Gorée Island and The Door of No Return

***Due to Power Outages (that apparently happen all over Africa all the time) there were many technical difficulties posting this last night :)…alas here it is today, one day late.  These events occurred yesterday, Sept. 27.  As a note, as I write this there is Xmas music playing in the background….hmmm *** Although I was tired when my head hit the pillow last night, jet lagged foiled the blissful sleep I was anticipating.  I didn’t fall asleep until after 4am :(.  I forced myself up by 10am as I was anxious to discover the tiny island of Gorée 3 km off the coast of Dakar. This island is the home of the infamous Door of No Return in the House of Slaves (Maison des Esclaves) Museum that memorializes the Atlantic slave trade.  There are varying statistics as to how many slaves passed through this “house” between the late 1700s and early 1800s and exited Africa forever in route to European colonies in the Americas (estimated 20,000 – 60,000).

Me in the Door of No Return.

Beside me on both sides were 4 long “stand by” cells where African men, women and children waited to board ships to cross the Atlantic. According to my guide, men, women and children were all sent to different colonies in the Americas which meant families were split forever. The terror, pain and suffering was palpable when standing in these dark, small, stuffy stone cells. Who would ever think such treatment of human beings was ever okay?

This is the statue outside the House of Slaves.

 The sculpture powerfully depicts the sheer agony family members were forced to realize as they were ripped from their home country and loved ones and sent to strange lands and fates unknown.  Over 50% of the Africans died in the cells at the House of Slaves.

My guide, Pappi, and Me in the House of Slaves.

Pappi was born, raised and lives on Gorée.  There wasn’t a soul we didn’t pass that didn’t know him AND he greeted everyone of them!  Greetings are a VERY important custom in Senegal. They range from the mundane, “Bon Jour” to more involved back and forth phrases and handshakes.  I think I saw all of the variations today :).

Although the history of Gorée Island is shadowy and sorrowful, it does not feel that way today. It is a wonderfully charming place, and the people that inhabit it seem happy.  The European colonial architecture on the island is beautiful and the colors of the buildings are vibrant reds, yellow and blues.  There are lush gardens, bougainvillea lined passage ways and large, shade producing trees at every turn.  I was taking so many photos that  frankly I think I annoyed Pappi with all my photo stops and gawking…which is fine since he kept trying to get fresh with me when we were in quiet alleys and….this is the worst!…. in the empty cell where the children where once quarantined in the House of Slaves. He learned I am less charming when I am annoyed…yet that didn’t seem to deter him.  My 60 year old guide was by all accounts harmless, but he did like to test the waters….in his words, he loved the idea of mixing “coffee and milk.”

The beautiful island of Goree as seen from my Ferry.

It was $10 to go to and from the island (kinda pricey in my mind, which makes me think I got the blond girl price!).

I am a little obsessed by the farm animals that run free in Senegal. So I asked Pappi to take a picture of me with this pretty little goat that will soon be someone’s meal.

OOFTA! The rainy season here means beaucoup, beaucoup flies.  I had the pleasure of dining with a swarm of them at lunch.  One of my hands kept waving over my food the other was used to quickly yet tres elegantly shove my skewered fish in my mouth before it became a black mass of hungry flies.  Oh, and what big eyes the flies have here…I am sure there has been some horror movie inspired by them!

Kumba and Me.

She owned a shop on the island, and with that in mind befriended me immediately.  Since I am a sucker for anyone that calls me “my sister” I fell into her entreprenual net and even bought a few necklaces from her.

My attempt at posting 2 videos just failed. I am perplexed, but have learned here in Africa to just move on cuz you never know when you will lose internet access.  The first was of a gentleman named Diali serenading me with his Cora, the first musical instrument of Africa.  You would have also seen my guide, Pappi, dancing away in the background! As a substitute I posted below a pic of me with the Cora (Diali is sitting behind me eating bread)! I am not as good of a player as Diali :).

The second video was of the streets of Dakar.  I took it while in the taxi on the way to the ferry.  The taxi guy took me a bit of a round about way, but since I don’t speak French there wasn’t much I could do about it.  I will try to post both on Facebook as an alternative.

Tomorrow nothing is planned….Senegal has been more expensive than anticipated so I only drink bread and water tomorrow :).  Au Revoir!

UPDATE:  Upon returning to the US of A I was able upload the aforementioned videos.

1) Daili and his Cora

2) The streets of Dakar

  3 comments for “Gorée Island and The Door of No Return

  1. Wavatar
    September 28, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    We are spoiled and selfish in the U.S. I'm sure you see tons of happy people there. Why? Because they know a secret about life that most of us don't.

  2. Wavatar
    January 5, 2015 at 1:59 am

    J’ étais ,in the house of slave, je suis surprise d’ apprendre autant de choses en regardant sur l’ internet aujourdhuie, It does not change what happened in Africa, Ce sont des humains qui ont été vendus aux enchères et le problème c’est qu’ils sont encore de nos jours considérés comme marchandise, The door of no return le dit bien ,we can’t return to the past but we can together make the PRESENT so much better through our awareness of the PAST

    • Wavatar
      January 5, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      Beautiful words, Dzian, and truth. I couldn’t agree more. Hugs, and thanks for finding my blog :)!

Comments are closed.