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Saint-Louis, A Venice Of West Africa

Saint-Louis is located in northwestern Senegal (state located in West Africa), and rises on the NDar island, located at the mouth of the Senegal River in the Atlantic Ocean. This city is the commercial and transportation center of the agricultural region from the north-west area of Senegal. It has a surface of only 128 km2 and 171,000 inhabitants, most of them Africans, but there is also a colony of Arabs.

Saint-Louis was, for two centuries, the most important colonial city in Africa, its oldest part being included in the UNESCO World Heritage. Although this part is registered in the world heritage, the conservation works failed to preserve intact the old buildings, the old walls getting to break down or deteriorate. Until now there has been returned a part of the merchant houses built in French colonial style, as well as the entrance with arches of the officers casino and the surroundings of the Faidherbe market. Saint-Louis is one of the oldest European colonies in Africa, inhabited without interruption, and was founded in the year 1659.

The place in which the city is located was explored since the mid fifteenth century by the Portuguese who were seeking a place to anchor their vessels at the mouth of the Senegal River. At the end of the seventeenth century, the French opened a factory in this region, Saint-Louis becoming the most important French colonial city in West Africa with an important role as administrative and economic center in the region.

The name of the city was established in the honor of the French King, Louis (Ludovic) XIII. Initially, the city was built after the plan of a chessboard but after the end of the eighteenth century began to develop thanks to the slave trade that was flourishing at that time. At the same time, in the area also began the exploitation of rich natural resources from the inland, as well as the trade with spices and wood, which were transported on the Senegal River to the port, then continuing on the road to France. Starting with 1854, year in which the General Governor of France, Louis-Leon-Caesar Faidherbe moved to Saint-Louis, Senegal began transforming after the model of France, Faidherbes ambition being to is to copy the French model of that era. In that era was built the railroad to Dakar but after, the city Saint-Louis was left in the shadow of Dakar, even though it remained the capital of Senegal and Mauritania until 1958.

The climate of that zone is equatorial, having an annual average temperature quite high, around 24 degrees, a favorable climate to practice coastal tourism almost the whole year. The official spoken language is French, but there are spoken other Negro-African languages too, such as Wolof. The French governor from the nineteenth-century, Louis-Leon-Caesar Faidherbe, also knew very well this language. The predominant religion is the city is Islam, at a rate of over 90%.

Saint-Louis is a city that is still developing, therefore the work for preserving the buildings at the entrance of UNESCO World Heritage advance quite hard due to lack of funds. The city's economic development was marked by the construction of luxury hotels in the 90s, followed by infrastructure development which dates from the colonial era.

The citys population is a mix between the old French colonists and the influences of Arab colonists who came later from Mauritania, as well as local mulattos. In present, the economy is based on the tourist services that are offered, as well as on the industry (textile, leather goods, food processing that focuses on the ocean fish) and port activities (fish transportation and trade with other countries).

The bridge built over the Senegal River, which is the natural border between Senegal and Mauritania, was designed by the same man who designed the Eiffel tower in Paris, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. This bridge and the buildings from the old neighborhood of the town are one of the main attractions of the tourists which choose to visit this city.

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