During your stay in Dakar, you can’t miss the visit of Goree Island, one of Senegal’s best known attractions and UNESCO World Heritage since 1978. Situated only three kilometers from the coast, the Island was seized by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British and it is well known for being active in the Atlantic slave trade from 1536 until 1848 when slavery was abolished in Senegal.
Here, african men, women, and children were gathered on this small piece of land and locked up in cells, before being dispatched away to the ‘’New World’’. Most of the buildings were used as warehouses or slaves’ houses, and today many of them have been turned into private houses and museums.
The most famous building is ‘’La Maison des esclaves’’ (the house of slaves) where the captured people from all over West Africa were held and transported directly to the Americas. More than a million slaves passed through the main doors of this house and through its mysterious ‘’Door of No Return’’. It owe its name of ‘’door behind which there is no return’’ because some historians say that slaves passed through this small door facing the ocean to be boarded and shipped. Anyways the House of Slaves and its Door of no Return are now a symbols of the dark period in Africa’s past and a place of remembrance for the 6 million who lost their lives on the voyage across the Atlantic ocean.
Strolling along the narrow sandy streets and its colonial red ochre houses adorned with bougainvilleas, passing through groves of baobabs until the top of the promontory to have a magnificent view on the bay of Dakar it is really charming and it will make you feel like back in time.
Other important and popular spots of Goree are Saint Charles Church, the oldest of Senegal built in 1830, the women’s museum, the maritime museum, the IFAN Historical museum, the French Fort d’Estrée built in 1850, the ancient palace of the Government and the Université des mutants. Througout the Island you’ll meet local women clothed in traditional batik fabrics, local artists sell their work from outside their homes (the most famous is the sand-painting gallery), or on stalls set up on the island’s small hill.
How to get there: Gorée is connected to the mainland by regular 30-minute ferry service. On the Island there are no cars. Ferries depart from the Gare Maritime de Dakar (Ave de la liberation) starting at 6:15 am till 10:30 pm.
Prices: A return ticket costs around 10 $ (5200 CFA). An additional tourism tax of 500 CFA per person (1$) is collected on site.
Where to eat: on the Island you’ll find some nice local restaurants.
Where to sleep: usually all the people plan to sleep in Dakar, but there are several affordable guesthouses on the Island as well. I suggest you the hotel Villa Castel and Maison Augustin Ly.