Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ziguinchor, Senegal [EN]

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The city Ziguinchor (pronounced zig-an-shore) is the 7th largest city of Senegal. It is in the south-western part of the country and is the regional capital of the Casamance province.
The region being mainly agricultural - the granary of Senegal - the economy of the city is based in the production and commence of agricultural products, such as peanuts, cashew, grains. Being strategically placed on the shore of the Casamance river(hence the name of the region) that ends in the ocean, it is also a regional transport hub.



The first thing you notice is that it looks rather unkempt: dust everywhere, trash on the street, houses that are unfinished or that lack repairs. I think that there are multiple causes for this:
- the temperature: there is a big day-night difference. During the day there are 20 deg. C and during the night 40 deg. C, almost constantly. This fluctuation can cause the degradation of..almost anything. Basically, that's the formula for obtaining sand in the dessert, so if seems a likely cause for cracked walls and worn-out paint.
- geopolitics: for about 30 years, up until a few years ago, the Casamance region was in a conflict with the governmental authorities, claiming its independence. Being a military conflict zone, I suppose the aesthetic maintenance of the buildings was hot high on the lsit of the inhabitants' priorities
- authorities: I say the municipality's garbage trucks. They are parked and unused. I don't know if there is no budget, or they don't care, but the thing is nobody cleans much.
- the people: generally they are poor (the salary is about 100E here) and maybe they just got used to the way things are, and they don;t care that the house's exterior is not finished or that there is rubbish outside the house (honestly, we have the same problem in our parts). One of these days I wanted to get rid of a few dirt napkins and I did not want to throw them on the ground like everybody else, so I had to walk for about 15 min to find a bin and even that was full and forgotten.








There are hardly any blocks of flats ( and those the that are , are small - 4-6 flats), it's mainly houses. Square ones, without the slanted roof we're used to, because it does not rain for most of the year. And when it rains, it pours, so the roof will not do much good. The buildings seem to be constructed of mostly hollow blocks, and the temporary ones (huts, boutiques) out of curly rusted metal sheets supported by wooden/metal poles and held together with old tires and stones.

But now there is a building boom and the city has a high potential. In a few years it will surely look different. Otherwise, it is full of palm trees, which gives it a chill, vacation look.





The road infrastructure is "decent". The main roads that connect to other cities have rather good quality asphalt. The internal city roads are asphalted(is this a word?) or paved ok, the secondary roads are full of potholes, and  the rest are just dirt roads, with hardly any public illumination.
The traffic is very light. I was in a 5-minute traffic jam and the people in the car said it wast the firs jam they've seen ever. On the street the folks are calm and polite, they give way whether they are on foot, on 2 or on 4 wheels and everybody arrives where they need to, happy. Most cars are 4x4s, like Toyota Hilux or Mitsubishi L200. The smaller cars, with a few exceptions are taxis - old Renault 21s - out of which 99% would probably not pass the technical inspection. I saw plenty Dusters, Logans, Sanderos and even an ancient Dacia 1300, although I think it was under the Renault brand. Additionally, there are a lot ob bikes, scooters and motorcycles.




For shopping, you will not find supermarkets such as in EU/US. You can buy goods in the following places:
- in a few larger shops - like a grocery store
- on the side of the road, in clay/wood/sheet metal huts
- in crossroads, where you can find almost anything, from fish, fresh fruit, to phones, sunglasses, clothes and shoes (mostly SH)
- at the market. The biggest market is called Marche St Maur and it is in the Boucotte neighborhood.
It is like a covered bazaar where you can find absolutely everything. Of course, the market extends on streets outside the covered area and you can get a bit lost if you are not paying attention. The products are definitely fresh, but the cleanliness standards suffer a bit.











If the shop does not have a bar code scanner (like gas stations or larger stores), the prices are negotiable. If you are not a local, you will be asked for a much larger price. Negotiating is an accepted and even expected standard. You will initially receive an exaggerated price, then the seller will wait for your (low) offer and then you haggle until you get to the middle. Of course, if you accept the first price, no seller will refuse to take your money.

The people are calm and relaxed. They are like this because ar 40degC you don;t feel like arguing with anybody, but also because historically, lots of tribes have inhabited this area and they learned how to leave together and even make fun of eachother without taking offense. Every discussion starts with polite hellos, questions about the other's health and family and only then they go to the main point
in the area the following tribes live: Mandinka, Jola, Wolof, Pular, Mancagne, Manjack, Soninke, Serer, Bainonck, Balanta, Creol and a small number of french and lebanese people. The main spoken languages are Jola and Wolof. of course, French has a good penetration since it is the official language

From a religious point of view, although the country is mostly muslim, in casamance there are a lot of christians. There is even a great catholic cathedral in the cict centre.

Animal life is abundant:
Wild:
- water fowl (pelicans, egrets)
- wall climbing lizards
- crows, jays
- vultures (yes!)
this is the only place where I've seen a crow, a vulture and an egret sitting in the same place. You see, even the birds get along here You can see crows on the left, vultures in the middle and a small white egret leaving to the right side

Domestic:
- 1-2 dogs and cats, mostly where there is food to be found
- goats and sheep, running free around the city streets, eating who knows what
- a pew pigs, as free as the goats







Although it is big, there aren't a lot of places to visit in the city
- the market: Marche St Maur
- the catholic cathedral
- the artisan's center, where local artists work ans sell their wares - mostly souvenirs







Also, you can go on trips with the boat on the river or for 1-2 days around the Casamance region. The Cap Skirring beach is only 70 km away and it one of the most beautiful in Africa.







And last but not least, the food. It is good :D

Thieboudienne is the national Senegalese dish. one prepares it for the entire family and it is a layer of rice over which you place marinated fish and vegetables, cooked in a tomato sauce. It is quite spicy and you serve it with various sauces. You can also make it with chicken or lamb.
Generally, people eat combinations of fish, vegetables and rice. You can also find beef, chicken, lamb, sea food and pork. Everything is cooked with palm or peanut oil, which are abundant.













The desserts are based on exotic fruits, which are not exotic here - mango, papaya etc.






For drinking, people enjoy: 
- coffee - at every corner you see people with a tiny coal-based stove brewing coffee
- ataya - a sweet strong tea, served with lots of foam
- bisap - hibiscus juice - tit reminds me of mom's canned sour cherry "compot" :)
- bouye - juice from the fruit of the baobab tree


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