Senegal Mini Guide
As France's first and most favoured colony in West Africa, Senegal is still very French in character, although it has been independent since 1960. It was the only colony where French citizenship was granted to Africans and where conscious efforts were made to educate Africans to become “French-men”. The largest ethnic group in Senegal is the Wolof people, traditionally farmers on the Savannah, but who now include wealthy, educated townspeople who control Senegalese economic and political life.
The economic and political nerve centre of Senegal is the capital, DAKAR, on the volcanic Cape Verde peninsula which juts into the Atlantic and is the most westerly point in Africa. Most of the Senegal consists of low plains, covered with sand or dry savannah of the Sahara and Sahel. The lowest, coolest and wettest part is the south-west, which is the most densely populated.
The rural areas are inhabited and farmed by over 80 per cent of the Senegalese. In the villages, the huts of extended families are enclosed in fenced compounds. Work on the land for the whole family begins in June or July when the rains bring relief from the oppressive heat, and almost overnight the flat, brown countryside turns green. The men go to the fields early and return late; the women help there, as well as doing domestic chores.
Tribal customs determine whether women are allowed to work in the millet fields, the main source of food for the family. However, the women work with crops for sale – weeding, spreading fertiliser and harvesting. The main cash crop is groundnuts; Senegal is one of the world’s leading producers of groundnut oil.
The women also have their own plots of vegetables, and if there are near rivers which can be used to flood the fields they grow rice too. The vegetables and rice supplement a meagre diet which is based on millet. Surpluses are sold to bring the women an income- giving them some independence in this Islamic society. About 90 percent of Senegalese are Muslims.
Indeed, the name of the country comes from the Zenaga Berbers of Mauritania, who invaded the region in the 11th century, and converted the people to Islam. However, the strictest rules of the faith are not always observed. South of the Sahara, for instance, women do not customarily wear the veil.
Cattles, goats and sheep are kept by most families, but it is bad taste to as a Senegalese farmer how large his herds of flocks are. These are the symbols of his wealth and prestige, their number known by his neighbours but never admitted by the owned. Hard times have come to Senegal with the drought that has afflicted the Sahel across the whole of West Africa.
Grain stores are low and food does not always last the year; many go hungry for two or three months before the October harvest. More irrigation is needed to make the food supply secure against the erratic rains and agricultural techniques in the dry areas need to be improved. Today, the country depends on food import and international aid.
Whether wanting to retrace some of the former route of the Dakar Rally in a 4x4 or just looking for cheap car hire in Senegal, there is a car hire deal to suit you.
The most popular car rental agents in Senegal:
- Avis (Tel: +221 33 849 77 55)
- Europcar (Tel: +221 33 865 08 12)
- Sixt (Tel: +221 33 820 15 95)
- Its name is taken from the Senegal River that defines it north and eastern border
- The largest and capital is Dakar and is famous for the Dakar Rally
- Senegal fully engulfs the small west African country of The Gambia