Vacationing in Senegal: Slave trade tourism in Dakar and Goree Island

After a long hiatus, from this blog – it feels really good to be sharing my adventures with you once again. Africa is the theme for this comeback season. I’ve already begun telling you about Libya and my troublesome trip to Tripoli. For this post, I wanted to change gears a bit.

Keep it light-hearted with stories of the most recent travels I had with my girlfriend Alana. If you follow me on social media, you already know a bit about her. She’s not only beautiful and smart, but she’s also an anti-feminist libertarian who loves meat!😍 I mean, what more could I ask for?

Our time in Africa started with one week in South Africa and then a three-week road trip through Namibia. After Namibia, I flew to Europe for a week to attend a conference and visit some friends in Mallorca. Alana stayed in Cape Town on her own until we reunited in Senegal.

The trip included the first two Western-Africa countries I was missing from the region; a great reason to take my girlfriend on vacation.

Senegal was the first stop, and I was very much looking forward to reuniting with Alana and all the plans for our time there.

Senegal 101

In case you don’t already know… Senegal is a country in Western Africa. It has the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Guinea-Bissau to the south, Guinea to the southeast, Mali to the east, and Mauritania to the north. The Gambia is almost an enclave of Senegal in the middle of its western coast. I found it cool that it’s a secular country, which has been acknowledged for managing to homogeneously incorporate all of its ethnic and religious groups into a peaceful society.

The country has a colorful history, having played a significant role in all kinds of trade. I’m not just talking about the spices from India, but also Slaves to America.

It was originally settled by the Portuguese in the 1400s, occupied by the Dutch in the 1500s, and claimed by the French in the 1600s. Even the Brits had a brief go at it, eventually losing ground to the French once again. Ultimately, it became an independent country in the 1960s – a status which it has kept until today.

Burocracy, the game of reciprocity

I arrived in Dakar a little earlier than Alana, I had a nice connection from Mallorca through Barcelona and she flew directly from Cape Town.

Senegal was actually quite tricky to get into, not just for Alana because she’s Brazilian, even for me!

Fun Fact: At the moment, Senegal is not letting European citizens in the country thanks to some ridiculous bureaucratic reciprocity

You see, the European Union doesn’t let unvaccinated Senegalese travel to EU, ergo Senegal doesn’t let European citizens into the country.🤷‍♂️🤦‍♂️

It’s pretty ridiculous actually, Europeans can still get a visa on arrival, the issue is they need special permission before arriving, to board the plane.

Luckily, I was able to leverage my Dubai residency with a loophole. I went to the Senegalese embassy in Dubai, with the argument that I am no longer a European resident, I asked for permission to travel to Senegal.

They approved my request without haste and before I knew it I had an official Senegal Government letter granting me permission to enter the country and get the VOR.

Pre-approval to enter the country as an EU citizen.

Pro Tip: The UAE is a great place to apply for visas and permits to almost any country in the world. Everything seems to run very efficiently there.

Sightseeing in the Capital: Dakar 101

I landed in Dakar in the late afternoon, still well before Alana. I went straight to the hotel, which was quite a drive, almost 2 hours of traffic door-to-door.

Made it to the capital of Senegal and it has horrible traffic. Worth it because this was my 200th country to visit (of the 266 UN+ list) 🙂

I checked in and took a small nap before starting some consulting calls. Alana arrived while I was still working, so she settled in while I finished up.

#hotelviews – Now at the westernmost point of Africa staying at a wonderful hotel.


We were staying at a pretty nice hotel. The Radisson Blu, which had an excellent restaurant downstairs. So that night we took it easy and simply went downstairs for dinner.

We had some delicious food and called it a night pretty early. We were both eager to explore Dakar the next day. The next morning, we set out early with a long day of exploration ahead of us.

It is said that the Senegalese people are very proud of their reputation for “teranga” — hospitality. Locals are extremely friendly and helpful; I quickly noticed this to be true. The best example of this spirit was our guide Abu, we really lucked out. He took really great care of us, more than any other guide I’ve ever encountered in my life. It was really nice, a very great first experience in guided travel for Alana and me.

I should note however that Senegal is still a poor country and petty crime is high and you have still have to be alert.

I learned that Dakar was founded in 1857 when the French built a fort on the site of the modern Place de l’Indépendance, the place became of great allure to merchants from all corners of the continent. It was convenient that the city is crossed by the river of Gambia and Senegal.

Beauty 😍

We toured the capital by car and visited many landmarks. We visited the African Renaissance Monument, the Presidential Palace, and got to see the Parliament building from afar.

Presidential Palace

The African Renaissance Monument was dedicated in 2010. It’s a towering copper statue located on top of one of the twin hills Collines des Mamelles, just outside the capital. The statue was built overlooking the Atlantic Ocean with its gaze upon the Statue of Liberty.

