The boat trip to Gorée Island

Dakar Harbour - Senegal

Having found an extremely good taxi-driver, by the name of Tam, to take me back to the hotel
on the previous afternoon .. I arranged with him to pick me up in the morning to take me to the
Ferry Terminal,  which is near the railway station in the centre of Dakar, to catch the midday ferry.

He duly arrived on time ( European not African ) and despite more heavy traffic, we arrived just in time to find that it didn't leave until 1 o'clock !

Outside the Ferry Terminal, on the side of the docks, were lots of market stalls selling fish, fish products and various piles of drying fish and Abalone, spread out in every spare corner .. all giving off somewhat pungent smells. Good views were to be had of the extremely large vessels berthed in Dakar International Port .. so whilst waiting for the ferry's departure time, I recorded the surrounding scenes for posterity, noticing that since my last visit, the railway station had had a paint-job and was looking extremely smart. Probably due to the good influences of Transrail - a Canadian consortium which has taken over and upgraded the Senegalese and Malian railways.

Paying the CFA 5000 for my return ticket in advance to ensure my seat .. I was pointed in the direction of a small drinks bar for a cool Sprite and a chat with some of the local boys, on the lookout for tourists to guide around the island. Just the mention of Patrick's name and that he had invited me to visit him, had the magic effect of turning the conversation into one of old friends, as opposed to this Toubab being a likely client to hustle .. everyone in Dakar seems to know of Patrick from Gorée !!

Leaving Dakar harbour for the 20 minute ride in a comfortable, clean
and fairly packed boat, gave excellent views of Dakar's enormous International Port .. the many vessels at their moorings and the oil storage tanks in this busy port.
Click the top picture to see a larger view

 Gorée Island soon came into view and the nearer we approached, the more beautiful it appeared.

Today, a quiet and quaint haunt for tourists with about 1,000 permanent residents, Gorée played an important role in the history of Africa, particularly in the development of the slave trade.

Gorée Island

Only three kilometres from Dakar at its nearest point, the island is made up of a flat plain that ends in a steep basaltic hill (the Castle), and is only 900 meters by 300. Possibly sighted by Phoenicians
and others in antiquity, it was probably first discovered by the Portuguese explorer Dias in 1444.

The island was colonised in 1817. As with Manhattan Island, the Dutch bought the island from a local chief for a pittance and it became a way station for Dutch ships plying the route between their forts on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Indies. Gorée is a Wolof word meaning freeborn as opposed to a slave or a Jaam. The original inhabitants were of the noble castes, hence the name Gorée which also means integrity and honesty in Wolof.
My grateful thanks to Jarra Jagne for this information.

Gorée changed hands many times. The British took it from the Dutch; The Dutch then recaptured it, but had to give it up again to the French during French maritime expansion under Colbert. In 1802, by the terms of the Amiens peace agreement, the island became French and remained so until Senegalese independence in 1960.

It was the principal entry point off the coast of Africa for slavers and merchant men flying the French flag. Thousands of Africans passed through this island fortress on the continent's bulge. After the abolition of the slave trade in France in 1848, Gorée was an outpost for policing the seas.

As its role in trade declined, it became a stepping off point for French colonisation of the West African interior.

Gorée had the first school and the first printing plant in French Africa. It was also one of the "four communes" which in the 19th century were electing deputies to the French National Assembly.

Like Zanzibar off the East Coast of Africa, Gorée is important in the early history of American relations with Africa. The United States established a consulate in Senegal in 1885. Many buildings on Gorée are currently undergoing renovations, sponsored by Senegal and many other governments and international organisations.

It was around 4 years since I had seen my friend and fellow bead-enthusiast Patrick, when he had visited me in The Gambia. He has been living on Gorée for many years, so I was looking forward to meeting him in his home surroundings and learning all about this fabled island.