Cote D’Ivoire or Ivory Coast was once the shining light in West Africa and was an example for other nations to follow. An intricate part of the French influence of West Africa, Ivory Coast had fluorished financially as the center of business in the region and was home to a huge amount of French and European expats and the government was stable. That all changed a few years ago as factions rose up to start fighting and challenge the government. Fighting got so bad that most expats left the country as did a lot of business and investment. Foeign Governments warned against any travel to the country and in fact Lonely Planet wasn’t even able to send someone to the country to write the guidebook because it is considered so dangerous. The largest city, Abidjan, once considered the Paris of West Africa is now a shell of its former self and the city has crumbled into just another African city. The only difference is that Abidjan has a bunch of skyscrapers…except they are almost all empty.
The Le Plateau area of Abidjan is where everything worthwhile in Abidjan takes place and is where the major International banks like Citi and Societe General have their offices and thankfully their ATM machines. It is also where all the great French restaurants are. That is in my opinion the best thing about Abidjan, French quality food with impeccable service. La Crosette was my favorite where you can get a chateaubriand for cheap and the service is as good as in Paris.
The rest of Le Plateau is kind of grubby and you can’t go out at night unless you take a taxi. There are filthy hookers outside every hotel bothering the guests and the usual random people bugging you and helping you cross the street for no reason and then asking for money. That always amazes me that they do that in al these countries-as if I am incapable of crossing the street myself or opening a door.
One other thing that was clearly the most productive and interesting part of the day in Abidjan was I discovered there was a Cameroon Embassy in Abidjan. It was the only West African country I didn’t think I would be able to cover in this trip so I didn’t get it before I left but I think I may have a few extra days so I decided to see if I could talk my way into one on the spot. Of course it was more difficult than that.
The Ambassador would not approve any visa application without a plane ticket and a hotel reservation, neither of which I had. So after failed attempts at convincing them otherwise, I decided to head down to a travel agency in the same building and make a flight and hotel reservation but I had no intention of actually buying it. This brilliant maneuver is something I have pulled before and is common practice overcoming the ridiculous beaurocracy of third world nations.
The only problem was the travel agent smelled a rat and went up to the Embassy himself to chat with the Ambassador about the visa and then I said some stuff about a misunderstanding, blah blah blah, and after he realized I had no intention of actually purchasing and I just needed the paper with the reservation, he eventually gave up. Then he tried to not let me keep the paper with the false booking on it so I couldn’t get the visa.
After incessant badgering, I was finally able to convince him that I may come back next week and buy the ticket from him. He probably didn’t believe me but I couldn’t care less and was able to procure the visa immediately as most would have to wait a day or two and have real bookings. I love working the beaurocratic system and it was a nice win for me and a good way to kill a few hours before the late flight to Bamako.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed in Abidjan, I thought it would be a better place to visit and have more to offer in terms of quality African experience but it turned out to be just another crumbling, grubby city without much character of its own as the French influence has faded and the country has erupted in turmoil.