After Dakar and its Goréé Island, there was time for a car ride – some 300 km (200 miles) – to Saint Louis, in the north-west corner of Senegal, close to the Mauritanian border. After struggling with heavy traffic jams leaving Dakar, the ride was very pleasant on a nicely paved road through a Sahel landscape, the more or less desertic band that separates Sahara from the savanna. At the end we approached the famous Faidherbe Bridge.
Saint Louis was established in 1659 by French traders. It was the capital of Senegal and later of French West Africa (present Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Fasso, Benin, Niger) until 1902, when Dakar took over. Slave trade was quite important until its early 19th century abolition. As on the Gorée Island, it had a community of Franco-African Creole or Métis community, including the so called “signares”, women entrepreneurs.
The original city was on the little island, separated from the mainland by the Faidherbe Bridge (from 1897 – recently rebuilt in its original shape). A second bridge leads to a narrow sand slip, the Langue de Barbarie.
The Island of Saint Louis has kept a lot of its original colonial architecture, more or less in good shape, with some old hotels and as everywhere in Senegal, a mixture of mosques, a cathedral… From the western side of the Island, you can watch the urbanized part of the Langue de Barbarie.
Once crossing the little bridge to the Langue de Barbarie, completely overcrowded and mainly dedicated to fishing industry, it’s amazing to watch the hundred of pirogues landing fish and the hundreds of trucks waiting to be loaded, fish being cleaned and smoked….