Dakar. Population: 2.51 million (official estimate 2005).
Republic since 1963. Gained independence from France in 1960.
Head of state:
President Abdoulaye Wade since 2000.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye since 2009.
220 volts AC, 50Hz.
Senegal is the place to head in West Africa. Long sandy-white beaches, a hip music scene, a crumbling colonial heritage, wildlife and incredibly friendly people make it a superb place for those who want to explore African culture, or just kick back and get into the vibe of the real Africa.
Senegalese music, particularly the Mbalax, has become well known internationally over the last couple of decades thanks to artists like Youssou N'dour and Baba Maal - you'll hear it blaring out of well-worn stereos all over urban places like Dakar.
The country gained independence from France in 1960. Ever since, it has been regarded as one of Africa's model democracies, with an established multi-party system and a tradition of civilian rule. The areas around the cities of Dakar and St Louis, colonised in the 1840s, were the earliest parts of the formal French empire in sub-Saharan Africa.