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Dakar, Senegal

On the westernmost edge of Africa's Atlantic coast, the former French colony of Senegal offers a taste of African culture with a bit of Gallic flavor. South Africa Airlines' non-stop flight from New York City, launched last year (800/722-9675; www.flysaa.com), takes only about seven hours. The action begins in the capital, Dakar, where mazelike markets contrast with Parisian-style cafés. Start your days with coffee at Pâtisserie Les Ambassades (4 Blvd. de l'Est, Point E; 011-221/825-5587) before scouring Dakar's shopping districts—Soumbedioune, Sandaga, and Kermel—for carpets and, of course, m'balax, the Senegalese pop music made famous by favorite son Youssou N'Dour. Check out African art at Espace Culturel VEMA (4 Rue de l'Embarcadère; 011-221/821-7026) and shop for housewaresat Artefact (Rue 5,Ave. Birago Diop, Point E; 011-221/824-4483). Head for dinner at ultra-modern Ozio (31 Rue Victor Hugo; 011-221/823-8787; dinner for two $42) before making the scene at Club Thiossane (10 Rue Sicap), N'Dour's musical home base. STAY The 360-room Le Méridien Président (Pointe des Almadies; 800/543-4300; www.lemeridien.com; doubles from $167) is right on the water. DON'T MISS Île de Gorée, the 18th-century slave depot three miles off the coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a poignant reminder of Senegalese history.
—David Kaufman

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