Saint-Louis, or Ndar as it is called in Wolof, is the capital of Senegals Saint-Louis Region. Located in the northwest of Senegal, near the mouth of the Senegal River, Saint-Louis was the capital of the French colony of Senegal from 1673 until 1902 and French West Africa from 1895 until 1902, when the capital was moved to Dakar. From 1920 to 1957 it also served as the capital of the colony of Mauritania. The heart of the old city is located on a narrow island in the Senegal River,25 km from its mouth. At this point the river is separated from the Atlantic Ocean to the west by a sand spit, the Langue de Barbarie. Yet a third part of the city, Sor, lies on the mainland and is nearly surrounded by tidal marshes. Saint-Louis is situated on the Mauritanian border, though the crossing is at Rosso,100 km upstream. Three characteristics give Saint-Louis its distinctive appearance, the Sahel, the marshes. The marshes are flood basins that form during the season when the river overflows into the countryside, creating ponds and stretches of mangroves that attract birds like flamingos. The Langue de Barbarie, a 600 km long stretch of sand from Nouadhibou in Mauritania to Saint-Louis and its vegetation mainly consists of Filao trees, propagated to prevent soil erosion in sandy and salty soils. A2011 documentary described Saint-Louis as the African city most threatened by rising sea levels, Saint-Louis was established in 1659 by French traders on an uninhabited island called Ndar. It was baptized Saint-Louis-du-Fort in homage to the former French king Louis IX and it was the first permanent French settlement in Senegal. The fortified factory commanded trade along the Senegal River, slaves, hides, beeswax, ambergris and, later, gum arabic were exported. During the Seven Years War, in 1758 British forces captured Senegal, in February 1779, French forces recaptured Saint-Louis. In the late 18th century, Saint Louis had about 5,000 inhabitants, Saint-Louis became the leading urban centre in sub-Saharan Africa”. Between 1659 and 1779, nine chartered companies succeeded one another in administering Saint-Louis, as in Gorée, a Franco-African Creole, or Métis, merchant community characterized by the famous signares, or bourgeois women entrepreneurs, grew up in Saint-Louis during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Métis were important to the economic, social, cultural and political life of the city and they created a distinctive urban culture characterized by public displays of elegance, refined entertainment and popular festivities. They controlled most of the river trade and they financed the principal Catholic institutions
Colonial buildings lining the island of Saint-Louis
Langue de Barbarie
French view of the fort at Saint-Louis island, from "L'Afrique ou histoire, moeurs, usages et coutumes des Africains", by René Claude Geoffroy de Villeneuve, 1814.
Colonial Saint Louis c. 1900. Europeans and Africans on the Rue Lebon.