Sunday, May 24, 2009

No there, there.

"Yamoussoukro has no embassies, ministries or significant commercial life, even though it has been [Cote d'Ivoire's] capital since 1983. Originally a village called Ngokro with no more than 500 inhabitants, it has grown because of the whim of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who happened to be borne hearabouts and who wantd to glorify himself, his family and ancestors. With its six-lane highways (bordered by more than 10,000 streetlights) leading nowhere, and its grandiose monuments set just far enough apart to be incovenient for walking, it's a lasting testament to Africa's greatest curse - the Big Boss, who can get away with anything."
- Lonely Planet

I usually use my own words, but this selection from Lonley Planet really does sum up the insanity that is Yamoussoukro. First, let's take a look at it's main tourist attraction, The Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix.
Yes, it's a replica of St. Peter's in Rome. Except it's bigger. Oh, and the country only has about one million Catholics. Very few of whom live in Yamoussoukro. John Paul II was not amused.

John Paul II agreed to come to the dedication of Notre Dame so as not to tick off the less than one million Catholics in Cote d'Ivoire. He extracted a promise from Houphouet-Boigny that a hospital would be built close by.

A shot of the some of the exterior plaza (which is larger than St. Peter's). Note, there is absolutely nothing around it. No hospital.

The major artistic triumph of Notre Dame are the stained glass windows. Here you see Jesus with Houphouet-Boigny - the only African depicted in the entire church.

I went to Yamoussoukro with Richard Roberts who works with me.
We stayed at the Hotel President (guess which president it refers to).
We had a sub-par meal at the top of the tower. There are several restaurants, bars, and a night club - all of which closed by 10 or 10:30 pm.

The pool is still quite nice, and it wasn't crowded. I doubt the hotel is every really crowded.
The lower building (behind the pool) is where we stayed.

My room. Very modern/Austin Powers. Richard's room was done in shades of purple.

They are not trying to be retro. It's just a time capsul of what was in style.
The radio didn't work.

This is the parking lot of the Foundation Houphouet-Boigny. From here you can see the "city" spread out before you. It was supposed to be the headquarters of a grant-bestowing association.

It has an auditorium that can seat several thousand, an office for the president, VIP lounges, meeting rooms, you name it. It doesn't seem to get used very much, though there had been some event the night before (they were sweeping up trash while we took the tour - the tour consisted of Richard and me). There are signs of neglect everywhere.The women's rooms were smelly. None of the men's rooms had toilet paper.
It was a very weird weekend.


Squirrelette said...

The last photo looks like a demented version of a scene from The Phantom Menace. At least your very orange room LOOKED clean. Was it?

7Wonders said...

It was clean, but dingy. It needs new everything - furniture, carpets, curtains. The tile work in the bathroom was fabulous, but the grout is going.