Pink lakes, Akon and shell islands: 15 surprising facts about Senegal ahead of World Cup clash with England

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Germany and Belgium were knocked out of the World Cup yesterday in a thrilling day of football that saw Japan beat Spain

England are set to face Senegal in the 2022 World Cup knockout stages this weekend. The match is the first time the two teams have ever met - though a number of the West African side will be familiar with the Three Lions after playing their club football in England.

Gareth Southgate’s men will be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals after their comfortable 3-0 win over Wales earlier this week. Senegal are currently ranked 18th in the world by FIFA - 13 places lower than England and one place higher than the Welsh.

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England should have a fully fit squad to choose from bar Ben White, who has left the Qatar camp for ‘personal reasons’. It is unclear which side Southgate will put out at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden both staking their claim in their final group stage fixture with impressive performance against Wales. The absence of the injured Senegal talisman Sadio Mane should certainly boost their chances of a win, though they will still face the tricky task of taking on the likes of Ismaila Sarr and Kalidou Koulibaly.

Ahead of what is guaranteed to be a brilliant game in Qatar, here are some facts about Senegal that you may not have known...

It’s home to a tiny car-free island made from seashells

Joal-Fadiouth, in Mbour, is an island that is made up of millions of clam shells collected over generations. The island is connected to a fishing village named Joal by a 400-metre wooden footbridge and is best known for its cementary - also made entirely from shells. Joal’s locals have built up the island for over a century, with roots from the mangroves and reeds holding it all together.

Senegal boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage sites

With over 700 species of bird living in Senegal, the country is home to these seven UNESCO World Heritage sites - Goree Island, the Stone Circles of Senegambia, Niokolo-Kobo National Park, Saloum Delta, Bassari Country, Saint-Louis Island and Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary. Only South Africa, Ethiopia, Morocco and Tunisia have more sites in Africa.

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They have Africa’s tallest statue

The African Renaissance Monument is the tallest statue in Africa - standing at a whopping 49 metres high above Dakar. It’s reported that a North Korean construction company built the monument in 2010 for an estimated $27 million.

Senegal’s most popular sport is laamb (wrestling)

While football is hugely popular in Senegal given how many huge stars they have developed, laamb (wrestling) is currently the number one national sport in the African country. Wrestling is seen as a prominent part of African life, tradition and culture.

Akon is Senegalese

Famous singer, Akon, is Senegalese. The 49-year-old was born in St. Louis in the US to African parents and spent a part of his childhood in Senegal, which he described as his hometown.

The two biggest exports from Senegal are peanuts and fish

Until 1960, Senegal based its economy on the exportation of peanuts and while it still remains largely dependent on it, the economy has since diversified. They also now rely on fish, as well as cotton and petroleum products.

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Senegal has never had a coup d’etat

Senegal is one of the few African states that has never experienced a cop d’etat - a ‘sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government’ - and is seen as one of the safest countries to visit in the continent.

Senegal has a pink lake

Senegal is home to Lake Retba - a pink lake - 18 miles north-east of the capital Dakar. The pink waters are caused by Dunaliella salina algae and is known for its high salt content, up to 40 per cent in some areas.

Senegal’s rivers are home to killer hippoptamuses

Senegal’s fisherman spend their days risking their lives as they enter the rivers because of the country’s killer hippos. It was reported in 2016 that over the last decade, hippos have killed 25 fishermen and injured many more in Gouloumbou.

Sheep surf in Senegal

Farmers in Senegal bring their sheep to the beaches every Sunday for a daylong cleansing ritual. It’s seen as a spiritual exercise and a way to ‘spruce up’ the livestock, with sheep seen as sacrifices during religious festivals. The ‘spa day’ for the animals begin by the sheep soaking in the ocean for several minutes before they are scrubbled on the shore with soap and a brush.

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Sensational surfing scene

The Almadies peninsular in Dakar is the most popular surf spot due to its powerful waves and big swells. It was also used as a filming location in the 1965 surfer movie, The Endless Summer.

Khaby Lame was born in Senegal

TikTok sensation, Khaby Lame, was born in Dakar before moving to Italy when he was a baby. The 22-year-old is TikTok’s most followed creator with 152.5 million followers.

Youssou N’Dour is one of the most notable figures of Senegalese descent

Yossou N’Dour was born in Dakar and is a renowned musician and politician. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine described him as ‘perhaps the most famous singer alive’ in Senegal and much of Africa.

Senegal will be the first African country to host an Olympic Games

Senegal is set to host the Youth Olympic Games in 2026, with the event taking place across Dakar, Diamniadio and Saly. It was initially due to be held this year, however was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Senegal’s unofficial dessert is called thiakry

Thiakry (ch-a-k-ree) is a dish served at Senegalese festivities and sometimes after dinner. It is a blended mix of vanilla yoghurt and millet that can be added with sugar and can be found in markets where it’s sold in plastic bags.

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