This is a short update to what has bee going on in my neighborhood in Saint-Louis since November 2020. The island has become one massive construction site with new canalization and soon-to-be paved streets and cemented sidewalks. It feels as if everybody were preparing for the better day, including the town planners – a new post-covid face lift in the making? Apart from this, life goes on more or less the usual way except for small businesses, many of which are still in an extended waiting mode for the borders to be opened to non-residents or European tourists. When the day comes, we will all be able to walk the streets with a little less sand in our sandals!
You can consider yourself lucky if you get a seat in these small and often crowded Tata city buses. Packed they may be but they are a very cost effective way of transport and often fairly fast too. In some parts of the town they are my favorite choice, simply because I like people watching and you get a good view of the streets on a window seat.
I keep admiring the collaborative nature of the fellow passengers in situations in which the bus seems like it can no longer take more people and yet you can still squeeze in. When the bus is packed, you just find a corner or sometimes a seat that is offered to you, and hand out the money for the bus fare to someone next to you. The money then travels from hand to hand in order to reach the cashier at the back of the bus and similarly, the bus ticket then finds its way back to you.
Long distance Senegal Dem Dikk buses operate between major cities in Senegal and although there usually is some hassle just before everyone finds their appointed seat, the rest of the trip goes very smoothly. The buses leave for Dakar twice daily and last time it took me less than four hours from Saint-Louis to Dakar and to Ngor. You can hop off the bus at a couple of stops before its final destination in Liberté 5. These days you can reserve your ticked with an app – booking in advance is obligatory – and pay it with Orange Money, in which case there is no need to even go to their office before your trip. Bon voyage!
You may know that Dakar is a peninsula surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the north, west and south, which gives the city much needed winds from the sea. The winds bring advantages: they keep the air clean for breathing and they also keep the mosquitoes at bay outside of the rainy season, or at least they used to. There also used to be an easy access to the sea but these days it is more and more difficult to even catch a glimpse of the ocean because the land has been taken over by private companies, ex-ministers and judges.
I would be curious to meet city planners and environmentalists and learn to understand if there are real mechanisms in place that could still save the coastline from being further exploited for private gain. Who do the coastline and the beaches belong to? Are they not a national treasure and heritage to be guarded and included in sustainable urban planning as such? Every time I am in Dakar I wonder: What will this city look like in 50 years from now and who will then have access to the sea?
Moctar Bâ,* architect and president of PERL (Plateforme pour l’Environnement et la Réappropriation du Littoral) has some answers. He is saying that the land grabbing by the private sector is destroying the coastline in Dakar and that filling the coastline with buildings will imperatively make the inland air more polluted when the winds cannot clear the air any more. He also asserts that national politics with a vision is needed urgently, with a stipulation that the land that has already been lost to private sector should be heavily taxed. Other practical measures introduced by Bâ and his associates suggest that Senegal should adapt a coastline management system similar to the Canadian and Australian models to exercise urban planning with sustainable solutions for the coastline.
One of the many posters that have been sprinkled by the roadside in Mamelles advertize: Vivez le rêve ! But whose dream are they talking about?
Keroog dama dugg ci benn bis Tata bu 36 bi lay jële terminis Ngor yobbu la Guediawaye. Tata yu ndaw yii dañuy gaawa fees ak nit waaye wii yoon amoon naa palaas kon toogoon naa. Sopp naa jël ‘taranspoor pibilik’ ci biir dëkki taax yi ndaxte di leen faraldi jël dafay tax nga xam bu baax bërëb yi ci dëkk bi, dinga mëna toog ci booru palanteer bi yoon wi yépp. Jël bis ci dëkki Senegal yépp lu ci ëpp, lu rëy la ndaxte bis bi dafay taxaw lu bari te dangay faraldi di jokkonteek nit ñi ci biir bis bi. Seneglais yi dañu may jaaxal lool ndaxte lu bis bi fees dinañu fexe ba xajalante ngir ñeneen ñi mëna am palaas, itam ni ñuy jallale xaalis yi ngir jënd tike ci rësëvëër bi toog ci ginnaaw bis bi te mu naqare gis su bis bi feese dell.
