Gorée Island (Île de Gorée) is a 45-acre island, west of the Senegal mainland, packed with a history that is as colourful as it’s tear-jerking. It’s most famous for bearing witness to the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
It was one of the earliest European settlements in Western Africa and served as an outpost for slaves for about three centuries! The first Europeans to settle were the Portuguese, then the Dutch, the British and finally the French. Consequently, the architecture is very European. Most buildings are adorned in paint colours ranging from yellows to reds.
Because of the wealth of information it holds, and the age of the structures, it is a UNESCO world heritage site. This means that a building constructed in 1500s will still be standing as was then.
Things to do in Gorée;
1. Do a guided tour of the entire island. There are guides that speak different languages. A professional guide can be hired on entry into the Island while cheaper guides may contact you on the mainland, before boarding the ferry. Main points of interest are the House of slaves, William Ponty School, Maritime museum, Fort d’Estrées, Government Palace, The Gorée Castle and the seventeenth-century Gorée Police Station.
The island is VERY hot. Be sure to be in comfortable shoes and clothing.
2. Visit the house of slaves- This is an actual slave store-house that was used as a transit of slaves between West Africa and America. The island is only separated from America by the Atlantic ocean, making transportation easy.
3. Visit various artists for a quick sand-art lesson. I was quite fascinated by their use of natural sand from 15 different places (and thus 15 different colours) to create interesting compositions.
4. Have lunch by the sea. The best time to visit Gorée is in the early morning. The tour should take 2-3 hours which can culminate in a sumptuous sea-side meal.
5. Swim in the Atlantic.
Gorée is a must visit when in Senegal. I loved the tour (and the perspiration that came with it. I don’t know that I’ve been to a hotter place). The local jewellery vendors are however too many and a tad bit too aggressive and can get on your nerves. Some ladies go to the extent of getting rude when you show no interest in purchasing their wares.
Everyone else is however, friendly.
Until next time,