top of page
  • Trish

Where Slaves Died

Goree Island, just off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, is infamous for its role as the gateway to hell for the peoples of many West African countries. Countless people died on the trek to this island, on this island, on the voyage to the Americas, and in the Americas. Those that died on the trek to the coast were possibly the lucky ones.

The entry to the port where you catch the ferry to Goree Island

To get to Goree Island you buy a ticket for 5200 CFA (approx US$10) to catch the ferry for a 30 minute ride to the island. This is the entry point at the Port.

Inside the building where you wait for the ferry is a mural of the Door of No Return.

We were lucky that it was a clear day albeit with a very cold wind blowing, especially on the ferry.

Goree Island from the ferry

The ferry goes around the point on the left and lets you out on the historic side of the island. From this angle, on the ferry ride over, the historic side is on the right.

Click here for a video of the ferry pulling into Goree Island.

The Two Abou's.

Abou on the right is my regular driver who has taken me on all my explorations to date. He speaks pretty good English which makes a huge difference for me, rather than not being able to chat about the new things you are seeing. I am going to learn French!

The other Abou is 'Official Guide No. 29'. He was born and raised on Goree Island and took us on the walking tour. Not that you get a choice whether to take any other tour as there are a lot of steps and I didn't see a single car on the island.

The island is a labrynth of narrow streets between the high walls of various buildings. The next two pictures are of buildings opposite each other that were built to give the impression of being ships.

The population of Goree Island is currently 2,000, according to Abou, our guide. Most of them live in very poor conditions, with tourism being the only means to earn a living on the island.

The photo above is just to the left of the statue of the slaves breaking their chains. On the historic side of the island there are many signs of lack of funds to restore the buildings and of the poverty that pervades this small island.

The Freedom Statue on Goree Island

This is the Freedom Statue (undergoing a bit of repair).

The entrance to Maison des Esclaves (The House of Slaves)

The entrance to Maison des Esclaves, the House of Slaves. Since 1978 it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Inside is the much photographed dual stairway which leads up to a small museum. There's not much to see in the museum. A couple of glass cases housing actual wrist and ankle shackles and chains that the slaves wore and a lot of information on boards, in French, so for me who only speaks English, it was a very short tour.

The following pics are of the cells where the slaves were kept before being shipped out. All the cells are at this level that I'm standing on and behind the stairs.

The first photo below is where the young female slaves were kept until they were shipped out or selected to be mistresses of the masters of the time. The 'masters' changed nationality depending on which country had taken control of the island.

There's some interesting reading on how some of the mistresses managed to gain a fair amount of power. They were called the Signares. If you want to read more about them just click HERE

The next photo is a cell which held up to 20 men at any one time. Not enough room for anyone to sit down, let alone stretch out to sleep.

The next photo of 'a window' shows you how thick the walls are.

The photo above is one of the solitary confinement cells, the ceiling slopes down because it is under one of the staircases. There are no windows at all in there.

Click here for a video of one of the holding cells.

Trying to get a photo of the Door of No Return was almost impossible as there was a guy outside the door taking photos of people standing in the doorway, for a price, so there were people standing there continuously.

The Door of No Return at Goree Island (the slave island), Dakar

So instead I took a photo from the terrace directly above it, at what looks like low tide.

The next photo is from the museum on the floor above the cells, and directly above the Door of No Return.

Its a horrible memorial of what mankind can do, on such a beautiful location.

So many photos I've seen on the internet only show the 'pretty streets' but there are an equal number of not so pretty streets. The mustard colored house on the left is where Blaise Diagne, the first elected mayor, after whom the new international airport was named, was born and/or lived (I didn't quite catch what Abou, The Guide, said.)

And then there are the pretty streets, with the bougeanvillea making them even more attractive.

The highest point of the island (37m above sea level) was where the French set up their fort. The pic below is how the locals have turned it into an artists' row. I managed to refrain from buying a painting but it was tough.

This row of magnificent baobabs helped hide the battlements.

After this there were a lot of steps, and a glimpse of the ocean.

Until we reached the highest point where there were two huge [French] cannons. And everywhere, people selling their souvenirs.

The bunkers below have since become peoples' homes.

The pic below is (as Google translated this from the official site: Memorial de Goree )

The Goree Memorial is a place of homage, meditation and reflection. It is also a unique place in the world that houses the International Center of memories, turned resolutely towards the future, devoted to human rights and dedicated to 'dialogue between peoples'.

Then we headed back down. From this height you can see Dakar all across the horizon.

Of note in the photo below are:

1) The white building is the home of the President of Goree Island. Once you move away from the historic end of the island you see some large and beautiful homes and hotels.

2) The Port of Dakar about 2 kilometres away

3) The fake palm tree which houses communication thingies (I think). That was the third one I saw on the island. (AFTER NOTE: Would you believe I just realized that the palm tree I can see from the office balcony is a fake one too, designed to hide the receptors.)

4) Another bunker in the foreground

There are two religions on the island, Muslim (Sufi) and Catholic. This next photo is the Goree Island Mosque, which is on the side of the hill overlooking the ocean.

And this is the Catholic church. The population of 2,000 is made up of 1,600 Muslims and 400 Catholics.

Below are the girls who live in Dakar and make a living coming over to sell the wares of local artisans. They wanted me to come over and talk to them, which I did. Loved the personality of Dior (pronouced "Jore"). It wasn't the color of my hair or my sweet disposition that incited them to invite me over, they were hustling and I did end up buying two batik pieces from Dior.


#Senegal #WestAfrica #Dakar #GoreeIsland #Slavery #SlaveIsland

bottom of page