The ground of Joal-Fadiouth, in the Sine-Saloum Delta, incorporates small clamshells into its streets, houses, and the island's cemetery.

By Melanie Lieberman
February 04, 2016

To locals, the West African village at the farthest end of Petite Cote, Senegal, is known as Joal-Fadiouth. The world, however, knows it best as Shell Island: a spot made up almost entirely of clamshells. Follow GLP Films to this incredible, man-made destination, created over three centuries as people harvested mollusks and discarded the shells off the mainland. A narrow wooden bridge now connects the island, in the middle of the Sine-Saloum Delta, to the mainland. Here, everything, including the streets, houses, and the island’s cemetery, incorporates the small seashells. Only the roots of the mangroves and the baobab trees hold the island and its millions of shells together during floods.

Fadiouth is perhaps as famous for its harmonious people as it is for its extraordinary composition: Muslims and Christians live together peacefully here, oftentimes in the same family. The two religions work together to celebrate weddings and burials, to erect churches and mosques. Graves of all religions can be found on Shell Island, which has attracted interest for both its sustainability as well as its tolerance.