Senegal is a West African nation with natural resources such as phosphates and iron ore. Dakar is its capital city; it serves as the country’s administrative and educational center. However, the majority of Senegal’s population prefers living in the rural areas, mainly fishing. Unfortunately, it is also the country with one of the lowest Human Development Index rankings, classified as a heavily indebted and poor country. That aside, here are some interesting Senegal facts you probably didn’t know.
1. Christmas Is Very Popular in Senegal, Even Though It’s a Muslim Country
Even though 95% of people from Senegal are Muslims and the country is home to the biggest Mosque in West Africa, Christmas remains a very popular festivity in the region.
2. “Their Library Has Burned” Is Euphemism for Dyeing in Senegal
In Senegal, when a person wants to politely say that an individual has died, they say, “His/her library has burned.”
3. Gum Tattooing Is Popular Among Senegalese Women
Tattooing of the gums is a common practice among Senegal’s Wolof women. Locally known as “Diamou,” the traditional practice is very painful as it involves using needles to artificially turn pink gums into black-grey. It is not only a beauty trend but also a measure of an individual’s ability to withstand pain.
4. Rihanna’s Visit to Senegal in 2018 Evoked Massive Protests
Rihanna is one of the most successful and sought-after musicians in the modern world. She pulls crowds everywhere, with many considering her an epitome of beauty. However, when the star planned to visit Senegal in February 2018, she was met with a rather unusual and unpleasant reception. Muslim-led collective religious groups protested against her visit, stating that she was a member of the Illuminati and Freemasons.
5. There Is a Pink Lake in Senegal
Lying about 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Senegal’s capital, Dakar, is Lake Retba, famous for its pink waters. Sometimes known as Lac Rose, the lake got its pink pigment from Dunaliella salina Algae, with the color particularly strong from January to the beginning of March. The lake also has high salt content, with some areas recording up to 40% highs.
6. A French Queen Once Adopted A Senegalese Enslaved Boy
During the time when slavery was a thing, French queen Marie Antoinette was offered a boy from Senegal to help her with her house duties. However, the queen adopted and raised him as her son. She even arranged for his baptism and named him “Jean.” Unfortunately, when Jean was 10, a revolution started that led to his separation from the royal family; he was left on the streets to die.
7. Its Rivers Are Filled With Killer Hippopotamuses
River Gambia is one of the biggest rivers in West Africa. It runs from North Guinea and empties into the Atlantic Ocean, passing through Senegal and Gambia. Even though the river once attracted fishermen from Senegal, the presence of killer hippopotamuses made it hard for them to continue. Estimates show that over 25 people were killed, with plenty more left nursing nasty injuries over the past decade.
8. Wrestling Is the Most Popular Sport in Senegal
Contrary to expectations, wrestling (laamb) is the most popular sport in Senegal, not soccer! Senegal is famous for its exploits in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first African country to proceed to the quarter-finals. It has also produced great soccer players such as El Hadji Diouf, Henri Camara, and Sadio Mane. However, locally, wrestling takes the day; it attracts more spectators, induces rivalry, and evokes more emotions.
9. French Is the National Language of Senegal
Even though it is only understood by a minority of the population, French remains the official language of Senegal. There are over 30 native languages, with Wolof spoken by over 80% of the people in the region. Together with French, Wolof is Senegal’s lingua franca.
10. Africa’s Tallest Statue Is in Senegal
Formally the African Renaissance Monument, the statue stands at 52 meters (171 ft), making it the tallest in Africa. It is located on top of Collines des Mamelles, one of two twin hills just outside the country’s capital, Senegal. Even though it was designed by a Senegalese architect known as Pierre Goudiaby, the bronze monument was built by a company from North Korea for an estimated cost of $27 million.
11. There Is a Senegalese Man Who Wears Plastic to Raise Awareness Against Plastic Pollution
Popularly known as the “plastic man,” Modou Fall is a Senegalese man who wears plastic and travels the world to sensitize people against plastic pollution. He fights daily for the prohibition of plastic use in his country by campaigning against them on social networks, schools, radio & TV stations, public spaces, and beaches. He has an initiative called “Tolou Keur,” a Wolof phrase translating to family garden.
12. The First President of Senegal Was a Poet
Leopold Sedar Senghor was the first president of Senegal, reigning from 1960 to 1980. Besides being a politician and cultural theorist, he was a renowned poet. In one of his works called “Dear White Brother,” he mused why white people call black people “colored” despite having a huge range of observable pigments themselves.