in Senegal. ATMs are common, especially in Dakar and other major cities, although service can be unreliable in rural areas.
5. The most popular newspapers in Senegal are L’Observateur, Le Populaire, and the government-owned Le Soleil, all in French. Wi-Fi access is available in many hotels and restaurants and is usually cheap or free.