Adventures in Sngal: Enchanted Evenings

Nora Hertel

Mysticism is a part of daily life in Sngal and co-exists with Islam. Though I’m not superstitious or religious, I am regularly enchanted by my experiences here. This past weekend I spent one intoxicating night in the city and one magical night beyond it. Both the reggae party in Dakar and the sacred beach at Toubab Diallo were awe-inspiring.
Friday I went to a reggae party held in the courtyard of an old building with dozens of arched doorways and slanted pillars. The music was so loud that it carried throughout the neighborhood. Though I don’t know much reggae, I was told by a connoisseur that the music was phenomenal. At one point Elliot Rayman turned to me and said, “I’ve liked every song, every song. I can select a playlist like that myself, but it’s unusual for a DJ to play so many songs that I really like.” There were four piles of speakers and the courtyard was scattered with people-mostly guys-dancing.
There was sweet Sngalese coffee available to any and all. The hosts also grilled kebabs until the early morning. The food was absolutely amazing, especially the meat. Spicy and unique seasoning flavored the meat and vegetables along with a savory selection of mustards and sauces. The smell of the coffee, the grill, and other kinds of smoke mixed into a delicious, intoxicating scent that lingered on my clothes and in my hair.
Despite the fact that we were in the city, the stars were fully illuminated and added another dimension to the experience. It was thrilling to dance to reggae in West Africa with West Africans as smoke and music rose defiantly over the gathering.
My euphoria from the party carried over into Toubab Diallo-which is quite possibly the most beautiful place that I’ve ever witnessed. This village was small and peaceful, and the beach resembled paradise. Five Lawrence students and four of our new Sngalese friends spent a few hours on the beach, enjoying the midnight ambiance.
Someone brought over a djembe and a few others started singing spontaneously. Good Sngalese pop music coming from an inland club and the sound of huge waves crashing on the beach made for an arresting soundtrack. Lying back to stargaze, I saw four shooting stars. We sat under a straw umbrella with light from a nearby restaurant and the stars. With this slight illumination, I could dimly see the ocean and the silhouettes of two impressive sacred rocks. As I reflect on the sights and sounds of that beach, I’m becoming even more enamored by it.
As a result of these nearly sleepless nights I lost a battle against a cold, but neither being sick nor dealing with huge quantities of sand in my hair has spoiled my romantic views of reggae parties and beach gatherings. The party was ear- and eye-opening, and the evening on the beach was breathtaking. It’s hard to retain my faithlessness and skepticism when I am continually enchanted in Senegal.