Originally, I had wanted to go straight from Dakar to Nouakchott in Mauritania, but when I studied Saint Louis, I soon realized that it deserved a stopover. After getting my visa for Mauritania on a rainy morning in Dakar, I took a sept-place, one of the many old Peugeot 504's at the Pompiers bus station in the Senegalese capital, to the north. The road was pretty good, and the drive was fast; it was dark when we arrived at the bus station of Saint Louis, which is inconveniently located far south of the city. Some hard negotiating was necessary to get a reasonable price for a taxi, and when I was dropped at the doorstep of my hostel in the old part of town, I immediately felt a relaxed atmosphere. People were sitting on the sidewalk, chatting, some playing music; when I dropped my stuff and walked the streets in search of a restaurant for a late dinner, my feeling was confirmed. People greeted me, smiled, and the girl in the restaurant turned out to be very friendly, too. I was looking forward to my morning walk in the former capital city.
Waking up well before sunrise, I made sure to cross the Faidherbe bridge at once - but my haste was not rewarded directly, as there were clouds in the sky. I waited for a while, looking at the steel arches of the 500m long bridge, inaugurated at the end of the 19th century and revamped in 2000. When the sun finally broke through the clouds, I walked back; the middle section of the bridge is for vehicles, while there are walkways on both sides. People walked past the iron arches; women with wares on their heads, guys pushing a cart, and the closer I got to the island on which the old part of Saint Louis is located, the better the views. The quiet waters of the Senegal River reflected the light coming off the houses on the riverfront, and the city looked attractive even from a distance. When I reached the island again, I turned left, and walked south. The island is divided in a North (Muslim) and South (Christian) part, with the Place Faidherbe in the middle, right where the bridge begins. The entire island has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site, and I soon understood why. The old palace, the cathedral, the colonial houses with their balconies: most of them are in decay, but they all breathe an attractiveness and history that makes this city unique in Senegal.
On the western side of the island, I came across several painted pirogues, with a good view of the much bigger amount of pirogues on the other side of the river. I came past houses that were crumbling away, and others that had already collapsed, but also those that were great examples of Saint Louis architecture. The city had been capital of Senegal for a few hundred years, and the effects of that function can still be seen in the remarkable colonial architecture. After exploring the southern part of the city, it was time for the more lively north. I regularly spotted men riding a horse-drawn cart, or a bicycle, and women doing chores in the household, on small courtyards visible through the door opening. There were many attractive windows in the plastered walls against which trees were growing. There were many buildings with balconies, on which I rarely saw someone. There was the Great Mosque. And there were the people, friendly just like the evening before. When the sun was high in the sky, and the temperature made walking the streets a little uncomfortable, I headed to the bus station again, in search for transportation to the northern neighbour. I was happy I had included Saint Louis in my itinerary.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Saint Louis Senegal (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Saint Louis Senegal.
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