Wute-wute dem beek dikk bi ci Dakar dafay wone ni koom-koom bu ñu teg ci yoon ak koom-koom bu jaxasoo di liggééyandoo te muy dox. Ni dëkki Afrik yu bari, Dakar am na ay goxam yoo xamantane dañu dajale, ci ay bërëb yu ñu aar, ñi am alal te ci yeneen bërëb yu nekk boo génnee Dakar tuuti mu am ñi nééw doole ñu dajaloo foofu ak ñi dëkk ci gox yi nekk ci diggante bi te nga xamantane seeni tali yi baaxuñu. Wante nit ñi dañuy faraldi di demak dikk fu leen neex léppaangi nekk ci naka lañu mëna faye rekk ndaxte ku nekk foo bëgga dem dinga fa dem muy ci gox yu rafet yi walla biir dëkk ba walla ci ‘banlieue’ ba walla feneen.
Damay faraldi jël bis tata ci diggante Yoff ak Ngor su fekkee du ci waxtu yu xat yi su dul loolu damay jël taxi walla kalandó. Bis Tata yi ak Dakar Dem Dikk yi dañuy dem fépp ci biir dëkk bi. Dakar Dem Dikk am na itam ay bis yuy génn Dakar di dem ci yeneen gox yi ci Senegal. Ci biir Dakar am nañu itam li nuy tudde kaar rapid ay ay melokaanam yu bari kulëër yi, itam am na njaga njaay yi di ay kaar yu soppi def leen ay bis te ñuy faraldi am ab xale bu góór taxaw ci buntu gannaaw bi di wax fi ñuy jëm tey nangu paasu nit ñi. Njaga Njaay yi dañu lay yobbu fépp foo bëgga dem ni itam sept-place yi nekk ci garaas yi te ñuy daw dëkk ak dëkk ci biir rééw mi.
Am na itam ay taksi yu mboq yu dul jeex ci biir Dakar. Dañu lay piip su ñu la gisee ci booru tali bi ngir jël la. Ma yëgal leen : boo yakkamtee, boo moytuwul rekk taksi itam dinañu la tardeel. Dal na ma ay yooni yoon ma jël taksi mu dem ba ci digg yoon wi mu paan foofu balaa sax ma doon agg fa ma doon jëm, kon soo leen mënee fexe leen ba tann oto bu baax te rafet ngir moytu yooyu jafe-jafe. Yenn saay taksi bi ngay jël mën na nekk sax amul kayitu dawal ñu tudde ko ‘permis’ te lu ci ëpp dawalkat bi dafa lay jaaraale ci yoon yi doy waar ndaxte dafay moyto alkaati yi. Ci lu gëna rafet : Benn bés dama fattewoon sama ‘smartphone’ ci benn taksi, bi ma wootee ay yooni yoon ci la benn kiliyan ci biir taksi bi tontu woote bi te ginnaaw loolu nee na ma buma jaaxle, ndaxte dawalkatu taksi bi dina ma delloo sama telefon ci nu,u gëna gaawe, te loolu la def !
Am na yeneen fasoŋu taksi yi di xëccoo ak taksi yu mboq yi te ñu tudde leen kalando ndaxte amuñu sañ-sañ ngir nekk taksi. Waaye kalando yi dañoo am njëriñ lool ci yenn gox yi ci dëkk bi ndaxte dañoo yomb lool te dañuy dugg fi nga xam ne bis yi duñu fa dem. Dañu am njëriñ, yomb te gaaw. Yooyo oto ay nit ñoo leen moom di leen jëfandikoo di yobbu nit ñi jóge bërëb bii dem bërëb bee. Ci waxtu xëy ak wacc danga wara gaaw ngir mëna toog rawatina boo dee tubaab: dawalkatu kalandóo yooyu duñuy faraldi taxaw ngir jël tubaab su fekkee jéémooleena taxawal.
Bi ñu doon defar tali yu mag yi ci Dakar ñu leen di woowe otorut, nit ñi dañu doon def ñetti waxtu diggante Yoff ak Diamaguene. Nit ñi tammoon nañu yaggaay boobu bo doon dem ci ab bërëb – Ban meneen pexe lañu amoon? Léégi ak otorut yu bees yii ak ay yuquteek bis yi ak jëmukaay yi mbir yi tane nañu bu baaxa baax. Su fekkee sax dem beek dikk bi dafa metti ba léégi ci waxtu xëy ak wacc ndax ni nit ñi yoqoo ci dëkk bi rawatina oto partikiliye yi bari ba dee ci tali Dakar yi, mettiil dem beek dikk bi te posonal jawu ji. Jambaar dëgg mooy mëna dem aka dikk ci biir dëkk bi! Bi ma jóge Ngor doon dem Guediawaye def naa ko lu jege ñaari waxtu ab ajjuma ci suba sis u fekkee sax toogoon naa ci palanteer bi te doon xool ba nga xamantane ni yëguma waxtu wi romb. Xëy na sax def naa ko lu gëna gàtt li ma foogoon.
