Howdy all. Yes today I am looking at destination: Burkina Faso and all the wonders it may or may not contain for the prospective visitor. Last week I wrote a piece on essential tips for travelling there, so today I wanted to give a perspective of the traveller, what you could get up to in this often forgotten land-locked West African nation.
So I will start by saying that – as I mentioned last time – you will need to really keep your ear to the ground in regards to the security situation. I’m not sure how open Burkina Faso is right now for the traveller, but for sure few people are visiting what with the security/terrorism issues and of course the effects of the pandemic. Burkina Faso since around 2016 has seen a number of deadly attacks in various spots and so until they have a couple of years clear of constant terrorist activity, I would seriously reconsider the need to travel there.
However, perhaps some day this piece will be useful to someone, and certainly I can find myself interested to find out what a place contains that I have no intention of visiting. So, keeping all that in mind, let’s see what Burkina Faso offers the visitor!
Ouagadougou, the capital with the coolest name in the world
Look, half the pleasure of visiting Burkina’s capital is saying you’ve been to a place called ‘Ouagadougou’, isn’t it? I remember when I heard of it and the name was enough to pique my curiosity indeed.
It’s a dry and dusty place, when I was there in 2006 and 2007 the city had huge parts of it that seemed to have had buildings demolished en masse. It’s not a city of tall buildings, but my experience in it, despite being there with malaria at one point, and in 40 degree temperatures, was overwhelmingly positive. It does lack a little in decent affordable accommodation, a common issue in a lot of West Africa.
However, it does have some very interesting buildings and monuments dotted around the place which must have been created in the 1970s because they smack of modernism and are perhaps even a little psychedelic.
I remember eating regularly at a Lebanese restaurant with a wide selection of things on the menu, but the pizzas were pretty special. Opposite at night this giant windmill would light up in homage to the Moulin Rouge in Paris. The Grand Mosque is a feature, although it isn’t so east to get inside. The fact that you are in this dusty place in the middle of the Western hump of Africa is special in itself.
Also – I don’t know how accessible it is but I was able to explore the ‘Maison de Peuple’ a modernist building which is also known as the Maison d’Art – it looks a place for speeches and lectures.
People are a highlight. From the wonderful doctor who looked after me, to those I met including a group of students who were looking to take a photo with a foreigner, and also actually met a lovely American couple who when I was sick and by myself came and visited, I have never forgotten the kindness. Also, I watched the final of the African Cup of Nations in a bar which was a great experience, and had a few beers in different watering holes around Ouagadougou with interesting travellers and interesting locals. I really liked the place despite not being able to list any ‘must-see’ sights. There are a few small museums about the town, I regret that I didn’t try any of them out, especially the museum of music.
Just when you thought the names couldn’t get any cooler, there is Bobo-Diolosso! A few hours from Ouagadougou, it’s a nice enough place, in fact another great city. In some ways it seemed more structured than Ouagadougou, and I wish I could remember the name of the hotel there because it was quite decent. Small room but clean and cheap.
The Grand Mosque is the key sight there, it’s not, I think, made from mudbrick like the more famous one in Djenne, Mali, however it is in a similar very iconic style. There was an interesting museum too, cultural museum I think, where they showcased village life. A couple of decent places to eat as well in Bobo. It’s regarded as Burkina Faso’s ‘second city’.
So Banfora I remember for being the place where I got malaria, well it’s where I first got the symptoms. But it’s an interesting place for sure, I attended a drum performance which was great, drank at a beautiful outdoor bar with lots of coloured lights. I took a little tour to the surrounding area. The Boab trees are just amazing. Also, saw some incredible termite mounds and a factory where they distilled rum I think it was. The hospital there I recommend less.
This is another dusty town – let’s be honest every town in Burkina Faso is dusty and dry – and was the gateway to the Dogon country in Mali for me. I can’t speak much about it as I just overnighted, but it was bigger than I expected even if most roads were not sealed. Stayed in a nice place, very simple room but very friendly place. Not bad for an overnight stop but I’m sure there’s more to it.
All in all, this is about my summary of what I saw in Burkina Faso. It seems very short, however it’s a country to experience rather than to spend all your time doing sight-seeing, and the people there are friendly and fun. Before I conclude this post, as I said last time make sure you are aware of the security situation as both Al Qaeda and Islamic State have taken responsibility for terrorist attacks over the last few years and well, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation you might not be able to get out of, so I wouldn’t recommend going until things are much safer, which I guess is going take a few years.
If things do become safe though, you’ll find this one of the more interesting and special countries in West Africa. Thanks for reading, take care, and May the Journey Never End!