In one of the coolest coincidences of my life, President Obama chose to visit Dakar right as I'm studying abroad here. The vibrant capital of Senegal sits at the westernmost point of Africa and provides a great opportunity for President Obama and United States.
As an American student in Dakar, it was fascinating to see and hear about preparations for President Obama’s arrival. Obama dominated the headlines of the local newspapers for weeks leading up to his trip to Africa. The reaction of the people in Dakar seemed mostly excited, but also slightly concerned about the effect his security might have on their daily lives. There was also a noticeable effort to clean the city prior to the presidential visit. I witnessed people power-washing the front gates and repainting the exterior of Senegal’s Presidential Palace.
The day of his arrival there were posters plastered everywhere featuring President Obama and Senegal’s President Macky Sall. The lampposts on the median of the Corniche (the strip of highway that runs alongside the ocean and also the planned route for the presidential motorcade) were decorated with the flags of both Senegal and America. When Obama did finally land in Dakar, the Corniche was closed off to most traffic. Streets that were once teaming with cars and people were completely empty. As a result, traffic was severely jammed along all the roads near the Corniche. Many people who work near Senegal’s National Assembly and Presidential Palace in an area known as the Plateau were advised not to come to work today.
While the security definitely inconvenienced some, many more were simply thrilled that President Obama chose Senegal for the first stop of his African tour. He remains wildly popular in Dakar and surely experienced nothing but teranga (Wolof for hospitality) and goodwill from the people of Senegal.
All photos are by the author.
1. Major traffic jam on the street leading up to the Corniche
One of President Obama’s first stops in Dakar was the Senegalese Supreme Court, which sits a little over a mile away from where this photo was taken along the Corniche.
2. This is usually one of the busiest intersections in Dakar
Streets that are typically overrun with taxis, people, and trash were completely clean and quiet. Parts of Dakar were like a ghost town.
3. An American flag proudly hangs on a lamppost on the Corniche
This is a spot that the presidential motorcade is certain to pass.
4. Welcoming the president back home
Many signs like this and similar smaller posters could be found all over Dakar, and especially near the places Obama planned to visit.