Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (2022)

Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (1)

Despite unprecedented growth and change, Dakar’s market life remains fundamental to the Dakarois’ everyday lives | © DBIMages / Alamy Stock Photo

Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (2)

Beetle Holloway

9 December 2019

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From second-hand clothes and freshly caught squid to West African spices and dyed leather bags, Dakar’s markets offer up a smorgasbord of local, regional and knock-off products. This guide will give visitors the upper hand when navigating Dakar’s markets.

In recent years, Dakar has witnessed unprecedented growth and change, but market life remains fundamental to the Dakarois’ day-to-day life. From rainbow-coloured fruit stalls to roadside weaving workshops, vendors ply their trades on almost every street in every district, but these are merely small fish in an ocean of giants.

Dakar’s main markets are leviathan in size. Sprawling, jumbled centres of organised chaos, they share much in common but also have their specialities and idiosyncrasies, their distinct positives and specific annoyances.

Marché Kermel

Market

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Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (3)

Marché Kermel has been operating since 1910 and still provides high-quality, fresh produce | © Xaume Olleros/Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Marché Kermel is worth a visit for the building alone. Housed within a kiln-shaped hall built during colonial times, the market has been a gathering spot for traders to sell their wares to European settlers since 1910. Nowadays, the covered market still provides high-quality, fresh produce to its clientele. Restaurateurs come here for the shellfish and vegetables, while visitors flock to the multi-coloured slopes of stacked fruit and sacks of grains and spices. As downtown markets go, Kermel uses its sheltered location to offer a relaxed, unhurried market experience with friendly vendors. Yet, there’s a reason why restaurants (and not the average resident) buy from Kermel: the quality and experience come with a price. Kermel has used its popularity, central position and picturesque setting to impose a ‘tourist tax’ on the produce on offer.

Marché Sandaga

Market

Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (4)

Marché Sandaga has expanded from of its original three-storey building to the neighbouring sidestreets | © DBIMages / Alamy Stock Photo

While the market’s original three-floored building remains at its heart – selling an array of fruits, vegetables, meats and spices – today’s Sandaga has been engulfed by the neighbouring streets. Cluttered and congested, the market is a bazaar of boutiques, side streets and stalls offering everything from knock-off designer jeans and flat-screen TVs to beaded necklaces and printed wax fabrics. Less than 200 metres (656 feet) from the Place de L’Indépendance, its central location is undoubtedly the reason for its success but also the reason for its many drawbacks. The ease of access and array of goods make it a go-to for tourists, which in turn has attracted a throng of fake products, high prices, pickpockets and hustlers. Prepare to bargain hard and keep a beady eye, and discover the treasure trove of items to be found – rare books, glass paintings and fine jewellery are sometimes tucked away in higgledy-piggledy buildings – but it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Marché HLM

Market

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Marché HLM is Dakar’s fabric town and is frequented by the city’s dressmakers and tailors | © Horizon International Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

Marché HLM is Dakar’s fabric town – situated in the eastern district of HLM 5 – overflowing with colourful stacks of wax, tissue and cloth. Boutique owners lounge on piled heaps of bazin (hand-dyed polished cotton), while stall merchants sip attaya (tea) while perched on reams of batik-decorated cloth. The dust and dirt of the roads fade in the light of the rainbow-coloured stalls. Away from the main tourist drag, HLM is a real local market where Dakarois come in search of cloth and lace for their dresses and boubous, and wedding and religious festival attire. It is also a supermarket for the city’s dressmakers and tailors who take their customers’ orders into the wholesale fabric markets tucked away from the main streets. Marché HLM is the place to visit if you want some made-to-measure clothes.

Marché Artisanal de Soumbédioune

Market

Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (6)

Soumbédioune offers small woven baskets, wooden carvings and so much more | © DBIMages / Alamy Stock Photo

The artisanal market of Soumbédioune is a paradox. In parts, it’s a peaceful assortment of ateliers, while in others, it’s an endless row of tat. Petite and enclosed, with a minute mosque at its core, Soumbédioune gives off a village vibe. At times, it is calm and collected, allowing shoppers to amble through at their pleasure, perusing the goods with a minimum of fuss. At other times, the sellers follow visitors, calling and hawking. The market offers authentic souvenir wares – from small woven baskets to leather book covers – alongside cheaply made fridge magnets and factory-made ‘African’ trousers. For a great experience, it’s best to ignore the stalls near the entrance and head straight into the deeper reaches where you’ll find artisans dyeing leather and carving bowls. They will offer a fair price and be unlikely to bargain. The stalls near the entrance, on the other hand, tend to propose astronomical sums (as a general rule, divide their opening gambit by 10) for lesser-quality goods. However, if you’re feeling savvy, Soumbédioune can be an effective one-stop shop for all of your souvenir needs.