Father, Mother and Child. The father strong and protective, the mother submissive and sheltered.

The enormous object is 52 m (171 ft) high, making it the tallest monument on the continent. The statue was the idea of then President of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade. The piece was intended to celebrate the achievements and liberation of the African people.

However, it will likely be remembered for the corruption and unpopular alliances of the government that commissioned it.

Thousands of people protested against the failures of President Wade’s regime on the city’s streets before the unveiling. The monument has been described as an economic monster and a financial scandal when considering the financial conditions of Senegal.

Opponents of the statue noted that the endeavor cost the Senegalese government over $27 million despite a country-wide economic crisis. In addition to the exorbitant price tag, the statue received a great deal of criticism for being made with very little input from the African people.

Regardless of its controversy, I did my part and visited the area bringing tourism dollars.

After visiting the monument we continued to the city to the Museum of Theodore Monond. This Museum is relatively new and considered one of Senegal’s best museums.

Musée Théodor Modor

Its exhibitions delve into African art and culture with over 9,000 objects on display. It’s a very big museum which also talks about the history of the slave trade.

Musée Théodor Modor

We also went to some beaches and visited a typical African Market in the heart of Dakar.

That’s how refugees arrive in the Canary Islands if they survive – a 4 day trip on those boats

Flag of Senegal: Countryside, Gold and Blood from the Senegalese dying for the French – that’s the meaning behind the colors of the flag.

Eventually making our way to Our Lady of Victories Cathedral, this big majestic cathedral consecrated in 1936 is the hub of Catholicism in Senegal. Visits are quiet and peaceful, and local devotes can be seen lighting candles or seated in prayer or contemplation.

Cathedral of Dakar – Our Lady of Victories

We also visited the Dakar Grand Mosque, which is one of the most important religious buildings in the capital. We saw a bunch of statues and neighborhoods of the city in the morning, these are some of my impressions of Dakar.

Impressions of Dakar

Place des Tirailleurs Senegalese

Millenium Monument

Goree Island

That afternoon we took a ferry with the car for a quick excursion to Goree Island. The ferry took 30 minutes and it was actually quite full. The crossing was quite rough; however, there’s a really nice bay on the southern side of the island which makes for a safe harbor.

Goree is a small island 900 meters (3,000 ft) in length and 350 meters (1,150 ft) in width sheltered by the Cap-Vert Peninsula. It is the westernmost point of Africa and one of the 19 districts of Dakar; located 2 kilometers at sea from the main harbor of the city.

It is famous as a destination for people interested in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. Apparently, a lot of slaves were shipped to America from the island. Although the extent of its role in the history of the slave trade is still a controversial topic and sometimes even considered a myth.

We were going to Goree for some slave trade tourism, our tour guide had told us about the House of Slaves and its Door of No Return – a museum and memorial to the Atlantic slave trade on the island. The museum opened in 1962 and is said to memorialize the final exit point of the slaves from Africa.

The Door of no return… It is said that as many as 15 million enslaved men and women passed through this door, never to see their continent again.

In this museum, you can also walk through the cramped basement cells, where you can see shackles on the walls. There are displays of chains for the neck, ankles and feet; various tools used for punishments; and a 17-pound, cast-iron ball that was chained to any enslaved person suspected of daring an escape.

We also visited a local art gallery, it was really interesting. I wanted to buy some souvenirs, but it wasn’t very practical. All the offerings were made of sand. They used sand to take pictures of landscapes and such. Very beautiful and delicate work.

Modern day slavery

We drove through cobblestone alleys and colorful houses to the top island’s highest plateau, where there was a coastal gun battery placed there during the Second World War. The brits held this island against the French for quite a while, and a local story has it that the guns were used only once: to sink a British ship, mistaken for a German one.

There were a lot of vendors selling some art made out of recycled techs like old laptops and cellphones. These had some quotes on them like “we own you”. Really memorable stuff, I actually ended up buying a souvenir t-shirt with the African continent on it. I proceeded to weather it proudly as I continued my travels through the land.

After all the sightseeing, it was time to head back to the beach to have lunch on the way to the ferry. We stopped at a nice cafe, had a lovely lunch, all I really remember from this meal was a delicious ginger juice.

Side note: a nice thing about Senegal is that it is a French Colony, meaning they have really nice french food. And, even though I don’t speak french it was still pretty easy to get around with English alone.

Overall, Dakar left a really good impression on me. There is good infrastructure, fast internet everywhere and really kind people.

We took the boat back to the mainland and went back to the hotel to relax before dinner. We even got to enjoy the sunset overlooking the hotel’s infinity pool, which is perfectly set over the Atlantic. Not a terrible first day in Senegal.

Atlantic Sunset on Fire

Over the next few days, we would see more of Senegal and even cross borders briefly for a quick Gambian Stint. Stay tuned for that and more!