The island of Gorée lies off the coast of Senegal, opposite its capital Dakar and just south of the Cap-Vert peninsula. From the 15th to the 19th century it was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast. Ruled in succession by the Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, its architecture is characterized by the contrast between the grim slave-quarters and the elegant houses of the slave traders. Today it continues to serve as a reminder of human exploitation and a sanctuary for reconciliation, classified as World Heritage by UNESCO.
However, besides its intense history, Goree island is very much a haven of tranquility compared to the noisy streets of Dakar, only 20 minutes away by ferry. The must? The island is entirely pedestrian and small enough to stroll in peace – although there will be plenty of local guides offering their service – and breathe fresh ocean air.
Within a day one can visit many historical spots, the main attraction being of course the House of Slaves, now converted into a museum, with tours through the dungeons where the slaves were held and curators explaining the trade. The IFAN Historical Museum – located on the northern end of the island – is also worth a visit to learn more about the history of Senegal. And the Women’s Museum (in French Musée de la Femme) looks at the role of Senegalese women in traditional and modern West African culture.
The island also owes its beauty to its artists and galleries – most of them housed in one of the bunkers built during World War II – all around and most of them exhibiting their work on the streets. The artists express themselves with intelligence, foresight and passion, their artistic approach and inspirations referencing major art works such as Picasso’s, Synthetic Cubism and introducing to African Pop Art.
For a food break, the jetty area of Goree Island is filled with pretty little restaurants where one can eat delicious seafood.
Goree evokes many emotions, from joy to peacefulness with the beautiful ocean views. A must-see.