Île de Goree – Where Africa Meets the Caribbean

Blink, and blink again. If you didn’t know better, you would think you were in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. The cobble-stoned streets, the pastel-colored colonial houses and swaying palm trees make Île de Goree look like a twin sister of the Puerto Rican town. Even the climate is the same; hot and humid.

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Like San Juan, the island of Goree was colonized by the Europeans 500 years ago. And just like its Caribbean counterpart, Île de Goree soon became a center for the slave trade. It is even possible that African slaves left Île de Goree only to land in San Juan.

Today, this island near Dakar is best known for the [i]Maison des Esclaves[/i]. In this museum you can enter the cells where slaves were held before they were shipped to unknown destinations across the great ocean. Signs depicting “Women”, “Men”, “Children, testify to the rigid organization of the merchandise. And a door at the back of the house eerily leads to the open sea; The Point of No Return.

Above the town sits the Castel. Although the ancient French fort currently serves as a market for local art work, they haven’t removed the massive World War II guns from the times when the French used the fort to protect their Senegalese stronghold.

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But the real action happens in the village below. Along the narrow streets, in the shadows of sweet smelling bougainvilleas, the island’s inhabitants lazily offer colorful bead necklaces, paintings, handicraft. Everyone sells the same knickknacks.

And on the beach, close to where Dakar boat docks, local and foreign children joyfully jump in the waves of the clear and cool water. Only steps away, tourists devour fresh seafood dishes in the many restaurants lining the port. Many visitors who come for a day, end up staying the night. It’s that kind of a place.
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