Discovering the Slave House in Goree

Immerse yourself in history as you pass through the gates of Gorée's Maison des Esclaves, built in 1776 by the Dutch. 

In this emblematic site of the slave trade, the vibrations of the ghosts of the past are felt in every room, particularly in front of the "door of the voyage of no return", with its astonishing contrast between the darkness of the corridor and the brilliant blue of the ocean.

The "Maison des Esclaves" (Slave House), the latest slavery, whose cramped cells will give you a poignant idea of the living conditions of slaves.

This historic building is located on the island of Gorée. The current Maison des Esclaves dates back to 1776. It is located on the east side of the island, opposite the Musée de la Femme Henriette-Bathily.

Over the decades, the stories told by its former curator, Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye (October 15, 1922 - February 6, 2009) - one of Senegal's best-known figures, especially among tourists - have helped to make the Maison des Esclaves known the world over.

On the first floor are the cells (men, children, weighing room, girls, temporarily unfit). In the men's cells, each measuring 2.60 m by 2.60 m, up to 15 to 20 people were placed, seated with their backs against the wall, with chains around their necks and arms. They were released only once a day, to allow them to satisfy their needs, generally in this house, where they lived in an unbearably unhygienic state. 

The number of slaves in this small house varied between 150 and 200. In this house, father, mother and child were separated in different cells.

The father, for example, could go to Louisiana in the United States, the mother to Brazil or Cuba, and the child to Haiti or the West Indies. 

They left Goree under matricule numbers and never under their African names.

A luminous opening opens in the middle of the central corridor. Overlooking the rocky coastline, this is the gateway to the "voyage of no return", where slaves embarked for a life of suffering in the New World.

Many slaves died at sea, surrounded by armed guards in case they tried to escape.

A wide, double-arched staircase leads up to the first floor, now mainly used as a showroom.

A place of pilgrimage and remembrance dedicated to the slave trade, the Maison des Esclaves has been visited by Pope John Paul II, US President Barack Obama and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.

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