Gaoua

Overview

Introduction

This town in a hilly tree-dotted savanna area in the south is the center of the Lobi people. Considered the most isolated group in the country, the Lobi are known for their wood carving and eerie multistory mud fortresses, similar to the dwellings of the Sombas of Benin. The Lobi cultural museum has exhibits that help to explain these mysterious, reclusive people, who have kept their traditions alive perhaps better than any other ethnic group in West Africa. (The museum was built through the efforts of Madeleine Pere, who has lived in Gaoua for decades and is the only Westerner to have ever completed the secretive and arduous Lobi initiation rituals.) Be sure to get permission before taking photographs, especially in the countryside. Don't miss the town's bustling Sunday market.

Loropeni (30 mi/50 km west of Gaoua) has a two-story-high stone ruin of unknown origin. It's similar, though less impressive, than the famous ruins of the Great Zimbabwe National Monument. 130 mi/210 km southeast of Bobo-Dioulasso.

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