Business & Economy

Days numbered for Dakar’s emblematic buses

Dakar, Nov 9 (EFE).- New York has its iconic yellow taxis and London its red buses but in the Senegalese capital Dakar, vibrant Renault Saviem SG2s are the king of the road but their reign may be coming to an end.

Over the last 40 years, these vehicles have become an emblem of the West African city, where they are known as ‘car rapides.’

The vehicles, which date back to the 1960s, are bursting with color thanks to the work of local artists who decorate the car rapides with anything from flowers and geometric patterns to religious messages.

“The same way we talk about the yellow taxis in New York, and London’s red buses, we can talk about the car rapides in Dakar,” Babacar Mbaye Diop, a doctor of art philosophy and professor at the Cheikh Anta Diop University, told Efe.

From his office at the prestigious Senegalese university, Diop pointed out the irony in the name car rapides, given that the vehicles in reality trundle along rather slowly.

“We find Senegal in the car rapide,” he added. “If on the outside we find drawings, decorations, inscriptions and religious messages, etc., on the inside we find amulets, other types of decoration and prayers. It’s a bit like a miniature Senegal.”

For sociologist Djiby Diakhaté, the car rapides represent the flow between the rural and urban worlds.

Many commuters form part of the country’s rural exodus and rely on the cheap form of transport to travel in from the outskirts of Dakar, where living costs are lower.

A means of transport that does not break from the traditions of the rural world, in which they continue to live as a family, in which there is a possibility to haggle, that is to say there is no fixed price, in which they can get off (the vehicle) when they want, there are not designated stops,” he said.

For the sociologist, the blue and yellow that form the base colors of the car rapides were inspired by the Senegalese countryside.

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