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Burkina Faso - Bani - mosque

2023:

 

"Burkina Faso is certainly not for beginners, and even experienced travelers will have to think hard before going, though I don't want to discourage anyone.

 

The visa is a doddle – I got it very quickly. I needed only two documents – yellow fever vaccination and the completed data sheet – and a photo, and I had to pay a fee of about 120 dollars.

I flew there, transferring to Brussels.

 

I generally travel together with my boyfriend. We tend to move around within the city because it is 'dangerous' outside it. So far, apart from the seedy, littered, dusty streets, I have seen Sabou, where there is a lake containing crocodiles, and the Music Museum here in the capital. (We will still visit a sculpture park and maybe a lake where hippos live, as well as the airport – still under construction – and the National Museum.)

 

The average local is relatively poor, wearing dirty, sometimes torn clothes. There are also beggars, unfortunately... However, there is a social stratum with wealth, and they live in huge, beautiful houses.

 

There are plenty of street vendors. They sell everything: food, drink, furniture, car tires, clothes, telephone, etc. Many people come to offer their goods, but if you say no thank you, they leave you alone (unlike in the Turkish bazaar where they tear your clothes off trying to drag you into their shop!). Children beg at red lights, and, indeed, they won't take no for an answer.

Here, the women carry the goods on their heads and even cycle like that!

 

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You should know that I came with a Swiss passport – this is important because of the following story, not because it makes me more memorable. I came here to visit a friend, with whom I took pilot training in Miami (this is also important).

 

Today is Sunday; I told my friend to stay home and have a Maria-free day finally.

I thought I'd go out of the hotel for a walk. So I sent Yvon a WhatsApp message that I was going for a walk and in which direction.

And now comes the point!

 

After walking for an hour, I was getting back to the hotel when an armed policeman turned up on a motorcycle. He took my phone out of my hand because I was taking pictures on the street, specifically of a vegetable seller. I asked if I could photograph his portrait, and he answered 'oui.' TOuiake sure there was no problem, I showed him the photo.

 

So then the policeman set off with my phone. I rode after him. He only asked why I took pictures... Finally, he went to the airport with my phone. In Ouagadougou, the airport is in the city's center, and my hotel is a two-minute walk from the airport. After a short wait, another policeman and two others came, then they left again with my phone. They went into the airport from the arrivals side and went into an office, where several people in police uniforms and civilian clothes were sitting around scratching themselves, bare feet on chairs, and cockroaches running up and down, accompanied by at least three other types of creepy crawly.

 

I don't speak French, but thanks to my Spanish, I understand a very little. Well, they don't speak English. So, after a while they finally returned my phone to unlock it because they wanted to see the photos. How romantic it was! Together we looked at the vegetables, the crocodiles, the Kuwaiti pictures taken in December, etc., among the cockroaches. That's when I could send a quick text message to my friend for help because the security guards in boxer shorts were watching football (during working hours) and paying me no attention. Then the big boss came – or I think he was because he had a separate office and a computer (maybe I'm cynical...). Then they figured out that I should go with him. He spoke some English. He told me to call my friend. I was finally able to talk to Yvon; she said she was on her way. Then I sat there... After sitting for some time, it was back to the cockroach-ridden office. I sat there too... Then back again to the boss's (comparatively) less cockroach-ridden office. By then, my friend was already there, and since she was a pilot for Air Burkina, she had a card to enter the airport. Well, that's when the real trouble started, because it turned out that I was a national security threat to the country because I photographed vegetables AND!!!!!! I was with two men who were riding motorbikes!!!!!!

 

My friend Yvon has a friend – I also know him – who has worked for a Swiss organization in Ouagadougou for 25 years. (DEZA -Direktion für Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit, i.e., Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency – maybe I would translate it this way). So this friend, Pascal, called the female consul, another friend of Yvon's, a retired policewoman. They couldn't decide whether to expel or punish me from the country. Because of the photos of the vegetables! And because I was with two local bikers. Oh, and there's one more thing I almost forgot.

 

The 3.5-hour tug of war to delete all photos from my phone, at last, came to an end. I didn't do it, but I pressed the (settings) button in front of my friend and pretended to erase them. (I forwarded them to an e-mail address that does not have an application on my phone, then I deleted the street photos, along with the vegetable photos, in case they continue to be interested in my phone when I leave...). Then my friend, in front of the giant Mr. Officier, began to apologize profusely until it didn't seem we could apologize anymore, but of course, we did... And we walked out of the office, through arrivals, through passport control, through all checks, without any inspection or anyone even speaking to us… She kept repeating how much trouble I had gotten her into and how she would never get out of this. Please, I said, I photographed vegetables! She added that this is not Europe; there are no laws here! 'They will invent something about me, that I sold drugs, and they will shut me down! They will believe them. And as you saw, there were no witnesses, either with the first policeman or the 'boss.'

