Yamoussoukro, Cote D’Ivoire
Wow time is really getting away from me! I cannot believe I am leaving in a week. As much as I ALWAYS want to spend Christmas with my family, I do wish that I could have a little more time here, both for work and play.
A lot has happened in this past month, but I want to back up a little bit and talk about the trip I took last month through the interior of Cote d’Ivoire. And although we made three stops in route, the most interesting stop was Yamoussoukro.
Although Yamoussoukro is technically the administrative and political capital of the country, the government still operates out the colonial capital, Abidjan. (Which makes sense because it is the economic capital, the most populous city, has an international airport, and a working port…) However, the first President of Cote d’Ivoire, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, decided in the 1980’s that he wanted to move the capital to his birthplace (Yamoussoukro!) Let the ridiculous construction begin!
I would very much like to see a picture of Yamoussoukro back before it was the capital, but after President Boigny made his decision, the entire city got a makeover. Large, multi-lane paved streets completely lit with streetlights, beautiful bridges over the moat-like river that surrounds the city—fun fact time—President Boigny, in order to.. I dunno, demonstrate power? Or deal with a pesky stray cat problem?..decided to add crocodiles to the moat that surrounds the city. But, the crocodiles bred (as animals tend to do) and became over-populated, and started attacking people, so they eventually had to build fence to protect people from the crocodiles. So much for that brilliant idea.
But back to the city—it’s a really nice place, as far as cities go, but it’s just a little weird, because no one lives there! Ok, I don’t mean no one, but in comparison to the number of inhabitants the city was intended for, it feels like a ghost town. Part of the reason for that is the fact that the government still has not moved, mostly because the major highway connecting Abidjan to Yamoussoukro is still not finished.
It’s actually a very bizarre experience travelling from Abidjan, because you are on this narrow, ill-lit ill-paved road for about four hours, and then the entire thing opens up into a six lane highway with streetlights every ten feet. It’s like a mirage, or entering Oz or something…
Anyway, another fun fact about Yamoussoukro, is that it is home to the largest Christian place of worship on Earth: The Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, consecrated by Pope John Paul II on 10 September 1990. This whopping $300 million dollar church surpassed the previous record holder, St. Peter’s Basilica, in square footage, but I do believe that St. Peter’s can hold more worshipers.
As a non-religious outsider with a very clear bias, I would think $300 million dollars could be put to much better use, but I will say that the church really is gorgeous. Beautiful stained glass all around, including a stunning piece inside the actual dome, and during the day everything is lit up nicely by that strong African sun.
|Stained glass in the dome|
|My colleague and I on the second level.|
|View of center pulpit from second level.|
|I love how the light shines on the pews!|
The only goofy thing I will note, is that the President commissioned a stained glass of himself and the architect worshipping at the feet of Christ with the other disciplines, to further ensure his legacy, and prove his devoutness, no doubt. Now, I’m not saying Christ was white, or anything else, but it’s certainly not common to see a black disciple in depictions. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take a picture, but I’m sure your imagination will suffice.
Looking forward to seeing everyone over the holidays! Much love!