Saturday, December 1, 2007

Day One

Dakar, Senegal
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Bob Butler, KCBS Radio
(Photos by Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press)

5:25 AM... Our flight landed in Dakar Saturday morning. We were escorted by one of the key organizers of the trip, United Nations Director of the Office of Sport for Development and Peace Djibril Diallo, to the VIP "Ambassador Salon" where we sat while our passports were processed by immigration. After a 30-minute wait, we collected our baggage, bypassed customs, and were taken by bus to our hotel, the five-star Le Meridien President. The hotel is being renovated and was supposed to be closed to us. But, according to Diallo, President Abdoulaye Wade ordered it opened to accomodate us. (Yes, that's how Djibril rolls!!!)

After a tasty breakfast most of us took a nap. After lunch we went into town for a bit of sightseeing. Our bus crawled through the bustling Plateau central business district, which resembles a flea market except cars drive through the streets. This is the same street where police on November 21st clashed with vendors who had been ordered cleared by President Wade. (

The highlight was a stop at the Medina District, the oldest neighborhood in Dakar, for a visit to the fish market at Soumbebioune (soom-bih-JUNE).
The market is literally on the shores of Senegal Bay. The boats go out about 5 am and don't return until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. The fishermen unload their catches and try to sell them right there on the beach. You had many choices, including tuna, snapper, shark, eel and squid. Fish are sold by the pile, usually for between $2 and $20 (US).

Sunday is going to be exciting. We're going to visit Goree Island which was the last stop for many of our ancestors before they were sold into slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean.

Kafia Hosh, Staff writer at the Freelance Star in Fredericksburg, VA

Our plane landed shortly after sunrise on a cool December morning. The air was thick and the sun peaked slightly from the sky. We stepped off the plane onto the runway and walked toward a building. It looked more like a hotel than a terminal, with its marble steps and intricately carved, wooden door. After a non-stop, seven-hour flight, we were all red-eyed, with disheveled hair and wrinkled clothing. Despite our frumpy appearance, the airport guards took us to a VIP waiting room. I plopped down on a red, leather couch and looked around. It was unusual, sitting in a lounge in an airport that appeared to be a hotel. I filled out my Customs card, and waited for a guard to check our passports. When we cleared security, we went off to get our luggage from the baggage claim area. The conveyer belt stood still and all of our bags were lined up neatly for us to claim. It was the first real indication that the building we were in housed an airport.

We got our bags and were ready to board a shuttle that would finally take us to our hotel. But before we could get on, I was approached by two young boys. They held out their hands and one of them said, “dollar, please.” They appeared to be about 8 or 9 years old and wore old, tattered sweats and dusty plastic sandals. Their skin was ashy, and their eyes red. They looked like they had been up the entire night. Someone in our group advised us against giving any beggars money, because it would only promote more begging. I fell silent and shook my head at the boys. But they made their rounds to other members of our group. When no one budged, they gave up and walked away.