Cheikh and Malick preparing the grill

I don’t mean to ruin the ending for you, but yesterday’s unannounced visit to greet an old friend turned into a four and a half hour stay inclduing three rounds of tea and a meal of rice and fish. Can you say ‘Welcome back to Senegal’?

Kaas u attaya (Tea glasses)

My husband, Cheikh, met Malick in 2003. Malick was the gardener for the house next door and the two used to drink attaya (Senegalese tea) late at night with a couple of other guys who have since moved to other jobs. So one of our first stops in Dakar was to go visit Malick and introduce me as Cheikh’s wife.

Malick fanning the charcoal grill

I really thought Malick was going to fall over in shock when the gate opened and we were standing there. He was so happy to see Cheikh, and the feeling was mutual. They babbled on like two kids reunited on a playground. It was awesome.


Malick invited us in, introduced us to his boss – the owner of an incredible house and garden, who happened to be the former ambassador to France and a representative for Senegal at the United Nations. Yeah. I felt way underdressed in my pants and flip-flops meeting him!

However, when we met his wife she asked to see my wedding ring (a polite way to find out if Cheikh and I were truly married) she was impressed by my diamond bling. At least my finger was appropriately dressed!

Malick pouring the attaya

So the former ambassador and his wife went into their amazing home and we walked out back to the garden shed with Malick… where we spent the rest of the afternoon. It was wonderful – and I don’t just mean the food!

The first round is ready

Our Wolof is starting to come back – thanks in part to the fact that Malick doesn’t speak French so it was Wolof only. Well, Wolof and lots of charade-like hand gestures 🙂

Cheikh takes his first slurp - the louder the better!

One important thing to know about attaya is that it symbolizes friendship. It’s three rounds of STRONG tea, each served with a bit more sugar than the previous round. Like friendship, it gets sweeter with time. (And did I mention each round takes abut 30 minutes?)

Pouring the attaya to mix the sugar and create foam
And after the men drink, it's my turn!
Nana (mint) added for the next round
Cheikh and Malick