In my very first visit to Dakar almost two decades ago I stayed in Plateau in the commercial downtown area, but soon after I got the habit of renting either a room or a studio in Yoff or in Ngor, both located in the northern part of the city, and stayed loyal to these neighbourhoods by the sea ever since as my base. I guess it’s only natural to always return to the same hoods when you visit a city for other than touristic purposes as it makes your life so much easier. When you stick to a place you also become local, even to the point where you feel that you’ve become just a wee bit too local. Anyone who has spent some time in Senegal must know what I mean. So, recently I thought that it would be fun to find a new place to stay for a change. If I had asked you, what would you have recommended?
There are parts of Dakar in which I always felt a strange connection to the place even without really knowing that particular area. It has something to do with spatial memory and with my being in that place in that particular moment and feeling the shape and the pace of the place. I know this sounds rather vague and weird but still. When I was small I developed my own spatial memory game that would allow me to memorize to a lot of detail neighbourhoods, streets and street corners, trees, houses and just about anything that was standing out in a particular space, wherever I happened to be. I never let go of this habit and now when browsing my memory of Dakar, Point E, as urban space, would be the first one to jump on the surface with its lively streets, shady trees and university crowds. Point E comes with an interesting mix of hectic buzz and sudden quieter residential pockets and when I first strolled these streets years ago I had this massive sense of familiarity with the neighbourhood, I just could not put my finger on it and say why. It was as if I knew the place and it just “sank in” very easily visually. And then of course there’s the Olympic pool, towards which I am drawn to by nature as a keen swimmer. Now I’ve decided that if I ever need to become local in a new place in Dakar, it might just as well be here.
Point E used to be fairly scarcely built and strictly regulated in architectural norms and parcel size by Plan Directeur d’Urbanisme from 1946. These days new tall buildings are rising up here too and the whole area is going through an architectural transformation from its residential heritage.
I never really found out why Point E is called like that. If you know something about this secretive “E” please do share it with the rest of us! Dakar never bores you, not even with names of its communes and arrondissements. As far as names are concerned, Gueule Tapée – a rather charming area that one too – and Patte d’Oie are my absolute favourites, and for the lovers of acronyms there is SICAP this and SICAP* that, always connected with something nice: Baobab, Amitié, Liberté, Keur Gorgui… I am endlessly curious about why a place is called what it’s called, so I am certainly going to dwell further in that in a new post.
Back to a question: What’s your favourite part of Dakar? Is there a part of town that you prefer or would really like to live in, and if so, why? My very humble thanks in advance for your input on this.
* SICAP = Societe Immobilière du Cap-Vert