(More) tips for fëgg jaay shopping in Dakar!

Did you know that if you Google “fëgg jaay”, this blog shows up in the top slot? I’m not surprised actually, considering we have la grande experte writing for us! 🙂 Angie is back with more helpful tips for navigating one of Dakar’s best adventures. Thanks, Angie!

I recently hit the Monday Market for a marathon shopping session, and wanted to share with you some more tips I gleaned from the experience:

  • If you have access to a vehicle, bring it. I didn’t the last time I went, and had to lug around huge bags full of purchases for hours. A trip back to the car to hide loot in the trunk would’ve made things a lot easier.
  • You don’t have to buy from the first place you visit. Get an idea of what items are in abundance this time of year and keep an eye out for vendors with the best deals. Listen for the somewhat annoying but informative loudspeakers announcing prices in French and Wolof. For example, at this time of year, you’ll find lots of sweaters and long-sleeve shirts, since our Senegalese friends feel it’s freezing out there!
  • Some items may need a little TLC once you bring them home. Consider these options:

– Using an old razor blade to shave fuzz off of an otherwise cute sweater.
– Evaluating small stains and familiarizing yourself with stain removal products at your disposal. Here’s a website with tips you might find helpful.
– Shortening hems or sleeves on pieces that are too long or that have a stain or tear that can be removed entirely.
– Ignoring a minor flaw if you know you’re going to be layering over the item. You can also buy something imperfect, acknowledging that, if you’re like me, you probably would’ve schmutzed on it soon enough and made the same small stain yourself. If you really like a piece but it’s not good enough to wear to work or out for a special occasion, maybe you can add it to your collection of nice clothes to wear around the house (I’ve written in the past about the importance of dressing well at home for our husbands and not just when we’re out in public. This makes it easier to do so without worrying about wrecking our work clothes).

  • Knowing European and British sizes might be necessary when you don’t have time to try on each item. This chart should be helpful.
  • Check for the following imperfections that might be deal breakers:

– Broken zippers.
– Missing buttons.
– Worn out elastic, on pants and shorts, of course, but especially on fitted sheets. It defeats the purpose of using a fitted sheet if it won’t stay in place, right?
– Hems coming unsewn.
– Small holes just below the belly button on fitted shirts from rubbing against pant zippers.
– Hems on pants that have been done carelessly by the previous owner or perhaps by the vendor.
– Torn straps, zippers, and lining on purses.

  • Familiarize yourself with brands. Those that cater to older women run large. For example, a small in Gloria Vanderbilt will be bigger than a large in Abercrombie and Fitch, which caters to emaciated waifs!
  • Keep a running list with friends of sizes and items you all need, and keep an eye out for each other. If you know one another well enough, and you see a deal too good to pass up, you can always call to double check and pick up the item for them. In our day and age, you can even take a picture and SMS it to them, if necessary!
  • Think “ensembles.” Keep a running list of items you need coordinates for. For example, the cute wax patterned skirt you had made would look great with a fitted blouse in a complimentary colour. Also, as you purchase individual pieces at the market, add them to your list, so you don’t come home with a bunch of new clothes that don’t match with anything in your wardrobe! The worst is when you make that mistake with kids’ clothes, only to hear incessantly till you go to the market again, “Mama, can I wear these pants? What do they go with? What do you mean, ‘Nothing?!’” 🙂
  • I recommend making your lists on your iPhone, iPad, or computer, so you don’t lose it. The day you go to the market, however, transfer that list to a piece of paper you can keep somewhere handy. It’s a lot easier to look over a paper list and cross things off it than it is to do so with a note on your phone. Plus, this way you decrease the likelihood of losing your phone at the market by taking it out frequently to refer to.
  • Vendors usually specialize in a particular kind of item: Jeans & pants; skirts; sweaters & jackets; t-shirts & blouses; baby clothes; toddler & children’s clothes; toys; books; belts; purses & bags; scarves; sheets, blankets, and towels; athletic wear, etc. Some items you may be looking for will be mixed in with like items. For example, although people who sell athletic wear do carry some women’s workout clothes, a lot of it is baggy and unfeminine. I have found nice-fitting sports tops in piles of t-shirts and blouses. Similarly, I have yet to see someone specializing in maternity wear or plus sizes, but I have seen plenty of clothes suitable for pregnant or full-figured women or men in with the regular clothes piles. Sometimes, you may find an even bigger selection of plus size clothes, since there are far more donors in the West that fit that demographic then there are Senegalese who purchase them (this is especially true since most full-figured locals are older women, who tend to dress in traditional attire rather than “toubab” clothes).
  • Have a plan for organizing your new clothes when you get home. Some people say, “Less is more.” I beg to differ. My motto is, “More is more!” 🙂 If I can maintain and use a collection of 15 shirts in every conceivable colour, plus half a dozen black and brown ones, why shouldn’t I? Especially when I pay $0.40 each, right? But in order to manage a wardrobe this size, you have to have an organizational system. Otherwise, you won’t be able to find anything. I’ve organized mine into folded stacks of shirts (arranged by colour), tank tops, skirts, Wolof outfits, pants & shorts, sweaters, jackets, and cozy pants & tops to wear around the house. In addition, I keep my workout clothes, bras, and underwear in garment bags. So, even though I only have one small closet and I don’t have anywhere to hang my clothes, I manage to keep everything in order and still be a clothes horse, so you can, too! 😀
  • Finally, after years of living in Senegal, and of freely partaking of street food, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best beignets are sold at the fëgg jaay. They’re golden and crunch on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. And at 5 CFA each, they’re just as much a bargain as the deals you’re coming home with! Buy extra to take back for your husband, especially if he’s so kind as to babysit so you can go shopping that day. 🙂 If you need something a bit more substantial, you’ll find ladies nearby selling bowls of cebu jën and other Senegalese dishes, which is where most of the vendors buy their lunch. But, be warned, don’t wait too long or they’ll run out. My last marathon trip to the Monday Market, I arrived just after 11 AM (from Thiès), and I was so engrossed in shopping that I went till 3:30 PM with nothing but a spoonful of peanut butter for breakfast, and the ceb had sold out!

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have others to add, please share with fellow shoppers. Enjoy!


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