We Left Our Corporate Jobs In The US To Open A Boutique Apartment In Dakar, Senegal
Photo Credit: Queen Haynesworth

Photo Credit: Queen Haynesworth

We Left Our Corporate Jobs In The US To Open A Boutique Apartment In Dakar, Senegal

Africa , african diaspora , black-owned business , Dakar , Senegal , traveler story
Brunno Braga
Brunno Braga Feb 14, 2022

Before creating a life in Dakar, business partners Queen Haynesworth, 42, from Virginia, and Tee Darby, 39, from New Jersey, spent many years in corporate America, where Queen worked in health insurance and Tee for the state government. As a military child, Queen has been traveling her whole life, while Tee, a cruise lover, is equally well-traveled.

In 2017, while spending Christmas and the New Year in Senegal, they fell in love with the country. A year later, they relocated to the West African nation. After living in Dakar for two years, they opened Sankofa Arms, a boutique apartment community in the heart of the capital city.

“We knew as soon as we left that we would be back,” Queen told Travel Noire. “We were greeted with such amazing love, and every day we witnessed things that broke our hearts wide open in the best of ways. Senegal is so much bigger than the music and the food. There are hundreds of miles of coastline and some of the most beautiful water off the shores of Africa, beaches that can rival the Caribbean. The people are beautiful and they take so much pride in their history and culture.” 

Sankofa Arms is located in the up-and-coming district of Mamelles, in the shadow of the African Renaissance Monument. The boutique apartment is centrally situated close to restaurants and nightlife, the beautiful scenic beaches of the African Coast, and just a short ride to downtown Dakar and shopping.

“We created this space with the help of family and dear friends that believe in our mission of creating a soft landing for both people that are traveling to Senegal for the first time, needing some American-style comfort, and seasoned travelers wanting to feel at home in the city of Dakar,” said Queen.

For her, Dakar offers the chance to meet beautiful Black people that are grounded in who they are and so proud of their history, attributes she believes visitors to the bustling city will appreciate.

“Most Senegalese people can tell you their ancestors’ names going back over 100 years. They know themselves. There is so much of our history that has been lost to us, due to our displacement, so being around people so rooted in their culture is inspiring. I believe that Senegal is as good an African country as any to expatriate to. It’s the unofficial capital of West Africa, and you’ll find that it has a burgeoning tech and tourism industry.”

She explained that the term Sankofa in the apartment’s name is a word from the Twi language of Ghana. It refers to “se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki,” which means “It is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.”

The symbol in the adinkra alphabet depicts a goose moving forward while looking back with an egg in its mouth. It symbolizes the importance of reaching back into the past to retrieve that which has been lost to bring it forward into the future. 

“Moving to Senegal as Black Americans is a symbol of that kind of journey. To me, the name was a perfect way to show our gratitude for being embraced by Africans and stating our purpose for being here. Every day we experienced the magic of the country.”

Sankofa Arms boasts five bespoke three-bedroom, three-bath flats that have been lovingly designed to solve the unique issues that new repatriates may face in their transition into life in Senegal. Each of the apartments comes fully furnished, filled with art, with stocked kitchens.

The walls are covered in Queen’s art collection of the last 20 years from all over the world. The furniture and linens are all hand-picked, right down to the dishes and glassware, with every space and detail having been designed by Queen.

“Staying at Sankofa Arms is a curated experience. We believe in world-class customer service, and we concierge our guest’s trips from airport pickups to ground transportation and tours through our sister company Black Travel Universe. Many of of guests have never been to Africa before and don’t speak the language, so we go the extra mile to make sure they are seen, heard, and celebrated. We especially cater to Solo female travelers, so we want them to always feel safe to move about the country.”

Black Travel Universe can arrange tours of the city of Dakar, as well as excursions to the Sine-Saloum Islands, baobab forests, lion parks, and many museums throughout the vast Dakar region.

“And the food, that’s the best part! Every restaurant in the city has a big plate of thieboudienne, our most famous dish of jollof rice. There is so much to see and do in Senegal that it’s impossible to be bored. There are areas where you can relax by the ocean and allow your mind and body to heal, rejuvenating away from the chaos of the world and focusing on coming home to yourself.”

Related: Meet The Woman Behind Saint-Louis, Senegal’s Au Fil Du Fleuve Guest House

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