UNESCO World Heritage Site #272: Island of Gorée

UNESCO World Heritage Site #272: Island of Gorée
UNESCO World Heritage Site #272: Island of Gorée

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Island of Gorée testifies to an unprecedented human experience in the history of humanity. Indeed, for the universal conscience, this “memory island” is the symbol of the slave trade with its cortege of suffering, tears and death.

The painful memories of the Atlantic slave trade are crystallized in this small island of 28 hectares lying 3.5 km off the coast from Dakar. Gorée owes its singular destiny to the extreme centrality of its geographical position between the North and the South, and to its excellent strategic position offering a safe haven for anchoring ships, hence the name “Good Rade”. Thus, since the 15th century it has been prized by various European nations that have successively used it as a stopover or slave market. First terminus of the “homeoducs” who drained the slaves from the hinterland, Gorée was at the centre of the rivalry between European nations for control of the slave trade. Until the abolition of the trade in the French colonies, the Island was a warehouse consisting of over a dozen slave houses. Amongst the tangible elements that reflect Gorée’s universal value are, notably, the Castle, a rocky plateau covered with fortifications which dominate the Island; the Relais de l’Espadon, former residence of the French governor; etc…

The Island of Gorée is now a pilgrimage destination for the African diaspora, a foyer for contact between the West and Africa, and a space for exchange and dialogue between cultures through the confrontation of ideals of reconciliation and forgiveness.

Gorée Island was one of the original 12 world heritage sites which were inscribed at the inaugural convention in 1978. It is probably the most important historical monument in the world with respect to the slave trade and the most visited attraction in all of Senegal.

Unlike most historical monuments, it is also a living community. There people who work, live and go to school on the island. This means you have many vendors selling art and other products to tourists everywhere on the island.

Getting to Goree is pretty easy. There is a ferry which takes you there from the port of Dakar. It is about a 15-20 minute ride. The above photo was taken from the deck of the ferry.

I think there needs to be a little work done to Goree to clean it up and help preserve some of the buildings. I don’t think a lot of money is necessary, but it does need work.

Many of the other travelers who were on the West Africa cruise with me listed Goree as one of the highlights of the entire month long trip, which should give you an idea of the importance of the site. It should be a must see for anyone visiting Dakar.