 

Here's some good advice with no advertising flam. If someone absolutely wishes to visit Burkina Faso, do so only and exclusively with a travel agency! One or two British travel agencies organize trips, even to such remote places. (Native Eyes, Responsible Travel). I wish you safe travels, but I think you should consider choosing another destination. There is NOTHING to see here, and what there is (UNESCO WHS) is in the red zone, where even the locals don't dare go."

(Maria L. 2023)

 



We pass through the nearby town of Banfora – how many bikes! I've never seen so many. We even see one get hit by a car, but the cyclist carries on without apparent injury. We cross the Ouagadougou-Abidjan railway a couple of times. It only runs three times a week, and you can see that the locals know roughly when it's expected and when they don't need to look before crossing. The market runs the whole length of the town.

Terrible news awaits us in the hippo-spotting paradise of Tengrela – a few months earlier, a boat capsized, and its passengers drowned. Now it's only permitted to boat on the lake if you're wearing a life jacket, and the life jackets haven't arrived yet. A big disappointment: it's our fate not to spot a hippo.

Solo (our host and eventual tour guide) is unworried. He shows us some tame crocodiles, and we take pictures with them. He is also informed of where the hippos will be and take us there. Our hunt ends, and we spend about half an hour watching a five-member hippo family wallowing, bellowing, and playing with their three offspring. (2017)


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, Burkina Faso is otherwise known as the land of the honest or perhaps incorruptible men. Interestingly, no mention is made of the women, but doubtless, they resist corruptibility as stringently. In my experience, people seem very honest in their day-to-day lives, but I'm saying nothing about politicians and petty officials.

Staying at the Royal Beach Hotel in Ouagadougou probably contributed to my confusion. I sat on the beach for ages waiting for the tide to come in but no sign of the sea. It was only latterly that It found out that the sea was about five hundred miles away. Any sign of surf should ring alarm bells.

The lingua franca, aptly enough, is French. There are many other languages in the country as it is yet another one of those artificial entities brought about by colonialism, in this case, by the French. The French did and did screw it and never say please or thank you.

If you want to try and say something tries a little of the Mòoré language, "Yam Kibaré?" (How are you?) And your response: “Laafi Bala, La Yamba?” (I am fine, and you?). There you go, everything you need to converse with the locals. Start by trying to say the name of the capital city Ouagadougou; it's easier than you think. The secret is an open mouth. The secret of an open mouth is beer, which the locals drindriftednkme people suggsuggesteting people by saying Jambo. Now I think this is Swahili, a language from the other side of the continent. So I tried, and it got a good response but no better than saying Manchester United.

The country is dominated by the Mossi ethnic group, a tribe of brilliant horsemen (which may account for the profusion of betting shops. The Mossi repelled slave raiders and other rivals and remained intact for 400 years until their kingdom fell to the French. The French brought "civilization" via the barrel of a gun.

Burkina Faso is relatively green in the south. Still, much of the country is arid, not helped by the march of the Sahara to the south, droughts, plagues of locusts, the usual biblical stuff, global warming, and such attributes that make Greta Thunberg tear out her hair, too, if I had any.

Conclusions

It's exciting if the somewhat high-maintenance place to visit, and who knows how long you can do it. You probably need to be adventurous if you want to visit. If you do, use organized safaris, and don't wander too far off the beaten track. Enjoy; the elephants are cool. "(Alan Durant, 2020)




Practicals

Transport

“In the country, they mainly ride bicycles and motorcycles. A special lane is reserved for them on the main roads in the capital. Traffic rules exist, but no one follows them; they go where they please. The condition of the roads is typically very bad – there are few asphalt roads and even fewer of good quality. The Swiss and Japanese built some roads. Because the drought is very severe, there’s a lot of dust. Green plants are also dust-covered and don’t look lush or pretty.” (Maria l. 2023)


Burkina Faso - cow cart

Burkina Faso - bush taxi (taxi brousse) - breakdowns are very common - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - traffic - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - taxis - k.a. photo

Accomodation

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Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - Hotel Sopatel Silmandé

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - the 3-star Hotel L'Auberge - k.a. photo

Food

 

“Lunch in the Arab quarter, but in the dirtiest place, in a party street, with roaring music, must belong to the guide's relative. It’s so popular because people get stuck on African roads. It was 10 minutes before the waiter started taking our order, but 8 out of 10 things on the menu weren’t available anyway. After 10 minutes, he returns to say that the Finnish woman ordered is off the menu. Then, another 10 minutes later, it’s the same with the beef the two Danish guys requested. After 30 minutes, they bring the food, but all are mixed up, and some only get a side dish. One of the Danish guys got nothing. He had asked for goat skewers. But they didn't know how many and didn't ask, so they didn't bring any. After another 10 minutes, the skewers arrived, but no side dish... we gave up here and threw together the fries for him. In the meantime, the Finnish woman and I tried to go to the bathroom.. a big guy was pooping in the urinal, which was not separated. We quickly turned away. Meanwhile, another guy was washing up with a terrible black rag; we didn’t want to know where it had been. Wet tiles and damn slippery, I tell the Finnish girl. The next second, she falls flat on her back on who knows what, but we get away without a skull fracture. The only positive is that the place's name is Issa Cafe (Issa is the Kenyan chef with whom I’ve become better acquainted since then).”

