Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Foire de Dakar: Holiday Shopping, AfricaStyle {Expat Diaries}

While many of you are strolling the Christmas pop-up shops in Bryant Park, or perusing online stores and blogger gift guides to find the perfect presents for friends and family... we expats in Africa (and other places, I'm sure) must rely on a good dose of creativity and thoughtfulness - wooden masks do get old after a few years, just ask my mom.

Nope, Amazon doesn't ship here and it's downright depressing (and one of the things I miss most about the U.S.!). Mail is generally unreliable so ordering online just isn't an option. We don't have Target or Costco - I was shocked and envious when I found out there were locations in countries outside of the U.S. And local store-bought items here are generally tacky, imported, and over-priced.

BUT! We do have many affordable, stylish, and unique local goods to choose from. And believe it or not, there are several winter gift sales hosted in Dakar (mainly targeting the expat community), featuring a plethora of crafts made with local materials. Megan and I had a booth for Six Bougies at the Dakar Women's Group annual Christmas Bazaar a couple weeks ago...

But an even more fun option is the Foire Internationale de Dakar - an annual tradeshow that takes place in Dakar every December showcasing items from all over the world - from Pakistan, West Africa, the U.S., Indonesia, and more. The Foire is in its 22nd year and an enormous complex is entirely devoted to the show. What I love most about this two-week event is that it is organized by Senegalese and mostly attended by Senegalese. It's inspiring and invigorating to see so many local people (in a developing country) come out for an event that is very much devoted to culture, entertainment, leisure, and recreational spending!

Last night, Megan, C. and I braved the crowds on one of the last few days of the foire, and we came out with some exciting holiday finds ;) The array and variety of items you can find at the foire is quite impressive... seeds, refrigerators, crafts from all over the world, used clothes, gaudy furniture... you name it. 

Behold. (And don't mind the iPhone pictures, it was the only way to document this outing!)

The ticket booths slightly resemble a prison. I guess this is for security purposes? Unfortunately no hands were sticking out from the darkness when I snapped this picture.

Gaudy gold chairs, anyone? Miraculous two-week weight loss, straight from the U.S.???

Marabout-art, made with shells. (These are photos of renowned Senegalese spiritual leaders, which hang in many households. The shells are a new twist, though.)

A reenactment of Ahmadou Bamba (renowned spiritual leader and founder of Mouridisme) walking on water. In an aquarium. Led by magnet.

The Chieftain has arrived, donning royal garb from Burkina Faso. (I spy hoards of beautiful woven fabric above!)

Terrible picture, but I had to snap this enormous jug of shea butter and other mysterious and strong-smelling creams. This stand was extremely popular, perhaps for the natural remedies on display.

Some of my finds: mud cloth from Mali, a wicker basket bag from Madagascar, and a coin purse made with woven cloth from Burkina Faso.

Some more great finds: a hanging callebas bowl... maybe to hold fruit, or something in the kitchen? More mud cloth (a bedspread for Megan), and a close up of the gold coin purse.

We also found homemade honey from the Casamance (southern Senegal) and Megan snagged a few more textiles from Togo and Burkina Faso.

All in all.... great success! I highly recommend visiting the Foire Internationale de Dakar - and tomorrow (December 11) is the last day. In general, I think checking out local fairs targeted at locals can be a very enriching and interesting cultural experience. People watching, people. Do it.

I can only imagine what the traffic will look like tomorrow...


  1. I'm so surprised Amazon ships to Dar but not Dakar! Dakar is a bit more developed and "with the program" (from what I've heard...). I would go crazy!!! But you're right... Even after just one year if birthdays and holidays I feel like I've run out of unique souvenirs to buy people. I really wish I could sew, though, because I'd love to make some purses or clothes with the beautiful kangas here.

    1. Haha... well, I checked and I guess packages can technically be shipped to Senegal through Amazon. However, I wouldn't bother attempting it. I tried to have my ATM card sent here THREE times via FedEx and it never made it. I've only ever received one package successfully, and it took months. So, yeah. Lame.

      Have you explored working with local tailors? You might be surprised that some would be willing to try Western patterns, bags, etc... and its normally quite affordable! (At least that's how it goes in Dakar.)

  2. PS. For all you Dakar folks the foire has been extended till Sunday!


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