What about Dakar, Senegal, makes me feel so at home? Is it the never-ending ocean that follows every road in the city? Is it the people that every person I make eye-contact with says Bonjour? Is it the high temperature that reaches my heart and fills it with warmth? Or is it the life-long friendships I’ve made here?
For me, the concept of home has been rocky for years. However, the mere five years I spent in Dakar left a mark on my heart. Be it passing by a line of abundant palm trees driving along the curb of Corniche or sitting on any of the numerous beaches, watching the wooden boats cross the horizon; or maybe it was the nights spent with friends walking the streets of the city with only the streetlights on and nothing but the sound of the ocean echoing. Also, not to mention the different cuisines, from yassa to sushi, from falafel to the samosas.
Often, I think about how I felt like an outsider when I first moved there, but now going back to the city is my only desire in a time of quarantine. But then I remember the graffiti covered walls and the traffic with unbridled taxi drivers; the yellow and black taxis with “Alhamdulillah” written on the back. I think about the smile that every stranger carries, no matter what burden they’re bearing on their shoulders.
The duration of time at a place doesn’t determine the emotions created in that place. Every place is filled with good and bad memories but sometimes the good memories overpower the bad, and Dakar has filled my heart with overpowering good memories.