Fadiouth – A Unique Island Made Almost Entirely of Clam Shells

Joal-Fadiouth is a small fishing village located at the far end of Petite Côte – a stretch of coast in Senegal. Joal is situated on the mainland and Fadiouth is an island just off the coast.  A narrow, 400-meter wooden bridge links the two areas. Fadiouth is special – it is almost entirely covered with clam shells.

For centuries, the inhabitants of Fadiouth have been harvesting molluscs. They scoop out the meat and use the shells to construct almost everything, even the island itself. The millions of seashells accumulated over the years have been held strong by the roots of mangroves, reeds and giant baobabs. Empty shells litter the streets; you can hardly step anywhere on Fadiouth Island without hearing a cracking sound from under your feet.


Photo: Elena Skalovskaia

Shells are also seamlessly incorporated into the architecture of the island. One of the main attractions is the local cemetery – the walls and the graveyard are completely buried in shells. The landscape of shells stretches miles across, occasionally interrupted by a gravestone or a few trees.


Photo: Tmo Tikka

90 percent of Fadiouth’s 40,000 residents are Christian, a few are Muslims. The villagers pride themselves on a strong sense of religious harmony and this is the only cemetery in Senegal where both Christians and Muslims are buried. The origin of this unique island is unclear; we do not know exactly how humans came to inhabit the shell-island.


Photo: Juan Falque

The main sources of income of Joal-Fadiouth are fishing, agriculture and tourism. If you ever feel the need to feast your eyes on millions of sea shells, head straight for this sleepy little West African village.


Photo: Sabar-Elina


Photo: T.I.A – Cette c’st l’Afrique


Photo: T.I.A – Cette c’st l’Afrique

Sources: Amusing Planet, Atlas Obscura