After just three days, dusty Dakar has drawn us in with its street-corner baguettes, mellow fishing villages, surf-friendly beaches, and mad markets. A highlight among our explorations thus far has been the fish market at Soumbedioune, a cove on which the men’s brightly painted pirogues, or canoes, are pulled from the water each evening, and the day’s haul of seafood put out to sale. One side of the market is crowded by grill stations, manned by women cooking fresh fish over hot coals.
Between about 4pm and 6pm, the boats are lugged in, requiring a team of heaving men and two logs (or big empty metal canisters) to facilitate movement. The shore is crowded with onlookers, football-playing kids, fish vendors and buyers, and coffee sellers, waiting to pass the fishermen a plastic cup of hot cafe Touba, the locally popular sweet-spicy brew.
On the beach vendors set up shop on the sands, or prowl the area with fish in hand.
In the lot above the beach, many more vendors set up their fishy wares on long wooden tables. Giant barracuda, red carp, grouper, local favorite thiof, sardines, lobster, piles of prawns, sea urchin—you name it, they likely have it. Still, one fisherman told us how small the daily catch is compared to the past, and how they have to fish deeper waters farther from shore in order to find much, blaming the giant Chinese, Russian, and Korean trawlers that have illegally invaded the locals’ space.
A huge bonus for us, we caught an impromptu celebration on the beach at Soumbedioune. According to what we could piece together, it was a group from one of Dakar’s traditional fishing villages, celebrating the annual sacrificial slaughter of a sheep in hopes for a good fishing season.
As for the fish itself, we split one, which the grill woman called poulet de mer, or chicken of the sea, served with a delicious onion-mustard mix, for a whopping $2. Scott was directed to a local grocery for beers—this was a moment that demanded a cold brew!—and we devoured our grilled fish in the fading light, in view of the sea and earshot of the party on the beach. Thus buoyed, we bought a half-kilo of prawns for about $6, had them skewered and grilled, and shared the lot with our neighbors, a group of young Dakarois. We already have plans to return for round two.
Read more about what to eat in Dakar here.