sabato 14 aprile 2012

Saint Louis and its history

After that cruel endless bus journey we recovered a few days in Dakar which is a great city for nightlife as well as for its fish market on the beach of Yoff Tonghor. Then we accepted Ale's friend, Doctor Bayan, invitation to visit Saint Louis and sleeping in his small but cozy apartment inside SL campus. We were told that SL is extremely beautiful and touristic and I must recognize that it's all true. The old colonial town is located on a narrow island connected with a wonderful old iron bridge (Faidherbe bridge) to the mainland. Saint Louis (Ndar in Wolof) was the first capital of the French West Africa  empire from 1673 until 1902. Called in this way in honour of Louis IX, was one of the starting points of slave-trade. We visited its colonial streets by a nice horse-cart whose "driver" explained us SL history, showing us the old Hotel de Post, the statue of Faidherbe, the first colonial governor, the ancient Catholic Cathedral (the oldest of all West Africa), the french colonial army barracks, the tiny island called Langue the Barbarie which separate the atlantic ocean from Senegal river. While the main feature of the colonial town are the colourful, often restored in stilysh and expensive bars and hotel, buildings, the overurbanized Langue de Barbarie, formerly inhabitated by only muslims, is its fishermen population with a wonderful mixture of old ships, market fish on the riverbank, small shops and a huge number of kids scurrying in the middle of narrow sandy streets where women cooks or hang colourful clothes. Yet the weather in Saint Louis is as pleasant as in dakar, with hot day and cool windy evenings. We were there exactly the day of the elections and despite many were fearing the possibility of disorders, we had a very peaceful and fine week, although the campus was almost desert and some locals not as friendly and open as in Kaolack or in Dakar. One day we decided to visit the "barrage" which is a small dam just on the Senegal river. We spent a lovely day observing lot of birds, some fishermen with their families who sold us for a 3000CFA (about 4,50 euro) a huge sole and over 1kg of strange snake-like fishes that we made grill by a small restaurant owner just outside the campus. It was a pity I had no Mauritanian Visa otherwise we could rent a boat and cross the river until the Mauritanian border or even getting to Rosso, the first town of Mauritania. Ale in fact told me that all the cars coming from Europe were crossing exactly that checkpoint. Moreover our friend Goran talked very well of Mauritania, whose government had very bad relationship with Senegalese one. It seems that local fishermen were often crossing the international sea border in order to fish in Mauritanian rich waters. But also because there was a kind of strong racism by the Maure arabic population toward their african, black skin citizens.
WE also visited the historical Postal Service museum but except some interesting photos and books there was nothing worth the visit. I also had the oportunity to visit another old church, built at the beginning of last century, wich is much more used than the cathedral and which is run by friendly Franciscan vicars. One of those could speak a good Italian and introduced me to another "pere"(father) who was actually celebrating in Bergamo but was previously in my hometown Rimini. Very nice and friendly people.

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