Am na lenn lu wara am ci Dakar mooy Tram. Dina ma doon neex ma gis Dakar am ay Tram di dem ci ñeenti boor yépp maanaam Bëj saalum jëm Bëj gannaar ak Sowu jëm Pénku. Waaye lii dafay laaj mu am nguur gu mëna toppatoo ak defar gu dëgër te yagg ak xaalis.
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Ak tekstë bu neex ci ay taksi ci Lagos ak Yaoundé, maangi leen digal ngeen kontine di liir (ci Angalé) “Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere” by Howard M-B Maximus, written for Bakwa 09: Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere and other Travel Stories.
I hopped on a Tata bus no 36 that takes you from Ngor Garage to Guediawaye. These small Tata buses get packed with passengers very fast but on this particular trip I even had a seat! I like public transport in cities and not the least because using it really gives you a sense of place, provided that you have unhindered access to a window while you travel. Taking the bus in almost any Senegalese city is often a “full body experience” with frequent stops and engagements with fellow passengers. I am rather impressed by the ability of the Senegalese to make space in a bus that already looked too full a long time ago, and by their collaborative nature to make the coins travel from hand to hand towards the cashier who sits at the back of the bus and whom you can barely see when the bus is full.
Dakar has numerous methods of mobility that shows just how effectively formal and informal economies work simultaneously. Just like any African metropolis, Dakar has its polarized nature with gated, rich residential areas and poorer overcrowded suburbs and peri-urban districts with failing infrastructure. And yet, all city dwellers move around easily according to needs and wallets either within their own zone, across the city, or commuting between the suburb and downtown areas.
I would usually take a Tata bus between Yoff and Ngor if it were not during the worst rush hour, in which case I would prefer a taxi or a clando. Tata buses and the bigger Dakar Dem Dik buses operate in most parts of the city and the latter has also a long-distance network covering different cities. Within the city you also have the famous colourful car rapideminibuses, and the ndiaga ndiaye vans-transformed-into-buses with boys hanging from the rear of the van, shouting their destinations and cashing the money in. The ndiaga ndiayes take you just about anywhere, and so do the sept-place cars that occupy the gare routière stations and operate between towns across the country.
There is also a massive army of yellow taxis in Dakar. They will frequently honk right behind you if they are vacant and spot you in the street. Be warned: if you’re on a schedule, even the yellow taxis can let you down. I’ve had a few taxi rides where the taxi would break before reaching the destination, so better to be a little picky and choose the best looking car if possible. Sometimes the taxi does not even have a license and the driver takes you on a surprise sightseeing tour because he wants to avoid possible controls. On a more positive note: I once forgot my smartphone in a taxi and after several calls to my own number another customer picked it up and told not to worry, the driver would return my phone as soon as he could, which he eventually did!
In direct competition with the yellow taxis you have its “clandestine” version, the clando, that has proven to be very efficient in some areas of the city with their cheap fare and clever networks that cover important arteries between districts. They are practical, cheap and fast. These are just private cars that drive back and forth between fixed departure and arrival stops. In rush hours you need to be quite alert to get a seat, particularly so if you’re a tubaab: the drivers might not even think of stopping to pick you up unless you give a clear sign.
When the first motorways were being constructed in Dakar, it used to take even three hours to drive from Yoff to Diamaguène. People got used to the fact that to get from one place to another was slow – what choice did they have? And now with ready motorways and much improved bus network things are looking better. But the rush hours can still make your trip painfully slow because the number of people in the city just keeps increasing and especially because private cars are choking the streets of Dakar, crippling the public transport system and poisoning the environment. You need a lot of nerve to be a commuter in this city! My ride from Ngor to Guediawaye on a Friday morning took a little less than two hours although I got – typically – excited just watching through the window so much so that I lost track of time. So it may well be that the trip was even shorter.
There is one thing missing in Dakar though, and that’s tram. I would so much love to see Dakar have a network of trams operating at least on the South-North and West-East axis. Obviously, this would require good governance with strong emphasis on sustainability – and of course money.
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For a very entertaining reading on taxi rides in cities like Lagos and Yaoundé I suggest you keep on reading: “Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere” by Howard M-B Maximus, written for Bakwa 09: Taxi Drivers who Drive Us Nowhere and other Travel Stories.