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Saly - The French Riviera in Senegal

sunny 45 °C
View African Dreams - Football, Voodoo and Music on Kristi D's travel map.

Mile long stretches of golden sand, swaying palm trees, treasure hunts for the perfect seashell, and of course the quintessential frozen margarita... This could be a description of any beach escape in the world - the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Thailand, and, oh! of course, the French Riviera. Because in Saly, it' easy to forget you ever left France; everyone speaks French, all signs are in French and almost all businesses are owned by the French.

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A mere hour south of Dakar, Saly is the ultimate rest stop for the weary traveler, whatever the budget. Luxury hotels offer on-the-beach accommodation and secured, fenced-off recreation areas for the cautious tourists who fear mixing with the locals. For the ones with thinner wallets, ten dollars gets you a clean ensuite room only steps away from the beach. There are also a myriad of restaurants, bars and nightclubs for every taste and fancy... You name it, Saly, like any seaside resort worth its name, has it all.

In Saly, it is easy to forget you are in Africa – that is until you encounter the persistent hustlers, ever looking to make an extra cent. They seem to be everywhere, always shouting out a "Bonjour!", "Cava?", "Hello!", "Buenos Dias!" or the frustratingly dilapidated "Frances? Espanol? Italien? Aleman? Ingles?" My parents would cower in shame at my conduct, they clearly raised me better. But the only way the hustlers will leave you alone is if you completely ignore absolutely everyone you meet. Forget being nice. If you give anyone the time of day, be it a look, a nod, or just meet someone's gaze for a second, they will follow you around for an hour. And once they give up, another hustler will take his place within seconds.

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Once you learn to be rude, Saly is a haven. The fruits are fresh, the grilled seafood delicious, and the colorfully painted fishing boats perfect subjects for sunset photographs.

It's no wonder that all the French seem to want to retire in Saly.

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Posted by Kristi D 12:00 Archived in Senegal

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Comments

I really object to your concept of discovering a new place. You focus only on what you get out of the place, in this case Saly, where I spend 4 months of the year in my house. "Be rude" - how can any traveler adopt that approach to human beings who live in the place you are "enjoying." First, it's completely false. Senegalese are extremely welcoming, gentle and proper. I've been coming to the country for 40 years - and am American not French. How could anyone with a heart cast the entire population (of Saly or of Senegal) having behaviors like the hustlers of Saly? How would you feel as a Midwesterner from a small town were a French person to describe you as an impolite New Yorker always trying to short-change customers? The French, despite their habits, are interested tourists - mix with local people, eat their food, go to villages -- a leur facon, to be sure, but they do not shun contact. Your prescription is to basically be the classic "ugly American" (whatever your nationality). In Saly you're visiting a developing country, not the French Riviera, where people struggle to eat, stay healthy and enjoy life on $2 per day. This is nothing to make fun of but to be humbled by, and when possible, to try to understand their lives. Andrew

by andrewcar

Andrew, I appreciate your comments, and your point of view. But you have to understand that we had been on the road for four months, in ten countries, and the hustlers in Saly were worse than anywhere else. We couldn't even look anyone in the face without them following us around for an hour, trying to sell something. Yes, they're poor and desperate, but the only way we could even move around Saly was by ignoring everyone completely. That's why I say that we had to learn to be rude, it isn't our normal way of treating people. Please understand that they probably treat you differently because they have seen you around, and know you don't want to buy anything in their shop. Besides, I didn't anywhere in my piece say that I "cast the entire population (of Saly or of Senegal) having behaviors like the hustlers of Saly". Just the hustlers. I've traveled in 55 countries, most of them dirt poor, and this was the first time I had to act this way.

by Kristi D

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