Yamoussoukro is one of the most bizarre modern cities on the planet. The capital of Cote d'Ivoire is a sprawling grid of paved streets, but few buildings line them. The former president Felix Houphouet-Boigny dreamt of creating a bustling capital, but his vision for “Yam” never came to fruition. Although the capital's reality is different from the leader's hopes, it is still worth a visit to explore its quiet streets. Visitors should use caution though, as recent conflicts have erupted throughout the capital and country.
A tall perimeter wall surrounds the Fondation Houphouet-Boigny, the palace where the former leader is now buried. Sacred crocodiles protect the lake on the southern side, and visitors can watch them being fed in the evenings.
The only other traditional tourist sight in the city is the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. The church is the world's largest Christian house of worship and the most important symbol of Houphouet-Boigny's legacy. Modeled after the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica, the church holds less worshippers but is structurally larger. Both the dome and the surface area are larger than its inspiration. Pope John Paul II insisted that a hospital be built on site, but the cornerstone he laid upon visiting still stands alone.
There is little to do in the capital, but there are plenty of restaurants that serve up some of the best cuisine in the whole continent. The French legacy of Yamoussoukro means that there are many European restaurants in the city, but there is also an abundance of eateries offering traditional cuisine. While in the city, be sure to indulge in coconut pit, a local favorite served with cocnut milk, steamed onions, tomatoes and ginger. You'll also find many menus offering kedjenou, a chicken dish, and attiéké, a meat dish made with boiled attiéké cereal with a healthy dose of vegetables and saffron.
Although Yamoussoukro is the official capital of Cote d'Ivoire, nearly all the cultural sights, government offices and amenities are located in Abidjan. The largest city in the country, Abidjan is located about three hours away from Yamoussoukro by car. Nicknamed the “Paris of West Africa,” the city is defined by high-rise buildings, chic shops and glitzy excess.
The dusty but interesting National Museum in Abidjan is home to a collection of over 20,000 artifacts. Artwork made of bronze shines next to ancient pottery, wooden statues stand proudly near traditional masks, and ivory tools and artwork stand out from the more mundane offerings.
The city also boasts the Musée Municipal d'Art Contemporain, the country's only contemporary art gallery. The thought-provoking collection highlights modern Ivorian artists and features exciting exhibitions by other African artists.
The bold Cathedral of St. Paul may be dwarfed by the basilica in Yamoussoukro, but the church is one of the most beautiful in all of Africa. The tower is a huge stylized effigy of the saint himself, and the nave sweeps behind him like a robe. The interior is rich and warm thanks to the light that streams through the stained-glass windows.
Yamoussoukro Geographical Location
Yamoussoukro is located in southern central Cote d’Ivoire and is the fourth most populated city in the country.
The population of Yamoussoukro is approximately 201,000.
French is the official language of Cote d’Ivoire with 60 native dialects spoken throughout the country.
Yamoussoukro Predominant Religion
12% Indigenous Beliefs
The majority of migratory workers are Muslim.
The West African CFA Franc is the official currency of Cote d’Ivoire.
It is usually hot in Yamoussoukro with very little rainfall throughout the year.
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