Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I awoke at 4:30 this morning to catch a flight from Ouagadougou to Bobo-Dioulasso, or "Bobo" as it is called with affection. It is the second largest city in Burkina Faso and while it is definitely a city, it has a small town vibe and is entirely pleasant. I politely declined the friendly advances of airport security, piled into a taxi with 5 other people and their mountain of luggage and was delivered to my oasis of a hotel, the Villa Rose. It really is wonderful, comfortable, and surrounded by gardens and statues. As i sit here now, it is dark, with lights in the trees and a background din of squeaking bats.

Anyway, the hotel is owned by a lovely Dutch woman and her Burkinabe husband and they could not be more welcoming or helpful. I also chatted with another Dutch man who is here helping to establish a school.

Bobo is very manageable on foot. Many streets are the usual chaos of motor bikes, bicycles, cars, carts, and pedestrians all sharing the road, but it is tame compared to other places. 

I first visited the market, which i liked a lot more than the one in "Ouaga" (as the cool kids call it). Fried caterpillars seems to be a popular item here, which makes me happy i am a vegetarian. I took more photos and received very little hassle from merchants. I find the women here a bit more outgoing than i am used to. They will actually say hello and chat a bit, which is nice. Usually i find when i leave a country almost all of my interactions have been with men. 

After the market, i found the bus station and bought a ticket for the day after tomorrow to my next destination. Every successful transaction, especially in a foreign language feels like a victory. My delight amused the ticket seller.
From there i went to the mosque. It is probably the most famous building in Burkina Faso. It is in a style of architecture called Sunado-Sahaelian which has round peaks and sticks protruding all over the outside. This mosque dates from the late 1800s.

As i arrived the call to prayer was underway, so i waited outside until prayers ended snd then i was allowed to enter, which was a treat, as unmarried Burkinabe women are prohibited from entering, but apparently single foreigners are not.

From there i visited the old city, Dioulassoba. People live there and you can walk right into it, but foreigners must take a guide and pay a small fee, which makes sense, because the area is very poor and the guides can explain the history while keeping the looky loos under control. The area is all low, flat, mud buildings and is divided into quarters: muslim, animist, musicians, and blacksmiths. I visited traditional houses and the place where animals (usually chickens) are ritualistically slaughtered. (The bigger your problem, the bigger the chicken or creature that must meet its fate, i was told.)  we saw a blacksmiths studio, a weaver, a carver of masks, and the place where millet beer is made after bring boiled on a fire for three days. In the streets, people carried on with their days, drying corn, pounding farina, doing laundry.

We also went to the river that borders the village. It would be pretty but for the mounds of garbage tossed along the banks. In the river is a swarm of giant catfish. Hideous things, thrashing about in the shallow water. But these are sacred catfish. Almost magical catfish. (My reference to General Sherman from The Simpsons was lost on my guide.) People worship them and talk to them. Apparently, if you want to live in the village you must offer food to them and if the carps eat it, you can stay. If they do not, you are not pure of heart and must leave. 

And that was my visit to the village. After that i returned to the hotel and have been enjoying dinner and the evening air. A great day. Tomorrow i shall endeavour to relax.


Betty-Lou said...

Bobo seems like a place I would like to visit.

Wandering North said...

I think you would like it. Especially evenings in the garden.