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Senegal's former slave island Goree to reopen to visitors


Agence France-Presse

Dakar, Senegal  /  Sat, October 10, 2020  /  07:08 am
Senegal's former slave island Goree to reopen to visitors

US President Barack Obama looks out from the Door of No Return while touring the House of Slaves, or Maison des Esclaves, at Goree Island off the coast of Dakar on June 27, 2013. (AFP/Jim Watson)

Senegal's Goree island, a former slave-trading entrepot turned tourist attraction, will open on Saturday, a municipal official said, after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close for months.

Vistors, who usually throng the 28-hectare island during peak hours, will be able to return in smaller numbers and must wear facemasks. 

Lying offshore from Senegal's capital Dakar, Goree island was the largest slave-trading center on the African coast between the 15th and 19th century, according to the UN's cultural agency.

Now the island relies heavily on tourism, and it has suffered since the government shut it in March after the coronavirus pandemic reached Senegal.

Its roughly 2,000 inhabitants, many of whom work in the island's tourism industry, have only been allowed in and out on supply vessels.

"Everything was closed. We were operating at zero percent," said Mamadu Adama Diop, the chief of staff to Goree's mayor.

Read also: Costa Rica converts island prison into tourist attraction

Closing the island protected its inhabitants, however.

Diop said Goree's first coronavirus case was recorded in late August, and that the island now has a total of three cases. 

Goree will open gradually, receiving eight daily passenger ferries instead of the pre-pandemic 12, Diop said.

Visitors will also be required to wear facemasks, even when walking outside on the island. 

Senegal has so far been spared a large coronavirus outbreak. The West African nation of about 16 million people has registered over 15,000 cases to date, with 313 fatalities. 

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