my birth country where I have been raised until the age of 16 when I had to leave because of the civil war that lasted for 10 years and ended in 2012. 14 years have passed since the last time I was there. As the war ended I decided to go back to my roots.
I used to live in a small town in the centre of the country called Bouake. It was multi-cultural and people used to live in harmony. It felt like being part of a community where everyone knew each other. But that was then...Unfortunately, now because of the war, most of the people I have known left the country. But I still have some family who lives in the main city Abidjan, and that's where I stayed during my trip.
What was my first impression of being back there?
I was very surprised in a good way. We can see that the efforts are being made to regain the glory that the country used to have.
Foreign investors such as China, France, Morocco to cite a few launched many infrastructure projects such as building new roads and highways to facilitate the transit of goods and make the mad car traffic of Abidjan more fluid.
But also the main airport Felix Houphouet Boigny has been renovated and by the end of the year 2016 will welcome direct flights from North America. Finally, the famous Airbus A380 serves about 500 people three to four times a week direct from Paris to Abidjan with the company Air France. Abidjan is the second city in Africa after Johanesbourg to welcome the airbus A380.
New shopping malls are opening such as the French brand Carrefour.
In terms of connectivity, telecom companies offer the 3.5G internet speed and by the end of the year the 4G will be available.
The economy is on the good path to recovery and people are ready to invest as they believe in the potential of what the country can offer and the economic role that it plays within the West African region.
From a personal point of view, being back there kind of re-activated all of my senses!
No words can describe that feeling that your memory gives you once the food from your childhood hits your tastebuds. It is an explosion of sensations that makes you feel so great.
Abidjan atmosphere is very specific. The weather is very humid and hot. you can smell the different flavours from one district to another, some good such as the smell coming out from the Solibra beer factory, or coffee factory, or again from the fresh fruits and vegetable stands of the main markets.
Everywhere you look at you will see a street scene that is very uncommon in occidental countries. Being back there after so many years made me discover the country from another perspective and with a new eye. Also, the landscapes from one region to another are just amazing to look at.
If you are not used to the noise in the main city, be ready. Abidjan traffic jam is just crazy, cars horn every 5 seconds. Driving there requires a lot of patience and coolness.
One good thing to know is that Ivorian people are very alive and friendly. They love to sing and dance and many djs and artists come up with new dances and songs according to the news happening in the country, either to joke about it, or as a sign of protest, or just to give hope to the population in time of crisis.
Some artists have even managed to export their talent abroad such as Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly (Reggae singer), Douk Saga (coupe decale) or DJ Arafat who won many Kora music awards, a music award given annually for musical achievement in sub-saharan Africa. The music industry works very well in Cote d'Ivoire.
One thing I really enjoy is to eat the food with my fingers. Some might find it odd, but it actually requires some skills and somehow is more enjoyable. But that's my personal opinion!
It is funny how our senses stimulate some areas of our brain to bring back memories we totally forgot about. ( One great movie that explained it very well is Inside Out from Pixar) This trip was a great opportunity to go back down memory lane.
Overall, it felt more than great to be back to my roots. Living almost half of my life away from it has changed me and this part of my personality kind of faded away in order to fit in any new environments I would need to live in.
I believe it provided me as well with a lot of answers from questions I was wondering. As this quote says "you can't know where you are going until you know where you have been". I now feel "complete" again and will plan to go back at least once a year to resource myself and make you discover all the beautiful places that the medias do not show you on TV!
So stay tuned for my next blog posts as I will make you travel from your screen to the beautiful places Cote d'Ivoire aka Ivory Coast has to offer.