Senegal's century-old colonial bridge gets makeover

The Faidherbe bridge, a century-old emblem of Senegal's former colonial riverside capital Saint-Louis, is being fully restored after threatening to collapse into the Senegal River.

Its seven majestic arches once again firmly straddle the river, providing a key link between the mainland and the island city which was founded in 1659 and became the first French settlement in sub-Saharan Africa.

The bridge, which measures 511 metres long and just over six metres wide (1,676 feet long and 20 feet wide) carries up to 22,000 vehicles and 80,000 people daily back and forth from Saint-Louis, the capital of the colony until independence in 1960 which has been declared a world heritage site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"Saint-Louis doesn't exist without its bridge, which is its emblem and its jewel. This restoration marks a second life for the town," Mayor Cheikh Bamba Dieye told AFP.

Barges carrying materials ply their way to and fro as workers put the finishing touches on the renovated bridge, nearly three years after work began in November 2008.

"We are busy finishing the rehabilitation of the bridge which had become very old and was at risk of collapse," said Mor Gueye Gaye, the engineer supervising work on the structure.

The bridge was named after the former French governor of Senegal, Louis Faidherbe, and inaugurated on October 19, 1897, making military interventions and traffic to the mainland a lot simpler.

"There would be attacks against the colony's positions and Moor raids to find slaves, but the garrisons were situated on the island of Saint Louis and the Langue de Barbarie," a strip of earth between the sea and the Senegal River, said Fatima Fall, director of the Senegal Research and Documentation Centre.

This meant it could take a while for soldiers to respond to attack.

"The Spahis (mounted) regiment couldn't cross the river in less than two hours which was bothersome in case of attack," historian Abdoul Haidir Aidara writes in a book on the town.

In 1893, the French company Nouguier, Kessler et Cie won a bid to build the metal bridge at a cost of 2.2 million francs, a staggering sum at the time, according to historian Guy Thilmans, writing in a book on Saint-Louis' bridges.

At the inauguration, one of the leaders of the colony of Senegal, Louis D'Erneville, said the bridge was built "exclusively from the local budget" which came mostly from taxes paid by the indigenous population.

The history of the bridge has been veiled in mystery and what Thilmans refers to as "inaccurate tales" about its origin.

These include it being "designed by Gustave Eiffel; initially built for the Danube or even the Mekong; destined for Austria who didn't like it and sent it to Senegal."

Over 100 years later the bridge is being renovated for nearly 27.5 million euros ($40 million) financed by the French Development Agency and Senegalese government.

The seven spans of the bridge have been entirely replaced with new versions built in France. One of the spans rotates, which will again allow boats to pass through after years of being blocked after the old system broke down.

"The new bridge, whose pedestrian walkways are built of Azobe wood, will last 100 years," said Gaye, referring to a tropical African hardwood.

Watching the building work with admiration, Saint-Louis citizen Mamadou Lamine Bara Thiam, in his sixties says: "Everyone is happy with the restoration of the bridge, which is the symbol of Saint-Louis."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition