Saly – The French Riviera in Senegal

Mile long stretches of golden sand, swaying palm trees, treasure hunts for the perfect seashell, and of course the quintessential frozen margarita… This could be a description of any beach escape in the world – the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, Thailand, and, oh! of course, the French Riviera. Because in Saly, it’ easy to forget you ever left France; everyone speaks French, all signs are in French and almost all businesses are owned by the French.

A mere hour south of Dakar, Saly is the ultimate rest stop for the weary traveler, whatever the budget. Luxury hotels offer on-the-beach accommodation and secured, fenced-off recreation areas for the cautious tourists who fear mixing with the locals. For the ones with thinner wallets, ten dollars gets you a clean ensuite room only steps away from the beach. There are also a myriad of restaurants, bars and nightclubs for every taste and fancy… You name it, Saly, like any seaside resort worth its name, has it all.

In Saly, it is easy to forget you are in Africa – until you encounter the persistent hustlers, constantly looking to make an extra cent. They seem to be everywhere, always shouting out a “Bonjour!”, “Cava?”, “Hello!”, “Buenos Dias!” or the frustratingly dilapidated “Frances? Espanol? Italien? Aleman? Ingles?” My parents would cower in shame at my conduct, they clearly raised me better. But the only way the hustlers will leave you alone is if you completely ignore absolutely everyone you meet. Forget being nice. If you give anyone the time of day, be it a look, a nod, or just meet someone’s gaze for a second, they will follow you around for an hour. And once they give up, another hustler will take his place within seconds.

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Nevertheless, Saly is a haven. The fruits are fresh, the grilled seafood delicious, and the colorfully painted fishing boats perfect subjects for sunset photographs.

It’s no wonder that all the French seem to want to retire in Saly.

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