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My friend Sarah and I decided to be adventurous and go shopping at the big international fair the other day. (By her book, this probably isn’t adventurous. I mean she was a Peace Corps Volunteer on some volcanic island in the middle of nowhere and has an amazing collection of beautiful tattoos. But in my book, shopping the markets in Dakar is being adventurous.)

Anyway – we set off, paid for our 500 cfa tickets and and patted ourselves on the back for arriving at 9am just as they were opening and before the crowds came. Pat, pat, pat… Shop, shop, shop.

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With some help from a friend, we were both able to find and buy some really beautiful fabrics. The lightweight fabric is called khartoum and comes from Mauritania, but it was tie-dyed by hand in the small town of Matam over near the Malian border. For 6 meters of fabric, we bargained our way to paying 10,000 cfa ($20) and 14,000 ($28) each. Cue more back patting.

Now all that was left to do was meet up with the tailor this morning to have him create something(s) beautiful.

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Last night I called a Senegalese friend to be sure that it wouldn’t be a problem for us to give the tailor fabrics that hadn’t yet been washed. “Washed?” she asked. “Why would you wash it?” I wasn’t quite sure how to answer, but figured out quickly that I was about to learn an important lesson in caring for fabrics Senegalese the way.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Only have the fabric cleaned as needed, certainly not after every wear.
  • Only spot-clean your fancy Senegalese clothes.
  • After several wearings (like five or more), you can take the clothes to a professional cleaner who will beat the dirt out of them, do any spot-cleaning and then starch and iron them back to their original condition. This should cost about 1500 cfa ($3).

Well there you go. Don’t wash your clothes – just have them beaten!

Any other tips I should know?

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