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Friday, 21 March 2014

WIS: Gorèe Island

Last Saturday a friend from work invited me to go to Gorèe Island with his volunteering group Lion's International as they planned to cleaned the Island. I took the offer to join them as it has been a long over due visit to the infamous Island, and
it's a good deed.

Gorèe is located 2 kilometres at sea from Senegal's capital Dakar, the boat journey took just under thirty minutes. The arrival to Gorèe really is a site, as you approach the island you are overwhelmed by the different coloured building's and canopy boats that somehow clash in colour but still managed to harmonise into a peaceful island's setting.

The Island is a lot bigger than I expected with over 1,000 residents, and more as a lot of tourists and visitors go for the weekend (I could tell that was the case judging how full the boat was on our way there). As we walked around the island I couldn't help but notice how old and distorted a lot of the buildings were in comparison to the new industrial and modernised buildings in the city, Dakar. As I walked through the island and alleyways I thought the colour spectrum of houses were never going to end! Our first stop before we began our duty was the Mayor's quarters where we were briefed on the day's plan, we also got to meet the Mayor of Gorèe, later in the day after we had finished job. As for our cleaning task I can't complain we only cleaned for an hour in one compound. We had picked the litter from the collapsing end of the courtyard, i'm not sure what the building's purpose is or was for however it is probably the eldest building I have ever entered and I did see children in school uniform running in the courtyard from the Mayor quarters balcony later on in the day, so I can only assume it is a school or used for educational purposes.

The clean team!


After we had finished cleaning, a few of us went to visit the Maison des Ecslaves (The house of slaves) on the island. Gorèe was a used location during the slave trade making the house of the slaves one of the oldest buildings on the island as it was originally built in 1780. We paid 100 cent each for entrance into the courtyard home, on the ground floor I was able to see the living conditions people were living in, the separate rooms for male and females, the sick slaves, the slaves kitchen and at the back of the home towards the left facing the sea well the 'door of no return' which had abnormal height, it definitely was not scaled to the average human height. Then again why would it be? They didn't care about them. As for the second floor was a display of many aspects, the history of the building, the slave trade, written in french on lamented panels staggered across the room, alongside glass and wood display tables which revealed the different weapons and chains that were used. It felt surreal being in there, I still can't imagine what it was like and even if I could imagine it it would be no where close to the reality of the matter. Before we left somebody who worked for the now turned tourist attraction did a speech, I could repeat what he said, but I really can't baring in mind it was in French obviously! (I'm still working on my French)

Smallest window I have ever seen

Before our boat arrived at 5pm at the island's harbour i had we had a nice rest on the beach, it was when we got on the boat i realised we only saw half of the island. Overall it was a fun day, I enjoyed the company even though I speak minimal French lol. Luckily its a good thing I am returning for the Jazz Festival this weekend!

St. Charles Church

It is definitely worth the visit, even if it is for the day, or weekend. You can't visit Dakar without seeing this island!

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