After cycling the desert of the Western Sahara, Helen Lloyd relaxes in coastal St. Louis.

I only spent five days in Senegal’s St. Louis, but I saw a lot. The heart of the old colonial town, located on a narrow island at the mouth of the Senegal River, was established in 1659 by French traders. It owes much of it’s individuality to the Metis (merchant communities) of the 17th and 18th centuries, who created a distinctive culture of public festivities and entertainment.

St. Louis continues to be an important centre for cultural exchange in the region — the town has many resident artisans striving for recognition and holds West Africa’s most important jazz festival, along with numerous other music events throughout the year. This year’s festival will be held May 20-23.


St. Louis center, Senegal

1. Heavy traffic There's not much traffic in the centre of St. Louis -- just as many animals as taxis.


Nescafe stand

2. Nescafe It's easy to get coffee here -- just ask for a cafe au lait at any of the mobile street-corner stands.


Window shutters, Senegal

3. Shutters Most of the windows in town have shutters for keeping out the sun and keeping the interior clean. These three fading lilac ones caught my eye.


Muslim Brotherhood of Senegal

4. Muslim Brotherhood of Senegal Cheikh Amadou Bamba was a Sufi religious leader and founded the Mouride Brotherhood in Senegal. He is depicted throughout St. Louis in white with his famous follower Ibrahima Fall in black.


Senegalese footballer

5. Proud to be Senegalese This young man was insistent I take his photograph, with him in his Senegal football shirt. He was kitted out in knee-length football socks and shorts and was heading for a game on the beach.


Laundry, St. Louis

6. Out to dry Washing hung out to dry in the streets was not an uncommon site.


Guet N'dar peninsula

7. Old and new Whereas the town centre is all bright colours, palm trees, and artisan shops, the old town on the Guet N'dar peninsula across the river is much a place of work -- where animals are tended and fishermen moor their pirogues.


Face paint, Senegal

8. Paint It wasn't just the boats which were colourfully painted down by the river.


Palm trees

9. Caribbean feel Palm trees and colourful buildings -- it reminded me of Cuba.


Beach, St. Louis, Senegal

10. Beach scene The beach makes for a lovely stroll in the late afternoon when the local fishermen have finished work and are out for a game of football.


Jazz festival, Senegal

11. Music St. Louis is famous for it's annual jazz festival, and music is big part of life here. I saw El Hadj N'Diaye in concert while I was in town.