Traditional beliefs, juju priests and Africa’s “New York”This former French colony, also known as “Côte d’Ivoire” was once the economic miracle of Africa and a role model for stability of the continent, however a string of coups and popular insurgencies did shake the country during the last years. Fortunately the country is regaining its traditional peaceful atmosphere and tourism is coming back.
Despite sharing most of its neighbours natural division –dry North and humid South-, Ivory Coast’s western region is covered by a astonishing mountain range covered by tropical woods and inhabited by the Dan tribe. This area, together with Park National de Taï’s vast patch of rainforest, is a paradise for trekkers and birdwatchers.
Abidjan, also known as ‘the African New York’ due to its frontline of sky-scrapers, is surrounded by gorgeous beaches where the traveller can relax at the end of a trip.
Over 65 different ethnic groups can be found in Côte d’Ivoire and a 63% of the population maintains their traditional beliefs involving ancestral worship. Medicine men or juju priests dispense charms, tell fortunes and give advice on how to avoid danger and bless “grisgris”, necklaces of charms that ward off specific evils and magic keeps the bad spirits away.
10 REASONS TO VISIT IVORY COAST
- Some of the best “Masquerades” (traditional tribal dances with masks) continue to take place in Ivory Coast’s rural areas. One of the most impressive and colourful dances is the stilt dance of the Dan tribe
- The beautiful Taï National Park, 3,300 km² of primary rainforest, one of the last areas to be found in West Africa. Taï hosts the last surviving populations of pygmy hippopotamus, chimpanzees and leopards in this part of Africa for which it was recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and added to the list of Natural World Heritage Sites in 1982.
- Ivory Coast’s South-eastern coast combines beautiful unspoilt beaches with interesting colonial towns. One of the most famous French colonial constructions can be observed in Grand Bassam, founded in 1840.
- The “Senufo country” is a nation within a nation. Visiting Ivory Coast’s northern region means discovering the Senufo or Senoufo people with its animist tradition, ancient musical rhythms and wonderful metal and wood art work.
- Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast’s political capital, in the Centre, is famous for its basilica “Our lady of Peace”, an astonishing replica of Rome’s St Peter’s.
- Those architecture lovers will find spectacular mud constructions such as the mosques of Kong and Kawara in Ivory Coast’s dry North.
- After many years of uncontrolled poaching, Comoé National Park’s fauna is coming back with strength since it was declared a World Heritage Site. The Park comprises one of the largest protected areas in West Africa and it’s a wonderful place to observe elephants, lions and herds of hippos.
- North of Comoé National Park one of West Africa’s most traditional ethnic groups, the Lobi. This people combine their hunting activities with their millet fields and live in isolated fortress-like mud houses know as “sukalas”.
- Western Ivory Coast, combines ethnic and natural attractions. Around the region’s capital Man, the traveller can visit traditional villages, hike around the mountains and cross the spectacular hanging bridges.
- Abidjan used to be Ivory Coast’s capital, but since 1983, Yamoussoukro is the nation’s capital. Nevertheless most government offices and foreign embassies are still in Abidjan. Sights in Abidjan include the Cocody Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Park du Banco rainforest reserve. Le Plateau is known for its skyscrapers, unusual in West Africa.