When my hubby and I decided to move to Africa, my expectations in terms of entertainment, were low from the place. Over a year here, however, has proven that the big cities of this continent do have life and hustle-bustle!
All you need to do is be ready to experiment, approach the place with an open mind and see the beauty in what is here. But then that’s true of any place across the world, isn’t it? That is a pre-requisite to every traveler’s journey.
So if you find yourself in Abidjan, the hub of Cote D’Ivoire or Ivory Coast, take out some time and try out these ten things:
Every tourist guide for Abidjan will guide you at the very first to the St Paul Cathedral. What is particularly striking about this church is the attached tall tower-like structure, with a staircase within. Mind you, the stairway is not very well maintained, and is dank and narrow. But if you’re up for some adventure, do mount it. If you find workers at the Church hemming and hawing instead of allowing you up, a little ‘cadeau’ (gift) may get you an entry.
The view from the top is worth the effort as you get a bird’s eye view of the city, the lagoon and the port.
2. Watch a Movie at Hotel Ivoire
Hotel Ivoire is the swankiest hotel in town, with a tall building that outshines every other structure here, including the viewing tower of the Church! In association with Majestic Cinemas, this hotel operates a 3D movie theatre. While you can catch a flick in French most days of the week, Wednesdays and Thursdays are especially reserved for movies in English. Grab a cappuccino at the ground floor café of the hotel before you head in for the movie.
3. Enjoy Lebanese Cuisine
Ivory Coast hosts a large Lebanese population. A lot of big businesses, supermarkets and restaurants here are run by these enterprising folks. Their overwhelming presence ensures that you can find a good spread of Lebanese cuisine anywhere in the city. If you’re looking for a fast-moving, inexpensive place, grab a seat at Marouche in Zone Quatre. We’ve ended up licking our chops enthusiastically every time we’ve visited this restaurant. If you’d rather opt for a fine-dining experience, Le Mechoui is what the locals would vouch for.
4. Dessert at Nice Cream or Cool Zone
If you are at Marouche, you absolutely have to walk into Nice Cream, right next door. Abidjan’s favourite ice-cream parlour, you will be spoilt for choice here. The fondant is glorious, the ice cream shakes are yummy and the waffles are soft and fresh.
Alternately, head to Cool Zone, just a short distance away. This is a new outlet that offers the creamiest frozen yogurt I’ve ever tasted, with a range of toppings that will blow your mind away. Just enter this hip store, grab a large bowl and make your own frozen yogurt dessert. Without a doubt, one of my favourite places in Abidjan!
5. Go-Karting or Go-Bowling
Whether you are with a group of friends or with family or have kids, go-karting and bowling are activities that will undoubtedly fill up an evening of yours with fun and laughter. There is a Go-Karting ring a short distance from the Solibra circle of Abidjan, while the Bowling alley is not far from the Capsud mall.
6. Join Locals and Expatriates on a HASH Run
Every Saturday afternoon, a group of walkers and runners get together and set off on an adventure on foot. Check out the venue for the week on the HASH website, land up shortly before the suggested time and pay a token registration fee of about CFA 2000. Not only is this a great way to interact with a large bunch of people from across the world, you will no doubt come off a few calories lighter at the end of the 10-15 km walk! Take along your family, friends and even your pet. But be prepared to walk through forests, marshes, bushes and what not!
7. Shop at Abidjan’s Biggest Malls, Capsud and Playce
Whether or not you choose to buy anything, a walk though Abidjan’s malls, will surely make for a bright evening. Capsud features a double-story mall, with a range of outlets encompassing fashion, sports, kids’ stuff and cafés. Playce is Abidjan’s latest acquisition and exceedingly popular these days. The food court at Playce, especially the ‘Burger King’ outlet, has crowds thronging it ceaselessly.
8. Walk Through the Local Market at Treichville
A more authentic experience of the local culture can be had if you choose to walk through the local bazaar of Treichville. This market has a variety of things to buy, from fruits and vegetables to tissues, plastics, electronics, toys etc. It is a great place to pick up some cloth for a dress, a bed-sheet, curtain or dining-table cover. Bargaining can get you great deals.
9. Visit Bassam Beaches and Shop for Artifacts Enroute
Just an hour’s drive out of Abidjan, are Bassam and Assinie, great for a day-visit to the beach or even an overnight stay at one of the fancy resorts there. Enroute to Bassam, on the right hand side, there is a row of shacks where local artisans sell their wares. You could find exquisite artifacts and other African mementos here. It is a great place to pick up gifts or to get something for your own salon. Don’t forget to bargain hard here, though!
10. Book a Resort in the Lagoon for a Night
There are a number of resorts and personally-owned villas along the insides of the lagoon that can only be accessed by water. Doesn’t that sound exotic? Book an overnight stay in one of these resorts and get to your destination by a motor-boat that starts from Aasna, Abidjan’s boat-club. Some resorts would offer a boat ride around the lagoon or you could even set off on your own canoe. You must carry mosquito-repellent for an overnight trip.
A few days spent covering these ten items on the list, will give you a good flavor of Abidjan and of Ivorian culture. Is there anything I’ve missed that you think must be added on to the list? Drop in your comments below!
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PIyushi Dhir is the author of the romantic novels, 'In Search of Love' (2014), 'I'm Yours, The Next Time' (2015) and 'Enmeshed Evermore' (2015). A voracious reader, a keen traveler and an ardent dog-lover, Piyushi currently resides in Ivory Coast, Africa. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.