Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goree Island

Yesterday I toured Goree Island off the coast of Dakar. The island is infamous as being the embarkation point for slave ships bound for the new world. Access by ferry cost 5000 CFAs (about $10) and takes about 20 minutes to get to the island. There were lots of tourists on the boat as well as shop owners and potential guides. Several ladies tapped me on the shoulder during our short voyage to invite me to visit her boutique and promised i would get a good deal.

We were met on the island by a swarm of 40 to 50 guides, a few dressed in official uniforms but most were not. My friend and I declined the many offers of assistance and set off around the island on our own. Since we got away from the guides and we were one of the first boats of the day we were able to walk around in freedom and peace. Many of the shopkeepers were still sleeping or setting up and we got to see how the current residents of the island lived. We saw lots of kids in school and others playing a soccer match in front of the government buildings. I enjoyed the colors and the narrow streets between the houses. Island life seemed pretty relaxed until the tourists invade, then its all-out combat.

The dilapidated fortress on the far end of the island was pretty impressive. The big guns are still in place but now people are living in or set up shop in the battlements. The facility would have been awesome when it was new. I thought it was interesting that in the modern fort on the island the guns were pointed out to sea, but on the old fortress, from the days of the slave trade, the guns were pointed at the land. Both fortresses were constructed by foreigners to protect their trade.

Most of the shops on the island sold either jewelry (we saw some kids in a hut stringing beads on necklaces and bracelets) or art. The art ranged from carvings to large painted canvases. My favorite was the found object art, where the artist incorporated some random items into a piece of art. We didn’t buy anything, but most people on the return trip to the mainland had either a sack of jewelry or a painting of some kind.


  1. Glad to hear you didn't go alone. It sounds like a much more enjoyable trip that way. Safer too! Cool pictures!

  2. Did you wear your sweet new African shirt!!