podor & matam


Podor is one in a chain of old colonial outposts stretching into the interior of west africa. I was there overnight and a friendly young marxist student showed me round. The senegal river was once the main trading route for goods to europe -- but roads have replaced this, and the towns along the river are dying out.

Here's a typical bush taxi that can seat about sixteen in the back! 10p can get you about 10kms.

Everyone's curious since toubabs (whites) are rarely encountered in this region. (This is in the back of our taxi).

This is the fare collector who hangs out the back of the taxi and taps his coins on the metal to stop and pick up more fares.

A view of Podor and it's minarets. Baaba Maal is from here and still lives here. It's rural living now, and everyone is welcoming and friendly. The kids run down the street after you and all insist on coming up to shake hands.

Curbside vendors who got to know me as I sat from 11am till 5pm waiting for a single car along the main Dakar road from Podor to Matam.

My first night in Matam -- another dying town 10kms off the main road. "You can't get more senegalese than this" says Anne, the french aid worker who has a house for me to stay and where I meet some kids of one of her friends.

The senegal river is the border with Mauretania. We slipped across (without visa) for a quick visit. I went swimming in the river friday afternoon, and duly attracted a huge crowd of kids. Various mystical stories were told, including various powers that drown strangers. My friends wouldn't let me go more than 20 ft into the river.

I rented a bike with Fadel and we spent the day driving 50kms into the bush to visit some villages. There was no road to some of the villages and they clearly don't see white people often -- each village erupted with screams of "toubab" as the kids ran out to watch us pass. (this was friday, apr 16th)


We dropped into some of the schools and met the students. Most of the teachers were placed here from other parts of Senegal and liked it except for the heat -- it was 42 degrees last week and this isn't even the hot season.

Here we're taking tea with the teachers and some older students. Earlier, the Imam from the local mosque had invited us to friday lunch with him and his group of old friends. We sat around a communal bowl all digging our fingers into the rice and fish -- on mats outside, under the shade of a bush roof.