The Magic of Saying ‘Yes’​ in Senegal

our beautiful friend

A woman  I met in Toubab Dialaw last year at the start of a magical day with Leticia.  I will call her ‘our beautiful friend’, she welcomed us and looked after us throughout the day.   An embodiment of the Senegalese notion of ‘teranga’.   “If there’s a set of values in Senegal, teranga would be the most important one,” says chef Pierre Thiam. “It’s the way you treat the guest.”⁠

We started the day early on the beach, where all the men were, some of them fishing. We always saw the beach full with men, a few women maybe selling fruit or clothing. This left us wondering where were all the women?  This particular morning, we saw lots of women, one after another, fetching water from a spring down near the beach.  We followed them as they carried the water up hill, across a small square of the village and into the labyrinth of sand streets. We followed each turn they made left and right,  and then the street opened on to a clearing next to a mosque where several cauldrons were boiling over fires.  A few of the women looked over at us, and then a few more.  The expressions on their faces were clear: what were we doing here? 
The women looked at as, and then Leticia began to dance, and they started to gather around. Something shifted. It was as if her dancing opened up a vortex of feminine energy that we were all a part of to create new magical moments. We chatted, we asked what they were cooking, we chatted some more, and hugged, and then they invited us to a baptism. Of course, we said ‘yes’!

Our beautiful friend of teranga led us back into the labyrinth of streets down to a house, and there we met the baby, the baby’s mother and grandmother.  We lounged in a bedroom fit for a queen with oscillating fans to keep everyone cool.  They brought us some bags of water and millet porridge.

Mother & Infant

In Senegal, ‘baptism’ is the day that a name is given to the baby – maybe a result of a cross between some catholic name and Muslim traditions as there is no ceremony with holy water.
Everyone was happy to gather to celebrate the new baby and excited about the festivities to come in the evening. ⁠We were caught up in their excitement too! We were honored to have been invited and included.

At night, in another open courtyard, completely filled with women there to sing and dance wearing magnificent dresses of colors and patterns, it all seemed like a painting.   A few musicians played, including a ‘tama’, or talking drum. These musicians were the only men. Music and laughter filled the space of this communal celebration, women celebrating life! Our beautiful friend of teranga that we had met earlier near the mosque brought us in and we got to dance in the middle. I think I need to start taking some African dance classes.

This is how the magic unfolded on a day in Senegal, a day when we said ‘yes’.

When traveling, what or who do you say ‘yes’ to?


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If Africa is calling – Senegal is a great choice!
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