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“In the restaurant, we pay an average of €20/person, which includes one bottle of water, one small bottle of beer, one glass of juice, and two courses. There are desserts, but the locals prefer fruit. Their national dish – which they recommended to me – is pó. It’s made of cornmeal (like a thicker rice pudding) and served with a lentil sauce and meat. The corn thing has no taste, and the lentil blend is slimy. It's not bad, exactly, but it's best not to look at it... Yes, it's like...

 There are local drinks like Coca-Cola, Fanta, and Sprite, only with different local names. There are also local beers. What is worth trying is tamarind, ginger, rosella juice (and, of course, mango, papaya, and orange juice). The latter is squeezed by hand while sitting on the street and sold in old, collected water bottles. I think I'll skip this...) And endless peanuts!

 

There are masses of mango trees – like our black locust trees back home – and many mangoes hang from them in clusters. Their food is guaranteed organic. So is the meat, but how I process it (i.e., the butchery) is strange. I also ate from a street vendor, and yes, thank you, I'm still alive. I haven't had any problems with the food yet. Food is mainly prepared in a wood-fired oven or ‘grill.’” (Maria L. 2023)

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Most food in Burkina Faso comes with sauce. They eat many sorghum, millet, rice, maize, peanuts, potatoes, bean, yams, and okra. Having said this, try the garlic chicken if you want a treat. However, if you don’t have an iron constitution, approach the street food stalls with great caution; better to stick to vegetables if you decide to risk it. (Alan Durant, 2020)

Burkina Faso - eating together from a bowl - d.e. photo

Shopping

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Burkina Faso - textile market

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - souvenir shop - k.a. photo

Fun

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Burkina Faso - Finland in Africa - k.a. photo

Public safety

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Burkina Faso - policemen in their new uniforms

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - Hotel Splendid - attacked by terrorists in 2016 - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Banfor area - Lake Tengrela - kids in the water about 20 meters from dangerous hippos - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - City Hall burned in a riot - k.a. photo

Health

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Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - propaganda for family planning - A wise man plans his family - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - more a cesspool than a river - k.a. photo

Others

The country has a very poor electric network outside of urban areas. Burkina Faso’s electrification remains one of the lowest in the entire Africa with only 56% of urban areas and a meagre 1% of rural areas getting electricity. It’s good if you enjoy a good game of dark hide and seek but otherwise it can be a bit of a pain. (Alan Durant, 2020)

Burkina Faso - small town mosque

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - old mosque

Burkina Faso - a village in the south-west -k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - water pump - Water is poured directly into the bucket that the ladies then carrying on their head back home - k.a. photo

Background

Burkina Faso - national flag

Destination in brief

Burkina Faso in brief
 
Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in the heart of West Africa, located in the so-called Sahel region, which separates the Sahara Desert to the north from the tropical savannas to the south. Neighbors: Mali (north and west), Niger (west), Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast (south) 
 
Burkina Faso was a French colony until 1960 and was then called Upper Volta.
 
The name Burkina Faso translates as “land of honest men.” While most of the country’s people are indeed trustworthy and reliable, Burkina Faso’s political and business elite does not seem to be ready to embrace these virtues yet – they are clearly as corrupt as their counterparts in most other African countries.
 
Size: 274,200 km² (105,869 mi²)
 
Capital city: Ouagadougou (pronounced “wagadoogoo”)
 
Population: 20.6 million (2020) - Burkina Faso has one of the highest fertility rates in the world. The average Burkinabe woman has 6 children. As a consequence, the population has increased five-fold in the past 50 years.
 
Burkina Faso is one of Africa’s least urbanized societies. About 75% of its people still live in the countryside. To this day, drummers accompany farmers at planting and harvesting times to cheer the workers on.
 
Language: French, but the majority of the population speaks Moré, a local language.
 
Religion: 62% Muslim (mostly Sunni), 22% Christian (mostly Catholic), 4% animists –The proportion of animists (nature religions) is however estimated by some to be much higher, as many Muslims secretly practice ancient animist rituals at home.
 
Political system: semi-presidential republic, multi-party system
 
Currency: West African CFA franc (XOF)
 
Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 140 USD
 
Burkina Faso is 4th on the list of the poorest countries of the world in fiscal terms. 
 