Marché aux Poissons de Soumbédioune

Market

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The bay of Soumbédioune is one of Dakar’s main fishing hubs, with the freshest catch sold at the adjacent fish market | © Bloomberg / Getty Images

A stone’s throw away from the artisanal market lies one of Dakar’s busiest fish markets. The crescent bay of Soumbédioune is one of the city’s main fishing hubs, and the adjacent market offers some of the freshest catch around. Each day, the morning squadron of colourful pirogues set out into the Atlantic, and upon their return in the afternoon, mongers and middlemen barter for the catch, which is then sold on various counters, tabletops and stalls in the market. From tuna and sea bream to langoustine and crabs, what’s on offer will depend on the season, conditions and the fishermen’s ability. Don’t expect to see polystyrene crates filled with ice, though; the eyes and nose should be relied upon to determine freshness.

Marché Colobane

Market

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Marché Colobane specialises in second-hand and knock-off clothes | © Mariama Darame / Getty Images

As the saying goes, “If you can’t find it at Colobane, you won’t find it anywhere.” Here, locals will pick up cheap cleaning materials, a pair of trainers, herbal remedies and bumper packs of socks and toothbrushes all within a few steps. However, there is a speciality: second-hand and knock-off clothes, such as Gucci bags and Levi’s. The names of Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo stare back at you from many a homogenous stall, while faux-leather belts and wallets stand shoulder to shoulder with knock-off Ray-Bans and Rolexes. However, at the heart of Colobane lies a ‘warehouse’ full of vintage and second-hard attire, including baseball caps, retro football shirts, overcoats and much more. In effect, it’s like a giant charity shop that has received clothes from around the globe.

Marché Tilène

Market

Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (9)

Marché Tilène sells everything from fresh Senegalese produce to sorcerers’ amulets to fight off the evil spirits | © Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo

Marché Tilène is found in the heart of Medina, one of Dakar’s busiest and most congested districts. Narrow streets, stacked high with apartments and shops, compound the congestion felt on the road where buses, cars and bikes jockey for position with eclectic stalls and vendors selling everything under the sun – from fresh fruit to kitchenware. Yet, Marché Tilène’s main draw is two-fold. First, it specialises in Senegalese produce, such as hibiscus leaves (for making bissap) and fonio (a super grain from the southeast). Second, it is the market for marabouts – imagine a sorcerer’s supermarket. Blankets laid on the street offer crocodile heads, sheeps bones and dried lizards, alongside baobab branches and gris-gris (amulets to fight off evil spirits).

Marché de Ouakam

Market

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Explore the Best Markets in Dakar (10)

Marché de Ouakam is more like a high street, with shops and stalls offering everything from clothes to fresh produce | © Horizon International Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

To experience an everyday market without any hassle, head to Ouakam. In theory, it’s more like a high street, stretching down Rue OKM 99 from Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop to Ouakam’s depths, and like any good village high street, it’s home to shops and stalls offering everything that is needed (or not) in everyday village life, including windows, cement, firewood, new and restored electrical goods and live chickens, to name a few. The daily supermarket shop of bread, vegetables, fish and meat can be picked up next to dried herbs, boubous and electrical fans. It’s a community-based market set up to serve the residents – there is no rush, no ‘gimme gimme’ attitudes and no looking over your shoulder to check on your bag. Every Thursday, Ouakam’s gare routière (bus station) also hosts a roving second-hand clothes market – like the hub of Colobane, only smaller.

Dakar is remarkably safe

However, if there was one thing that will attract nefarious activities, it’s tourists in market places, so stay vigilant.

Use zips

Wearing zip-pocketed shorts or using handbags with zippers adds an extra layer of security from opportunistic fingers.

Try not to ask ‘how much’ when buying souvenirs

Have an idea of price in mind and start with that. If you ask how much, chances are their opening gambit will be 10 times what you should be paying (especially in Sandaga’s and Soumbédioune’s artisan markets).

Remember everyone is trying to make a living

If you are happy to pay a certain price for something, then it’s a bargain. Remember that everything you buy is putting food on someone’s table.

Find the hub

The market areas have spread out so much that it’s often hard to find the central ‘market building’ where it all started, but ask around and you should get there.

Use a little Wolof

Knowing some market Wolof can stand you in better stead – if only to put a smile on the vendor’s face.

Stop at the roadside ‘markets’

Along Dakar’s roads, you will notice various vendors plying their trades, especially roadside garden centres and pavement furniture factories. These often offer better quality and prices than the markets, and many are willing to make what you need in a few days.

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FAQs

What is Dakar Senegal known for? ›

The capital, Dakar, is a vibrant city famous for its lively markets and rich musical culture. Elsewhere, Senegal boasts beautiful colonial architecture, secluded beaches blessed with world-famous surf breaks, and remote riverine deltas teeming with wildlife.

Why is Dakar called Dakar? ›

The city's name comes from dakhar, a Wolof name for the tamarind tree and the name of a coastal Lebu village that was located south of what is now the first pier.

Where is Dakar in the world? ›

Senegal is the westernmost point on the African mainland, and its capital, Dakar, has historically served as the gateway to West Africa.

Is Dakar a world city? ›

Dakar, the largest city of Senegal, is located on the Cape Verde Peninsula, Africa's westernmost point. It is Senegal's political, cultural, and economic capital, and one of Tropical Africa's leading industrial, financial, and service centers.
...
Dakar.
Coordinates: 14°41′N 17°26′W
CountrySenegal
Settled15th century
22 more rows

Why should I visit Dakar? ›

Dakar is home to the trendy and traditional, Senegal's old and new. It's a fascinating city for dancing, bargain-hunting and authentic culture. In the relaxed neighborhood of Mamelles, La Calebasse is a good spot to sample traditional African cuisine on an elegant covered rooftop.

