Day 35: Dakar
Starting with a curiously fey stance, like cats on their back legs, the wrestlers flap at each other's hands, before grasping each other in a shoulder lock. A flick of the legs from this position can send an opponent off balance and onto the floor, and once a shoulder hits the sand the bout is over. Some contests last a few seconds and others can go on for minutes, as bodies freeze in perfect equilibrium, each one waiting for a moment of weakness to send his opponent tumbling. It lacks the theatrical flamboyance of Western wrestling but makes up for it in a fascinating contest of balance, co-ordination and sheer physical strength.
By one o'clock the crowd has grown to several thousand and I'm told this will last long into the night. Mindful of the fact that we start a thirty-six-hour train journey tomorrow, I'm going to have to go. A discreet exit is not possible. As I get up to leave one of the comperes spars up to me and draws me into the ring, dancing before me and grasping me in mock combat until he releases me with an enormous beam on his face. The crowd laughs and applauds. As we drive out of the dusty run-down suburbs and head for the sea, I'll not easily forget my night in Pikine.
Choose another day from Sahara