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Sahara

Day 35: Dakar

Dakar, Senegal 
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My failed attempt to leave without the cheerleader noticing. Ah well, something else to add to the CV.
Michael Palin - SaharaThe national sport of Senegal is la lutte, wrestling, and there is a competition tonight out in Pikine, one of the poorer suburbs of Dakar, which will be attended by Mor Fadan Wade, the great hero of Senegalese fighting, and one of the president's bodyguards. Though we have an early start to catch the Bamako train tomorrow, this sounds like an unmissable opportunity.

It's a long drive across town and the paved roads have turned to sand by the time we pull up beside a collection of low, dimly lit buildings. We're warned to watch our belongings, but the young men who crowd around the bus offering to carry our gear are exuberant rather than threatening, and I feel more secure out here than in the centre of town.

A circle of white plastic chairs marks the ring where the wrestling will take place. The sandy arena is illuminated by floodlights on tall poles and a PA system is already in operation blasting out exhortations to the slowly gathering crowd.

I'm taken through an entrance behind the floodlights to meet the man himself. A passageway opens onto a small courtyard, which resembles a scene from my first illustrated Bible. Mor Fadan, a huge man with shaved head and wearing a light blue robe, dominates the space, and around him are gathered, in various attitudes of deference, men, women, children and, of course, sheep. A steady stream of people come in to shake his mighty hand. Someone calls me over and the fawners and grovellers are pushed to one side as I'm led before him.

His sheer bulk could bring out the fawner and groveller in anyone, but it's the only thing about him that's intimidating. His handshake is soft as putty and his voice is deep and measured. He answers my damn fool questions with extraordinary patience. Yes, this is his house. Yes, he has two wives, but bashfully adds that
he can't remember how many children, and, yes, he is the African Olympic Wrestling Champion.
Dakar, Senegal 
click to enlarge 
file size
My failed attempt to leave without the cheerleader noticing. Ah well, something else to add to the CV.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 35
  • Country/sea: Senegal
  • Place: Dakar
  • Book page no: 113

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