Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tour d'Abidjan

Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire

As I mentioned in a previous post, Abidjan is not a walker-friendly city, due to lack of sidewalks, abundance of traffic, and general sprawl, so it has been a little slow going for me to get my bearings. However, a lovely coworker of mine took me for a driving tour a few weekends ago, and introduced me to parts of the city that I had not previously seen. He also proved to be a knowledgeable tour guide, AND also speaks great English, since he went to University in New York. Win win win. 

So, although Abidjan is no longer the official capital of Cote D’Ivoire, it’s still the capital for every practical purpose, mainly because the “real” capital, Yamoussoukro, is still a bit disconnected due to delays in highway construction. (The whole Yamoussoukro story is interesting, but I’ll save that for later.)
There’s actually a funny story to how Abidjan supposedly got its name. Which, full disclosure, I read on Wikipedia, so who knows how true it is. 

“Legend states that an old man carrying branches to repair the roof of his house met a European explorer who asked him the name of the nearest village. The old man did not speak the language of the explorer, and thought that he was being asked to justify his presence in that place. Terrified by this unexpected meeting, he fled shouting "min-chan m'bidjan", which means in the Ébrié language: "I just cut the leaves." The explorer, thinking that his question had been answered, recorded the name of the locale as Abidjan.”

As far as African capitals go, all-in-all, Abidjan is probably the most “modern” looking one that I have lived in. There are parts of Accra that are very new, but I think on the whole, Abidjan is a few steps ahead. But of course, that could just be the wide availability of croissants and pain au chocolat speaking for me. Ghanaians have something against bread, which I never quite understood…

Anyway, according to my coworker/guide, Abidjan had a lot of momentum in the 70’s, and since then, things have been slugging. Mainly because of years of unrest and civil conflict, but what can ya do? Now, however, things seem to be calm and quiet, and hopefully it will stay that way. 

The city itself is laid out in a North/South division, separated by the Ébrié Lagoon. There are currently two bridges that connect the North and South, with a third currently under construction. I live in Cocody, which is sort of on the North-East side of the city, which is also where the Heartland office is. I actually haven’t even seen the ocean yet, but I’ve heard it's overcrowded with luxury beach resorts.

Here are some shots I took during my tour…


View driving across the lagoon, into the main downtown area of the city, called Plateau.

View of Plateau from the North-east-ish side of the city, called Cocody, which is where I live. 

The pool at the famous Hotel Ivoire. 

Downtown Plateau.


View of one bridge, from the other bridge.

 Can't believe how fast my time here is going! One month down, one more to go! And everything with work is going well. I just got back to Abidjan from a 10 day trek through the interior of the country, visiting current and potential local partner organizations. Stay tuned for the update!

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