Sunday, July 13
Dakar, Senegal

The first time I tried to visit Goree Island, about two weeks ago, there were so many people crowded around the ferry ticket booth that I wrote it off as a tourist trap and walked around the port instead.

But since my college friend Andy is in Dakar for the weekend, we decided to brave the crowds, hawkers and beggers together to check it out.

We set out early today, partly to avoid the madhouse ticket scene I experienced last time (it worked!) and also to see the island before the day’s hottest hours.

Ile de Goree is known for its symbolic link to the Atlantic slave trade, since hundreds of African slaves were forced to leave their homeland via the island. The history in itself is interesting and moving, but the small island offers more than that. Some Senegalese call it home, and the buildings there are painted in beautiful earth tones, lots of red, unlike most homes on mainland Senegal. Andy said it reminded him of the south of France.

Goree Island view

Goree Island view

It also serves as a venue for artists to create, exhibit and sell their work, mainly paintings, sand art and jewelry. Most paintings were a similar West African style, lots of stick figures, very geometric, scenes of life here, such as women carrying bundles on their heads. I bought a brightly colored painting of a baobab tree.

Paintings at Goree Island

Paintings at Goree Island

Vendors on the island were less aggressive about selling their goods, leaving us alone after we rejected their offers several times instead of following us around indefinitely like folks on the mainland, a pleasant surprise considering it’s a tourist hang-out.

The prices, too, were excellent by Dakar standards. Andy and I had a filling lunch for CFA 7,300, or about $17. I chowed down on an egg sandwich, even risking lettuce and raw tomatoes, and drank a sweet, red fruit juice Andy introduced me to called Bissap, which is made of the hibiscus plant. Andy enjoyed a plate of yassa, a local dish of rice, onion sauce and fish, chicken or beef. Check out the teeth on this sucker:

Fish yassa, a popular Senegalese dish

Fish yassa, a popular Senegalese dish

Now, the two of us are basking in the free Internet at our hotel. I’m pretty sick of the hassle and expense of Dakar, so we’re staying in a posh suburb called N’gor that seems to be home to a lot of ex-pats. Since it’s a Sunday, the beach is absolutely packed. Here’s the view from our table:

View from our Ngor hotel on a busy Sunday

View from our N'gor hotel on a busy Sunday

Tomorrow, Andy and I will depart in opposite directions. He’s going north to Louga, near Saint-Louis, where he’ll spend the month interning with the Millennium Villages project. I’ll move southeast to Kaolack, the first of several stops along my route to Mali.

Lexi & Andy

Lexi & Andy

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