Choosing Cabo Verde as my first destination abroad was not at random. Back in the days, I met three Cabo Verdeans during their stay in Morocco. Honestly, it was the first time I heard about it and curiosity just got hold of me so I decided to embark on a solo trip to Cabo Verde.
It is an archipelago situated in the Atlantic Ocean, miles away from Senegal, made of 10 islands in total: Satiago, Fogo, Brava, Maio, Boa Vista, Sal, São Nicolau, São Vicente, Santo Antaó and Santa Luzia.
I landed very late in the night in Praia, Santiago. I had to wait for the customs to get a visa on arrival. The officer started speaking in Portuguese to me, I handed him my passport and told him I don’t speak Portuguese. He and his coworkers were really surprised. He then asked me how come I was Moroccan but I looked like a native Cabo Verdean. That encounter set the mood for the whole trip!
I choose a hostel located in Achada de Santo Antonio, about 10 minutes from Nelson Mandela Airport and in the middle of popular streets so I could learn more about the local culture and traditions and also to meet other travellers.
Coup de Coeur
Plateau, Praia’s centre – its streets, the colors of the houses and the music coming from the shops is a delight, especially in the evening.
Mercado de Plateau – a must go to when you visit Praia center. This market was a great surprise to me. It is run by women only. In their cute blouses, with natural hair and warm faces, all you see is women selling veggies and fruits; women selling fish, poultry and meat, women selling sandwiches and juices – the pork sausages that those women sell smell heavenly.
Farol Maria Pia – Our hostel manager Danny organized a barbecue near this place. Nesting in the rocks at the foot of the lighthouse, with the magical sea view, it was amazing.
Quintal Da Musica – As a music lover, I enjoyed the live music performances. Quintal Da Musica, a fancy restaurant in Plateau not only offers great food but also great music from different islands along with the traditional music – Funana. I had the change to listen to music from Fogo, Mindelo and Santiago. I highly recommend this place. Speaking of food, Cachupa, the local traditional dish made of corn, chickpeas, pork bites and eggs is a must try, in addition to fish, cheese from Fogo and of course Papaya fruits (fresh and really tasty).
Sucupira Mercado – For gifts and travel souvenirs, this market has it all. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk with the locals and Senegalese vendors.
Kebra Cabana beach – Great for a chill day out with Funana beats coming from the neighboring restaurant, Bica D’Areia.
Cidade Velha – This city holds the history of Santiago Island. Full of historical monuments and memories that marked me the most, due to its history of slavery and slaves’ trade. Rua de Banana Fortoreza , the Senora Maria Church,….. These historical monuments were all renovated to last. My advice is to start with the Fortoreza as it is uphill, and then walk down to the town.
Assomada – It is a small city about one hour from Praia. It has one of the oldest trees in the area called Boa Entrada. It’s a 30-minute hike to reach the tree. I fell in love with the pace of life in that city. It is slow and unbothered. And the people are very friendly, especially the kids.
Most of Cabo Verdeans speak Portuguese, but not all speak French or English; learning Portuguese would make the trip way easier and the communication more fruitful. Most of the elderly speak Kriol which is the national language. I however still met many old people speaking French or English and had great conversations with them.
One of the things I learnt about this country is that religion is very important; you cannot walk for few steps without finding a church. When I met Danny, our hostel manager, he was dressed all in black. During my stay, he never wore any other color. Later on, I met his mother and she too was dressed all in Black. So again, curiosity got hold of me and I asked him nicely about that matter and he said that it is an old tradition. When a family member dies, in his case, it was his father, the family wears black for a whole year as a symbol of mourning.
All in all, I can’t say I have seen all of this country. I still need to learn more and more about the traditions and the history; I still need to make more friends; I still need to learn Portuguese and Kriol; I still need to learn to dance to Funana; I still need to learn to cook the cachupa and other dishes. This was definitely not my last trip there.
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