OIC in Town

During the past week the city of Dakar has been hosting a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). This has resulted in many cancellations, reorganisation of traffic, and general disruption to the city, as the leaders of 56 nations all arrived for the gathering. It turns out that many of the major infrastructure projects around Dakar were begun in expectation of this event, but unfortunately only a handful of them seem to have been completed. On the positive side the western coastal road was finished in the nick of time, on the negative side two large hotels are still only shells under construction. To cover the resulting shortage of accommodation a huge Italian cruise ship appeared at the port, appearing to outdo all the shore based hotels.

I heard via some friends here that the main two topics discussed at the meeting were first the lack of progress with the implementation of an investment fund for transfer of wealth from northern middle east members to southern African states. Second was the "islamaphobia" sweeping the world and what could be done to improve the image of Islam. I thought it was excellent that such a difficult theme was on the table for discussion, rather than being ignored or simply not even identified.

Another amusing observation was clear during the 'Science and Technology' expo set up in the middle of the city. The stalls with the largest (and only) crowds of interested locals and visitors were the 'traditional' medicine, healing and improvement stands.

We though took the opportunity of a national OIC holiday on Thursday to get in an afternoon scuba dive on ship wreck off the nearby idyllic island of Goree. Then the weekend was spent exploring the old French capital of St Louis in the north of Senegal, with its collection of old buildings and unusual location on an island in the middle of a large river. An interesting town though not quite as stunning as the description in the Lonely Planet paints.

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