Senegal: Music & Mysticism

Day 1 Arrival & Travel to Thiès. Participants arrive at the new airport and are greeted by a host. We travel in small groups to the town of Thiès (pronounced “chess”), approximately an hour-long drive. We meet as a group in Thiès for our opening dinner and introductions before retiring for the night's rest after a long day of travel. Thiès is a vibrant regional capital that balances its proximity and economic ties to Dakar and its deep roots in the surrounding villages. This city with a small town feel reflects the play of contrasts that is characteristic of Senegal in the 21st century as new developments occur beside centuries-old traditions. Women adorned in brightly colored, elegant boubous walk down the street speaking Wolof on their cell phones while barefooted talibé children beg for change in busy markets. The Islamic call to prayer sounds five times a day, and on Fridays, hundreds of people stop to worship on the city’s sidewalks.
Day 2-3 Thiès. Our first full days in Senegal! We spend much of our first day and a half orienting participants to Senegal. We’ll provide a cultural context, address issues around health and safety, and explore the market streets as birds chatter above head and vendors invite us to view their goods. We have lunch in the home of a local artist and take a tour of his studio. We have the option of visiting local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the fields of human rights and democracy, youth empowerment, and education or touring the U.S. Peace Corps center. For those who are interested, lessons in music and dance are also provided.
Day 4 Travel from Thiès to Djifer. We drive approximately 4 hours south along the coast to the seaside town of Djifer in the beautiful Sine-Saloum Delta area of Senegal. Upon arrival we will have a chance to observe Senegal’s famously diverse bird population and enjoy the waterfront. We engage in historical and cultural sessions from the instructors as we prepare for our community stay on the island of Niodior. We spend the night at the beatific beachside Campement Sangomar.
Day 5-7 Niodior. We embark upon an hour-long boat ride to the welcoming island community of Niodior. In Niodior, the pace of life slows down as we live alongside host families in a small farming village. We visit a women’s cooperative, learn about mangrove reforestation, and take a glimpse of local wrestling, the national sport, which Niodior is famous for. We also explore the complex, modern-day issue of migration, learn about the Sereer ethnic group’s traditional religious songs, and have on-going opportunities for djembe drum, kora, and dance lessons. In the evenings, we rest into the rhythms of daily life while staying one-on-one with host families; playing with children, helping homestay mothers with cooking, and drinking tea with neighbors in the shade of a neem or mango tree.
Day 8 Travel from Niodior to Dakar with an optional day or overnight stop in Joal-Fadiouth, a community home to a large portion of Senegal’s Catholic minority where Muslims and Christians live in harmony as neighbors.
Day 9-10 We spend two days exploring the best of what Senegal’s coastal capital has to offer. The possibilities are vast! We visit UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ile de Gorée, to learn about the disturbing history of the slave trade. We have the chance to shop for fabric and souvenirs in one of Dakar’s many bustling open-air markets, see the Monument of the African Renaissance, and visit the Lighthouse of Mamelles. Participants have the option to learn about development projects through NGO visits, continue lessons in music and dance, and get a taste of Dakar’s nightlife, enjoying the best of West Africa’s restaurants and live music in this cosmopolitan capital.
Day 11 Travel from Dakar to Toubab Dialaw. We travel for approximately three hours south of the capital until we reach the idyllic artist’s enclave of Toubab Dialaw.
Day 12 We conclude our travels on the picturesque cliffside beach of Toubab Dialaw. Here, in this beautiful natural environment, we have the chance to reflect on our time in Senegal, enjoy the beautiful beaches, and think about the implications of our time together for our lives at home. Flights depart in the evening.