Discover Senegal

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Historical Background, Values, & Natural Features

Person Wearing Head Gear of Grass Several European countries competed to take control of this geographically strategic and rich country for trade: The Portuguese, the British, the Dutch; and the French — with the French gaining possession in 1840. It made Senegal an overseas territory (colony) of France. Gorée Island became a major center for the Atlantic slave trade through the 1800s, and millions of Africans were shipped to the New World.

On April 4, 1960, Senegal gained its independence and became the Democratic Republic of Senegal. Since 1960, four consecutive presidents have been elected. First, the famed poet and writer, Leopold Sedar Senghor, from 1960 to 1980; then Abdou Diouf, followed by Abdoulaye Wade. The current president, Macky Sall, was elected in 2012 and is hugely popular over the world because of his democratic stance and his fight to improve conditions with Senegal and its people.

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Senegal's population is a melting pot of young, modern, and dynamic people together with the traditional folks all belonging to varied ethnic groups, each with its own distinctive dialect. Some of the ethnic groups include the Toucouleur, the Fulani, the Serer, and the Mandingo, Diola, but the Wolof represents the largest of these ethnic groups. About 50,000 Europeans (mostly French) also reside in Senegal, as well as some Mauritanian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, and Cape Verdean communities throughout the cities.

Although Wolof is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, French is the official language. Religion and beliefs play a key role in the daily life of the populations, though the country is known for its religious tolerance. The Toucouleur ethnic group, among the early inhabitants of Senegal, converted to Islam in the eleventh century, even as their religious beliefs retained strong elements of animism. Muslims in Senegal now represent 95% of the population; the remaining 5% consists of Christians and others still practicing animism.

Its endearing oral literature, as exemplified by its storytelling, poetry and chant, is one of the outstanding aspects of Senegalese culture. This form of artistic expression, combined with the use of traditional musical instruments such as the drum, the flute, the xalam, etc., are used as tools of communication, awareness-raising, education, and entertainment during initiation rites and family ceremonies.

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Climate & Geography

The Republic of Senegal is a low-lying region located on the westernmost point of continental Africa, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (West), Mali (East), Mauritania (North), Guinea (South), and Guinea-Bissau. In the center of the country, lies another country, the Republic of Gambia. Senegal is crossed by four rivers, the Senegal River, the Gambia, the Saloum, and the Casamance.

Senegal boasts beautiful weather almost all year-round. The average temperature in the city stays below 85° Fahrenheit. Its tropical but comfortable climate, with a short rainy season between June and September, and a cooler season from December through April, allows for ideal outdoor activities. The country is divided into fourteen regions.