For someone who has lived in Africa for 12 years and loves to shop, I am really not a market girl. I want to love them – the sounds, the colors, the people, the energy… But to be honest it’s often overwhelming for me. So I choose my markets carefully and don’t go all that often. (Except to the fëgg jaay market. That’s different.)
A friend of mine took me to Marché Kermel in downtown Dakar last year and I absolutely loved it. We went early in the morning (which is 8am in my world) and things were still calm, the crowds hadn’t arrived yet and it was before the heat of the day. Plus it’s a food market! What’s not to love? Since then I’ve been back on several visits, getting more adventurous in my shopping each time.
My parents’ visit was a perfect excuse to go down to Kermel again. So on a Saturday morning we took a taxi downtown and jumped right in.
Marché Kermel is in a large circular building, so you walk in basically a snail shell path to see it all. On the outer circles we bought okra, fresh herbs, bell peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, hot peppers…all fairly safe territory.
Then we moved in closer to the center where the real action is: seafood, poultry, beef.
Of course by ‘action’ I mean the smells. 🙂 Hack! Hack! Knives that look like machetes pounding away at fillets and bones. I looked down at the little streams of liquid pooling around my feet and made a mental not to wear sandals next time. Live and learn, right?
We passed on the beef and poultry and made our way to the seafood where we met El Hadj, a young guy who was slicing away at a huge pile of fresh fish. After a few rounds of greetings, we started asking questions and he helped us narrow down the selection to some freshly-cut shark fillets (requin bu ndaw) and a tuna which he filleted for us. (A two-kilo whole fish = 850g of fillets.) “You’ll like the tuna,” El Hadj said as he cut off its head, “but you’ll come back to buy from me because of the shark.” And he was right! We marinated and grilled them that night and then used the leftover shark to make fish (well, shark) tacos.
A few days later I was telling my Senegalese friend Patricia about our Kermel experience and how much I enjoyed it. She just laughed and said, “Of course you did. It’s a toubab market.” Ah. Well that would explain it.
Apparently the real food market is Marché Castor. So Patricia is going to take me there for a little shopping tour and adventure.
Interested in visiting one of Dakar’s markets?
Patricia offers tours starting at 5000cfa/hour for up to three people. This includes touring the market of your choice, interpreting between English/French/Wolof, helping you find quality products and good deals and also bargaining for prices. 77 631 7437
Patricia is awesome. I plan on doing a lot of these visits with her. Maybe I’ll become a market girl after all!