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Goree Island, Senegal

A Travel Guide to Ile de Goree


Goree Island (Ile de Goree) is a small island just off the coast of Dakar, Senegal's sprawling capital city. Goree Island is a big tourist attraction because of its history as a major slave-trading center. It's an important destination for African-Americans in particular who come to pay their respects and reflect upon their ancestors' past. In fact the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) on the island has become a place of pilgrimage for everyone to reflect upon the horrors of the slave-trade and remember the millions of souls who died because of it.

Goree Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been visited by dignitaries such as the Pope, President Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and recently President George Bush. Despite this attention there are several scholars who dispute that the House of Slaves was ever a major slave-trading center, especially given that its size may not warrant the numbers of slaves (several millions) attributed to have passed through its "doors of no return". These scholars tend to believe that the island and its 'House of Slaves' have been talked up by those interested in making a few dollars off gullible tourists. But everyone I've met who has visited the House of Slaves Museum has been deeply moved by the symbolic significance of the place. Regardless of the number, slaves did indeed pass through and the Museum provides everyone with a focal point to express their grief at this terrible event in history.

How to Get to Goree Island

  • Getting to Dakar, Senegal: There is a direct flight to Dakar from New York on South African Airways and there's a direct flight from Atlanta to Dakar on Delta. If you book well in advance the flight should cost you around $950 (excluding taxes). All other routes take you through Europe first and if you don't mind the stopover, this can be the cheapest way to get to Africa from the US.

  • Getting to Goree Island: There are regular ferries that leave from the main port in Dakar between 6am and 11pm. The ferry trip takes 20 minutes and you can book a tour if you wish to from the docks in Dakar.

What to See on Goree Island

Goree island is a haven of tranquility compared with the noisy streets of Dakar. There are no cars on the island and it is small enough to find your way around on your own although there will be plenty of "Guides" offering you their service.

  • The main attraction is of course the Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves) built by the Dutch in 1776 as a holding point for slaves. The house has been converted into a museum and is open every day except Monday. Tours will take you through the dungeons where the slaves were held and explain exactly how they were sold and shipped.

  • The IFAN Historical Museum is also worth a visit if you are interested in the history of Senegal. The museum is situated on the northern end of the island.

  • Musee de la Femme (The Women's Museum) looks at the role of Senegalese women in traditional and modern West African culture. The Museum is closed on Monday.

  • Maritime Museum offers the visitor information about Senegal's seafaring history. The Museum is closed on Monday.

  • The jetty area of Goree Island is filled with little restaurants where you can eat fresh fish. Behind the restaurants you'll find a market that sells the usual tourist trinkets. According to the Lonley Planet Guide bargaining is a lot more relaxed here than in Dakar so it's worth a browse.

Where to Stay on Goree Island

There are plenty of little cheap guest houses to stay at on Goree island, most don't have an internet address so you won't be able to book online. Senegal's official tourism web site does have a few phone numbers listed, search for Goree under the Dakar listings.

Recommended places to stay include:

Since Goree Island is just a 20 minute ferry ride from Dakar most people stay in the capital. For a comprehensive list of places to stay see Ausenegal.com

Tours to Senegal and Goree Island

More Information About Goree Island

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  4. African Culture and People
  5. A Travel Guide to Ile de Goree, Senegal

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