Shell island of Joal Fadiouth / Senegal

It is called a “seashell island” and inhabited mainly by Christians in a country of which 90% of the population profess to be Muslim. It is also the birthplace of Léopold Sédar Senghor – the famous poet and first African elected as a member of the French Academy and was the first president of Senegal.

 

Joal Fadiouth 

 

Joal Fadiouth, is a town, actually two twin towns, situated two hours south of Dakar. Joal is a peninsula where you will see Léopold Senghor’s family house, while Fadiouth is an island, connected to Joal by a long wooden bridge. Interestingly, shells are the main building material of Fadiouth. They are used to construct both houses and streets. Without a doubt, Fadiouth is much more popular among tourists than Joal. Because of its geographical location and daily tides, the water level rises in the morning and falls in the afternoon. As a result of the low sea level, every afternoon women collect mussels, oysters and various shells. Shells collected in this way are sold and used to build houses and streets.

 

 

After reaching Joal, we went with a guide towards Fadiouth. The road led across the bridge.

 

 

When we arrived at the island, my attention was immediately drawnto numerous Christian symbols: a statue of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, a cross, shrines, and a group of pigs marching freely (in the Muslim religion, consumptionof pork is prohibited and considered an “unclean” meat). At once I could see that this was a Christian community, and more specifically Catholic. As it was Sunday, we could hear joyful religious songs in the Serer language – one of the dialects of Senegal. We were able to participate in a holy mass and listened to these famous songs live. The Fadiouth Holy Mass is renowned throughout Senegal as being full of life and positive energy. So, I recommend you go to Fadiouth on Sunday to experience this energetic African spirit. For those who are interested, the Holy Mass is held at 9.30 am.

 

 

After the mass, we went to visit the island. The streets were really charming. Colourful house doors and shutters contrasted beautifully with the shell streets. On the way we passed baskets of dried fish and women selling vegetables and fruits.

 

 

First and foremost, Joal Fadiouth is a symbol and example of great religious tolerance. Here, Catholics and Muslims live in harmony, as indeed in the whole country. However, in Joal Fadiouth it is especially evident. Here you will find both a Catholic church and a mosque close by, so that everyone can practice their faith freely. Also, next to Fadiouth, there is another shell island where a famous cemetery is located, where both Muslims and Christians are buried. It is worth going there to be able to see the beautiful panorama of Fadiouth and the surrounding area. Fromthe cemetery you are able to see lush nature, a mangrove forest and wooden granaries on stilts in the water. The view is justst unningly beautiful! Right at the foot of the cemetery you can rent a pirogue and go on a cruise around Joal.

 

 

Fadial

 

After visiting Joal Fadiouth we headed for Fadial, which is located nearby, to see the famous Saint Baoab – the largest tree of Senegal – some local people say the largest in all of Africa!(but I cannot confirm this information). This tree is famous for its giant trunk, which can be accessed through a small hole. After entering it,do not be surprised by the bats and a very specific smell! As soon as I went in, I turned around and left immediately. I recommend entering the tree only for people with strong nerves.

 

 

Palmarin

 

The last point of our visit was the coastal village of Palmarin, located 40 minutes from Joal in the Sine Saloum region. An asphalt road crosses the bay, over which thousands of birds rise, while surrounded by the lush nature and wooden granaries in the water. What a view! We stopped there in an ecological lodge area called Les Collines de Niassam. There, we savoured delicious cuisine and enjoyed a wonderful view of the mangrove forest. I highly recommend visiting itif you are in the area!

 

 

This is the end for now. See you again soon!

 

 

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