West Africa isn’t as popular for tourists as east or southern Africa, but for those who choose to go there, Senegal is an excellent destination. Its coastal location, along with its fusion of African and French cultures also make it one of the most interesting countries on the continent. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Senegal.
It’s known for its jazz music
Senegal has a long reputation for producing great jazz music, and one of the premier spots to check it out is the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival. This decades-old festival is one of the most important in Africa and regularly draws big crowds. Jazz first became popular in Senegal in the 1930s when records from Cuba were aired on the radio.
It has stone circles similar to Stonehenge
One of the most interesting sites in Senegal is the Wanar Stone Circles of Sine Ngayene. While archaeologists aren’t sure when these were built, they believe they could date as far back as 300 B.C. There are 52 stone circles in Sine Ngayene and 1102 carved stones. It’s thought that the whole area was used as a giant burial site.
There’s great surfing
Senegal has some of the best surfing in Africa. The country features consistent waves without the crowds of tourists you might find in other areas. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from several destinations in Europe — certainly much easier than flying out to California or Australia for Europeans. Another plus is there has never been a recorded shark attack.
It has a dark past
Unfortunately, Senegal was one of the main locations for the west African slave trade. To see the remnants of the past, take a visit to beautiful Goree Island. It’s a popular pilgrimage spot for people of the African diaspora. If you can’t make it, you can take a virtual visit to the island here.
It’s the westernmost country in Africa
Senegal is the westernmost country in Africa with the westernmost point being the Pointe des Almadies, located on the end of the Cap-Vert peninsula. It’s only 30 minutes away from Dakar, Senegal’s capital city.
It’s the only west African country to never have a military coup
West Africa is known for unstable countries, but Senegal has mostly been fine since the end of colonialism. It’s the only country in the region to not experience a military coup. The country also has one of the most stable democracies in Africa.
It was the first country to ratify the International Criminal Court
Don’t look to Europe or North America. Senegal was the first country in the world to ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court in order to charge people with crimes from other countries. In February 2000, a Senegalese court indicted Chad’s exiled former dictator, Hissène Habré, on torture charges.
It’s home to the tallest statue in Africa
Senegal is home to the tallest, and arguably most controversial statue in Africa, the African Renaissance Monument. Bigger than the Statue of Liberty and completed in 2010, this 49-foot bronze monolith is a beacon of hope for Africa. If you can’t make it all the way up the steps, the monument can be easily seen from points in the city or when flying into the airport.
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive
Although Senegal is known as being Francophone, it was actually the Portuguese that were first to arrive there. They came to Goree Island in 1444 when they were searching for a new spice route to India.
Most people speak Wolof
The Wolof language is the native language of the Wolof people and almost everybody in Senegal speaks it either as a first or second language. 40% of the entire population speaks it as a first language. Even though Wolof is popular, the official language of the country remains French.