Still on Discovering Dakar, this post focuses primarily on the three main tourist sites I visited:
- Île de Gorée (Goree Island)
- Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves)
- Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine (The African Renaissance Monument)
- Lac Rose (The Pink Lake)
Île de Gorée (Goree Island)
Named by the Dutch (Goede Reede meaning Good Harbor) in the 1600s, Goree Island was used to warehouse slaves to be transported to America. Today however, it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, protected as a place of world culture and heritage, and is a famous destination for people interested in the history of Atlantic slave trade, attracting tourists from all over the globe.
The best way to get to Goree is on a ferry at Port Antonome de Dakar, and it cost 2700CFA for a return ticket. The boat ride takes approximately 15 minutes. My recommendations, get a seat at the top of the ferry. There you’ll get the best view of the dock, ships, ocean and horizon, and be able to take gallery-worthy pictures and selfies. Just be sure to secure your wig with a lot of bobby pins because the wind damn near snatched mine off. You don’t want a situation.
There are no cars on Gorée but the island is small with a population of 1680 (2013 census) so you can get around by just strolling. It has a lot of beautiful colonial architecture, including the “House of Slaves” museum the old Canon and the old Catholic Church.
Far from its slave-trading days, the atmosphere on Gorée is serene. There are many small restaurants offering rice, fish, chicken and chips and about 2000CFA should fetch you a decent meal. There are 5 hotels on the island if you decide to spend the night.
For souvenirs, there are a lot of local art-work for sale, ranging from sand and oil paintings to wood and metal work. There are also women and children hawking local jewellery. However, they are always overpriced because tourists have money, dollars to precise and they want as much of it as they can get. If you want value for your money, be prepared to haggle.
My recommendation, and same goes for Dakar City Center, is to divide the asking price by 3 and stick with it. Walk away if the seller refuses your offer. 90% of the time, they will run after you to strike a better bargain. Stick to you initial price unless the seller walks away, then it’s time to take his last offer. Example, asking price for men’s slippers is 7000CFA, sometimes 10,000CFA. Divide that by 3, that’s about 2500-3000CFA and that’s how much it costs. Asking price for Senegalese men’s wear is 15,000-20,000CFA. Make an offer of 7000-8000CFA. Better still make offers in bulk, say 23,000CFA for 3.
Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves)
Gorée is a famous destination for people interested in the history of slave trade, and for the location of the House of Slaves (Maison des Esclaves), built between 1780–1784.
The House of Slaves is one of the oldest houses on the island, now serving as a tourist destination and a memorial to the slave trade, which lasted for 312 years. In 1992, the Pope visited Goree the House of Slaves and apologised for the role Catholic missionaries played in the slave trade. In June 2013, Barack Obama, then President of the United States also visited the House of Slaves.
Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine (The African Renaissance Monument)
Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine is a gigantic bronze statue, standing 49 meters tall and set at the top of one of Collines des Mamelles hill outside Dakar. It was designed by Senegalese architect Pierre Goudiaby and was built between 2006 and 2010 by a Korean company.
The woman in the statue is said to represent the remembrance of the slave trade as her extended hand points to ile de Goree. The man represents freedom and the child hope as he/she points into the future.
Inside the monument building, which is below the massive figures, is an African Arts Gallery, hosting pieces of art from various countries in Africa on each of its eight floors. Also common are images of prominent African leaders and pioneers.
My recommendation, wear flat super comfortable shoes because you will need all the help you can muster getting up that flight of stairs. Sunglasses, a bottle of water and a camera are a must have.
The pink color is said to be “particularly visible during the dry season (from November to June) and is less so during the rainy season (July to October)”. Now, this is where it gets tricky. After successfully negotiating a cab for 30,000CFA (down from 70,000CFA) in French for the first time, I arrived at the Pink Lake about an hour later to find that the lake was not even pink and it was “dry season”! Words can’t express my level of disappointment.
Apparently, the day wasn’t clear and sunny enough. My recommendation, don’t bother with this place. There isn’t much to see here unless you want to buy some salt. If you insist, for a ride on the water they will tell you 14,000 CFA. If you refuse, they will ask you how much you want to pay. I and my friends ended up paying 1000CFA per person. The local bracelets and key holders are 300CFA each but the asking price is 1000CFA each.
Sadly, this is be my last post on Dakar Senegal. I’ll be leaving tomorrow and since the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Abuja is closed, I am dreading the trip home. I’ll have to go to Murtala Mohamed Airport, Lagos and then to Kaduna Airport before heading back to Abuja. Nevertheless, this trip has been worthwhile.
Oh, I have to tell you that my French has improved significantly and I’m looking forward to my next adventure. Paris perhaps?