The sad history of Goree Island
During your stay in Dakar, you can’t miss the visit to Goree Island, one of Senegal’s best-known attractions and UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978.
Situated only three kilometres from the coast, the island was seized by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the British. It is well known for being active in the Atlantic slave trade from 1536 until 1848 when slavery was abolished in Senegal.
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Here, African men, women, and children were gathered on this small piece of land and locked up in cells before being dispatched 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 residences 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 its mysterious “Door of No Return“.
t owes 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 symbol of the dark period in Africa’s past and a place of remembrance for the 6 million people 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 bougainvillaeas, 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 essential 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 constructed in 1850, the ancient Palace of the Government and the Université des mutants.
Throughout 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.
Need to Know about Goree Island
1) When to go
The climate of Senegal is tropical, with a long dry season from November to May (March, April, and May are the hottest months with the temperature that could reach 35°C-40°C), and a wet season is from June to October (showers are more intense in the south). The best months for visiting the country are November, December and January, when the temperatures are more bearable. We visited Senegal in May, and the weather was always sunny but quite hot above all in the south.
2) 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) from 6:15 am to 10:30 pm. A return ticket costs around 10 USD (5200 CFA). An additional tourism tax of 500 CFA per person (1USD) is collected on-site.
3) Where to sleep
Usually, all people plan to sleep in Dakar, but there are several affordable guesthouses on the island. We suggest the hotel Villa Castel and Maison Augustin Ly. On the Island, you’ll find some nice local restaurants.
4) Tour packages
If you like to discover more things about the history of the Island, you can join a guided tour. The web platform Viator.com offers interesting tours around Dakar and Goree.