Child labor and modern-day slavery are widespread across the country.
 
Most common surname:  Ouedraogo
 
 
Safety: Not much crime overall, but there are some terrorist actions (including kidnappings) in some northern parts of the country.
 
 
As a tourist destination, Burkina Faso is best suited to experienced adventure travellers as poor infrastructure goes hand in hand with many inconveniences and discomforts. There is hardly any accommodation to be found except for the capital and the city of Bobo-Dioulasso.
 
When to visit? December-February
 
Top tourist attractions:
 
Gorom-Gorom market, Bobo-Dioulasso, the ruins of Loropéni

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Geography

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Burkina Faso - mound-building termites

Burkina Faso - age-old baobab tree

Burkina Faso - south west of the country - The Sindou Peaks - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - south-west of the country, near Banfora - Karfiguela Waterfall - k.a. photo

History

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Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - the oldest house - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - statue of a former military, kind of Marxist President, Thomas Sankara, "Africa's Che Guevara", killed in 1987

Nowadays

1. Society is hierarchical, and women have very different roles than men. Men and women are, therefore, not considered equal. The role of women is linked to family tasks, such as caring for children and the house. The man is the head of the family and has the decision-making power. The woman owes him respect and obedience. Women are less educated than men. This trend is even more vital in rural areas than in urban areas.

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There is zero tourism. The white people who are here come for work. There are various groups and aid organizations here, but it has not been possible to change the mindset of the locals. They say that even the money of the worlds rich would not be enough to ‘save’ them. There is a saying that if a man is hungry, don't give him a fish; teach him to fish. That doesn't work here.

 

Now the Peruvian pilot says they will pack the French pilots and send them home. He – then Peruvian – is here to teach. He came for five months at the end of January but already wants to leave. He also has a policeman story: he photographed motorcyclists at a red light. They impounded his car, took his phone, and dragged him to the police station – he was not expelled because he is a pilot instructor – but after they deleted all his photos, they told him they didn't want to see him on the streets.

So, this is their country. Both the Italian and the Peruvian said that the authorities love to act without witnesses, allowing them to invent whatever they want, and they are right. Like me with the two local bikers.

 

Back home, dark-skinned people are at a disadvantage; while we are at a disadvantage here, I think much more at a disadvantage than we are in Europe.

 

A big problem is low education levels and illiteracy. I think it is clear that if a local man gets a weapon and power, he does what he wants. Added to this is the history that they were taken as slaves and the French looted the country...” (Maria L. 2023)

 



Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou, the captal city

Burkina Faso - city life

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - women in the backyard - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - village life

Burkina Faso - village life - c.c. photo

Burkina Faso - village woman

People

1. Whether it is between a married man and a woman or lovers, public displays of affection are not appropriate. In big cities, occasionally we can see young teenage couples holding hands, but that's all.

2. Different ethnic groups like to make fun of each other, making it possible to deride sensitive subjects. You may witness scenes where Burkinabés insult each other by referring to their ethnic origins. We must not panic. It’s a game, and sometimes you’ll be pressured to vote for one side.

3. Regardless of which religion (Muslims, Christians, or animists), the Burkinabés are very religious and practicing for the most part. Religion is an essential part of their lives. They often turn to God when the time comes to complete a plan, take action, or face a problem.
Several times a day, they say Inshallah (God willing).  
People consult God, marabouts, or witch doctors for answers or solutions related to all kinds of private concerns. That can result in fatalism, which sometimes justifies that specific actions, after all, do not happen.

4. Burkinabés are not punctual and are - mostly - disorganized in their work.






West Africa - Burkina Faso - locals

Burkina Faso - kids

Burkina Faso - girl

Burkina Faso - guys

Burkina Faso - village couple

Burkina Faso - lunch

Tourist etiquette

1. It is essential to avoid body contact until a certain familiarity has set in, especially in male-female relationships. Proximity, on the other hand, is a sign of trust.  You don't have to stare at people when talking to them. That can create a situation of unease and may could be interpreted as a kind of challenge.

2. Don't make too many gestures while talking to locals as they would consider it a lack of calm and control over your emotions. Facial expressions are not welcome; use a calm tone of voice.



Gastronomy

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Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - home cooking - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - pouring tea - k.a. photo

Attractions

Bani

Burkina Faso - Bani

Ouagadougou

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - Kwame Nkrumah Avenue - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - Central market - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - Freedom Avenue - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - Grand Mosque - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Ouagadougou - Cathedral - of Immaculate Conception - Roman Catholic - k.a. photo

Bobo-Dioulasso

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - The Grand Mosque - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - The Grand Mosque - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - The Grand Mosque - inside - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - the railway station - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - k.a. photo

Burkina Faso - Bobo-Dioulasso - Old Town - k.a. photo

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