Attaya tea and Senegalese meals

Mermoz, Dakar, Senegal | Mardi 3 Septembre 2013

Tea culture is of extreme importance in Senegal and West Africa, and the one tea we drink in Dakar everyday is the Attaya. People topically drink it after their meals, because it is supposed to help your digestion, and it is served in three rounds. The first one being strong and a little bitter, the second is a little bitter sweeter and minty, and the third one is the sweetest. From what I heard here, they reflect on the Senegalese friendships. Because the longer people stay together, the sweeter their friendship gets. Even if one doesn’t like the tea, it’s preparation is enough reason to get together.

O chá e de extrema importancia na cultura Senegalesa, e do Oeste Africano e o chá que é servido todos os dias em Dakar é o Attaya. Geralmente, as pessoas o tomam depois das refeições, porque aparentemente ele ajuda na sua digestão, e são três rodadas no total. A primeira é forte e amarga, a segunda é mais docinha e mentosa e a terceira é bem bem doce. E porque? O que os Senegaleses me contaram é que essa tradicional bebida reflete a amizade entre eles. Porque quanto mais tempo passamos juntos, mias doce fica a amizade. Até mesmo quando um não toma o chá, a sua preparação ja é motivo suficiente para se reunirem.

Meals in Senegal reflect a lot on how the community works. If one is alone, one is vulnerable, and for protection, we must have a family, we must have that community. At home we eat our meals together, Mama Ndiaye cooks it and my sisters set the floor where we eat. Here we sit on a leather carpet for dinner. When food is served, we go to the kitchen to wash our hands, and sit around a large tray. We all eat from that same plate, and at the same time. What an experience! The first night I ate with my host family, we had “poisson frit avec des Boulettes de poisson à la sauce rouge” (fried fish, with fish balls and red sauce). Just so you know, those aren’t the easiest things to eat with your hands, specially here, where they eat very fast. The 6 other people who eat around that tray with me have the habit of doing so, and they usually beat me to the meat. But, Mama Ndiaye always picks out some meat from the center of the tray and puts it on my side for me. Different, but very sweet and generous, she is only making it a fair fight.

As refeições no Senegal refletem muito bem como a comunidade funciona aqui. Se alguém está sozinho, ele é vulneravel, e para proteção, ele deve ter uma familia, ele deve ter uma comunidade. Em casa nós comemos nossas refeições juntos, a Mamãe Ndiaye cozinha, e as irmãs preparam o chão onde comemos. Aqui nós colocamos um tapete de couro em cima de uma esteira de palha. Quando a comida é servida, nós vamos até a cozinha e lavamos as mãos, nos sentamos ao redor de uma grande bandeja. Todos nós comemos da mesma bandeja, e ao mesmo tempo. Que experiência! No nosso primeiro jantar juntos, nós comemos peixe frito ao molho vermelho. Só para você ter uma idéia, essas não são as coisas mais faceis de se comer com a mão. E os Senegaleses comem muito rapido, e com mais seis pessoas que ja tem o habito de comer assim, ao redor da mesma bandeja que eu, fica dificil. E eles geralmente pegam toda a carne. Mas, Mama Ndiaye sempre pega uns pedacinhos de carne pra mim do meio da bandeja, e coloca do meu lado, para eu comer. Justo! Diferente, mas muito gentil e generoso da parte dela. 

I recently learned that not every Senegalese family sits on the carpet and eats with their hands. Some of my friends host families have adapted to western ways, and abandoned that tradition. So, even though I don’t always care for the food, and never liked eating with my hands before, I feel truly blessed for being in a family that has kept that aspect of their culture. This is priceless to me. This is one example of the Senegalese culture that values their family and community. For the next months, the Ndiaye will be my family, and Mermoz my community.

Recentemente eu aprendi que nem toda familia Senegalesa come no carpete e com as mãos. As familias de alguns dos meus amigos se adaptaram mais a maneira de viver ocidental. Então, por mais que eu nem sempre goste da comida e nem sempre goste de comer com as mãos, eu me sinto com sorte de morar com uma familia que ainda mantem essa tradição, que ainda compartilha as refeições dessa maneira, e que não tenha se rendido por completo ao ocidente. Isso pra mim não tem preço. Esse é um exemplo da cultura Senegalesa, que preza a familia e a comunidade. E pelos proximos meses, os Ndiaye serão a minha familia, e Mermoz a minha comunidade.

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22 thoughts on “Attaya tea and Senegalese meals

  1. Khai says:

    I have always been fascinated by your story Marcos. The joy, experience and the discovery that you made is an eye opener to me. I always feel like I am with you, although I am thousands kilometres away. How I wish one day I can do long term travelling like you😉

    Have fun, keep travelling and be safe mate!

    • Marcos C. says:

      Khai, thank you so much for taking your time to read what I wrote. I have been very joyful since my arrival in Senegal, and since I first left the homeland four years ago. Make that your next goal and throw yourself out there.

      Be safe,
      Cheers!😀

      • Khai says:

        Yeah, I can see your joyfulness since the first day I started following your blog😉

        Do let me know if by any chance you come to Malaysia. I would be more than happy to host you and show you the culture in this part of the world. It would be an honour for me to host you as I can also learn things from your vast experience🙂

      • Marcos C. says:

        How awesome would it be if I made it to Malaysia. Gosh, you just made me so excited for that now. I have never been to that part of the world, and I can just imagine all the beauties it holds.
        And if you ever come to Brazil, you are welcome to stay with us as well.😉

      • Khai says:

        Thanks for the invite Marcos. Sure will let you know if I have the chance to go to Brazil. Really hope you can make it here one day. Last 2 month I hosted a Brazilian girl from Sao Paolo who is a member of Couchsurfing. Met her when I was travelling in Phnom Penh and hosted her when she was here.

        U should come. U will be surprised that some words in the Malay language was adopted from the Portuguese language😉

      • Marcos C. says:

        Did you host her through couch surfing? Because Ive done that in some countries and its such an experience.
        Like I said, I will maje it to Asia eventually.

      • Khai says:

        Yup. Realized that she is a couchsurfing member, so i hosted her through couchsurfing😉

  2. I adore your posts… You make me feel like I’m right there with you during your journey.

  3. Mamae says:

    Fico muito feliz em saber que voce esta aprendendo coisas incriveis.
    Sei que voce vai aproveitar o maximo.

  4. Nancy Berg says:

    so interesting. Love learning about your experience. ..

  5. joh09013 says:

    Drinking ataya like a boss. Seriously though, that stuff is SO strong. Also, we should recreate eating on the floor when we go home!

  6. Zilene Mendonça says:

    Eu fico maravilhada com tantas experiências que vc está tendo Mec (Marcos) e desejo que vc continue levando elas pra sua vida e filtrando o que faz te sentir melhor e ser uma pessoa cada vez melhor. Que Deus te acompanhe em todos os lugares que vc pisar. Bjos. Amo vc.

  7. I find that’s always the most important thing to find out about any new person in my life😉 Sounds like you’re having a great time there!

  8. eu quero provar esse cha tambem, e a comida parece uma delicia

  9. Michelle says:

    Bacana! Vc tem uma habilidade enorme em descrever, compartilhar suas experiencias…. É como se estivessemos ai… Parabens!

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