Is Dakar a beautiful city? ›

Discover West Africa's most spectacular city. Set at the very western tip of the African continent and surrounded by water on three sides, Dakar is quite simply West Africa's most spectacular city.

What is Dakar called in English? ›

/ḍakāra/ nf. belch intransitive verb, countable noun. If someone belches, they make a sudden noise, called a belch, in their throat because air has risen up from their stomach.

Is Dakar a safe city? ›

Crime. Pick pocketing and street crime are risks in common parts of Dakar, particularly around Place de l'Indépendence, the central area of the Plateau and the Western Corniche as well as Gorée Island. This type of crime is more common in the run-up to religious festivals.

Is Dakar safe for travel? ›

You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk.

Is Senegal rich or poor? ›

Senegal's GDP stood at $24.9 billion in 2020 in current terms. Its per capita Gross National Income (GNI) was $1,430 in 2020, which makes it a lower-middle-income country (LMIC). The economy grew by more than 6% per year between 2014 and 2018.

What are 5 interesting facts about Senegal? ›

  • Senegal will be the first African country to host the Olympics. ...
  • There are 7 UNESCO sites in Senegal. ...
  • There is an annual pilgrimage where over 1 million West Africans participate in. ...
  • Although the country is 93% Muslim, Senegal's first president was Catholic. ...
  • Senegal's most popular sport is laamb (wrestling), not soccer.
Jul 15, 2019

Is Senegal a good country? ›

Senegal is known for being a safe country, and while visitors — especially female solo travelers — should take the typical precautions you would when traveling alone, visiting solo here shouldn't present any big problems. The locals are friendly, and robberies and violent crime against tourists are pretty uncommon.

What language does Dakar Senegal speak? ›

French is the official language of Senegal. Wolof is widely spoken as a first or second language and has become the vehicular language in Dakar. Other important languages are Pulaar, Serer, Mandinka/Bambara, Joola, and Soninke.

Which city is known as the Paris of Africa? ›

Luanda is called the “Paris of Africa.” Manufacturing is big in the city. Petroleum found in nearby off-shore deposits is refined in the city. Luanda has an excellent natural harbor.

Is Dakar a clean city? ›

It is our duty to ensure that the City of Dakar joins the ranks of the cleanest cities in the world. This can only be achieved by working hand in hand in the sole interest of our citizens.

What should I wear in Senegal? ›

Clothing
  • One pair of jeans, but because of the extreme heat, most prefer to wear khakis.
  • Loose cotton tops—some sleeveless and some with sleeves to protect bare shoulders from sunburn.
  • One or two light jackets or a few sweatshirts, sweaters, microfiber garments.
  • Underwear—cotton is best.
  • One or two pairs of shorts.

Is Senegal Sunni or Shia? ›

Section I.

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 15.4 million (midyear 2019 estimate). According to 2016 government statistics, 95.9 percent of the population is Muslim. Most Muslims are Sunni and belong to one of several Sufi brotherhoods, each of which incorporates unique practices.

What is the currency in Senegal? ›

The currency in Senegal is the CFA franc (XOF). Avoid exchanging large quantities of CFA francs for foreign currency anywhere other than reputable exchange bureaus.

Where is Senegal? ›

Senegal is located at the westernmost point of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Continent of Africa, Europe and America . It is at an intersection of great maritime and aerial routes.

What do you mean by burb? ›

Definition of burb

: suburb —usually used in plural.

Is Dakar modern? ›

Dakar is a modern city which, in view of pursuing its development, tends towards increasing its innovative capacity by strengthening the role of Media Arts in the range of expressive forms used by its cultural and social artists and actors.

What means belched? ›

1 : to expel gas suddenly from the stomach through the mouth. 2 : to erupt, explode, or detonate violently.

Which city is known as the Paris of Africa? ›

Luanda is called the “Paris of Africa.” Manufacturing is big in the city. Petroleum found in nearby off-shore deposits is refined in the city. Luanda has an excellent natural harbor.

Is Senegal rich or poor? ›

Senegal's GDP stood at $24.9 billion in 2020 in current terms. Its per capita Gross National Income (GNI) was $1,430 in 2020, which makes it a lower-middle-income country (LMIC). The economy grew by more than 6% per year between 2014 and 2018.

What can I buy from Dakar Senegal? ›

Most markets sell a wide range of items – food, musical instruments, traditional fabrics, electronics, as well as fresh produce. In Dakar, Marché HLM is the place to buy fabric and made-to-measure clothes. This market sells some of the most colourful and exquisite West African style fabrics you could hope for.

Can you drink alcohol in Senegal? ›

Bars and restaurants usually serve alcoholic drinks but drunkenness is considered offensive, and penalties for drink driving are severe. Kissing as a greeting is acceptable but kissing romantically in public is not. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe.

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