Welcome to a new departure for the Friendly Friday Challenge. Every six weeks when it’s my turn to host, I will be introducing you to a person or people I have met on my travels. People whom I have been inspired by, fascinated by or perhaps intrigued by. And I will be inviting you to do the same.
As much as the sights we see, it is the people we meet who make travel so rewarding and so memorable. Whether close to home or on the other side of the world, an interesting encounter can really bring a place to life.
And don’t worry if you don’t tend to travel far from home. There are interesting people everywhere, including your own neighbourhood, and I’d love to meet them too.
Today, for my first FFC ‘Meet …’ post I’d like to introduce you to someone I met on my travels a few years ago.
Meet Cheikh, a guide in Senegal
All too often when we travel we get to spend just a few hours with a local guide and never really get to know them properly. But from time to time we see rather more of them and learn about their lives. At Souimanga Lodge in Senegal the activities and tours on offer focus not on conventional sightseeing but on learning about local life in the Sine Saloum Delta region. We threw ourselves into these and went out every day, nearly always with the same local guide, Cheikh. Spending several hours together every day for a week meant that we got to know him a little; and now I’d like to introduce him to you.
Meeting the family
In the course of one of those excursions, to Djiffer, we stopped briefly in a small village just to the north, Diakhanor. Like Fadiouth, Diakhanor is unusual among Senegalese communities in being 90% Catholic and just 10% Muslim. Cheikh is a Muslim, married to a Catholic from this village and was keen to introduce us to her parents, his in-laws. He showed us inside their simple home, from which he and his wife were married; and we met some of the neighbours too.
Like others we met in Senegal, Cheikh was proud of the fact that the two religions co-exist peacefully here. Mixed marriages such as his own are not uncommon, and the two faiths celebrate each other’s festivals. I asked about the religious upbringing of his three children and learned that the two boys are Muslim and his daughter a Catholic. He also told us that his sister had, like him, married a Catholic and in her case had converted. It all seems very easy-going and flexible – long may it continue thus.
In the Yayeme palm forest
On another occasion Cheikh stopped the car while crossing the Yayeme palm forest. This is an extensive forest of palms on the outskirts of Fimela, not far from Souimanga. The tall elegant trees are known locally as Ron palms but their Latin name is Borassus aethiopum.
Every part of the tree is used by the locals – the leaves to makes thatched roofs, baskets, mats, etc.; the trunk for timber to build houses; the leaf stem for fencing or for fibres; the fruit eaten. Cheikh taught us how to make a belt by weaving two strands together. He made it look very easy; but if you watch my brief video you’ll see that there’s definitely a knack that needs to be learned if you’re to produce a neat-looking belt!
Cheikh was a great companion on all these outings, looking after us well and ensuring we got the best out of our visit to his country. We really enjoyed spending time with him and learned a lot from him.
Over to you
And now it’s over to you. Whom would you like us to meet? Perhaps, like Cheikh, someone from your travels, whether far from home or in your own country? A chance encounter or a planned meeting perhaps?
Or maybe someone from your own locality whom you think we will find interesting – an artist, a character, a local hero. Let’s celebrate the wonderful diversity of our world while also illustrating that important adage, that we have more in common than we often realise.
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