Goree Island

Goree is a tiny car free island just off the coast of Dakar. A visit to the island is not for the beaches but for its atmosphere. With three museums worth seeing on the island. Its completely car free and the only way to go about this island is to walk. In 1978 Gorée Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and several of its historic structures were restored in the 1980s and ’90s.

The Island of Goree is an exceptional testimony to one of the greatest tragedies in the history of human societies: the slave trade. The various elements of this “memory island” – fortresses, buildings, streets, squares, etc. – recount, each in its own way, the history of Gorée which, from the 15th to the 19th century, was the largest slave-trading centre of the African coast

A wall in the Museum: a mural depicting slaves being herded in the African bush by Europeans

The Liberation from Slavery statue. This powerful statue of two people embracing as their chains are released is located close to the Slave House. The statue was a gift from the people of Guadeloupe, which has a strong slave heritage, to their brothers and sisters back in the homeland of Africa.

Statues and plaque at the Maison des Esclaves Memorial

House of Slaves, also called Maison des Esclaves in French, has been nicknamed the Door of No return. The reason why is obvious: slaves that crossed that door never returned. While researchers are still debating today how many slaves were sent away from Senegal, the Island slave trade was certainly important given its strategic position along the coast, with easy access to boats.

House of Slaves entrance
The narrow door the point of no return out of which slaves were loaded onto ships bound for America.

Fort d’Estrées Built in the 1850s and named after the French Admiral D’Estrée after he took possession of the island from the Dutch in 1677, the fort served as a prison for a while. Now it’s hosting the IFAN Historical Museum (Musée des Esclaves, Ancien Fort d’Estrées), with exhibitions about Senegal history and artifacts from the island slave history.

Fort d’Estrées which houses the IFAN Historical Museum

Transportation from Dakar a ferry to Gorée leaves from the Gare Maritime Internationale de Dakar, located on Boulevard de la Libération, close to the main railway station and Dakar port. Tickets for foreigners cost USD10 for adults, USD5 for children. Ferries are relatively comfortable, with hard seating upstairs and more comfortable seating downstairs. However, the boat is still basic; no refreshments available, although there is a toilet. The ferry leaves every 1-2 hours from 7am; crossing time is approximately 20 minutes.

Accommodation While most people visit on day trips from Dakar, there are several small hotels and guest houses to sleep over night on the island with basically clean rooms and air conditioning. The Villa Castel is a charming eco-friendly guesthouse near the centre of Gorée, with doubles from around USD80. A short walk south of the Maison des Esclaves, the Maison Augustin Ly offers breezy rooms in a classic bougainvillea draped house from the 18th century. Doubles start around USD60.

The Villa Castel

Out and about

Streets of Goree

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