Abidjan

Overview

Introduction

The country's former capital and largest city, Abidjan is dominated by the central business district, "Le Plateau." Before the country's current political turmoil Abidjan gained notoriety as the "Paris of West Africa" from its cosmopolitan mix of citizens, who, wearing the latest in Paris fashions or the most traditional African garb, made it a great people-watching city. The top tourist draw in the city is, interestingly enough, a hotel: The Hotel Ivoire houses a skating rink and casino, along with a bowling alley, movie theater, tennis courts and a grocery store that's stocked like a suburban Parisian supermarket.

But even though many parts of the city feel European, other aspects of Abidjan leave no doubt that you're in Africa. Make a point to see the huge market in the Treichville area, where thousands of merchants sell goods made by the country's 60 ethnic groups. (Note that the area becomes dangerous after dark.) Drive through the Cocody district to see striking (and expensive) homes and gardens with their own distinctive charms. Other city sights include the Palais de la Presidence, the modernistic St. Paul's Cathedral and the National Museum, with its excellent collection of African art. On the outskirts of town, the Banco National Park preserves 7,500 acres/3,000 hectares of tropical rain forest. The park has picnic areas, a restaurant and an arboretum (labels identify all the different varieties of trees). Day trips can be taken to Bingerville and Grand Bassam.

Note: Travel anywhere outside the immediate area of Abidjan is considered dangerous.

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