Credit: Muna Lobé
Burkina Faso means “the land of the upstanding men”. This vast, dry and laterite-ridden patch of earth stretches inland, amidst the stalwarts that are Mali, Niger and Côte d’Ivoire and the smaller yet mighty bastions of Benin, Togo and Ghana. It is at least geographically at the heart of the Western sub region of the continent and its historical and cultural influence spreads past its unimaginatively (European) created borders.
To live and travel in Burkina Faso is surprisingly as appeasing and qualitative as traveling in more widely known African countries such as Senegal or Ghana, both renowned for their attractive travel features. Yet the added value of the Burkinabé metropolis and surrounding cities is the affordability and versatility of its accommodations, rental 4x4s (inclusive of kind, professional and knowledgeable drivers) and/or scooters (for the adventurous), outdoor cultural events from internationally celebrated music to film festivals, restaurants, street vendors as well as arts and crafts.
Au Burkina Faso, la vie… c’est doux.” (In Burkina Faso, life is sweet.)
It is commonly agreed that capital city Ouagadougou is the siege of bountiful gastronomy. No matter the season (dry or rainy), there always is plenty to see, do and eat in Ouaga. An admittedly huge (and curious) veggie foodie, I take the places where I eat very seriously (insert serious Ebroji GIF here) and as much as I can wake up at 6am to bite on an avocado and egg sandwich and sip on dark local coffee at the nearest “maquis”, I also take both pride and pleasure in savouring a mouth-watering, freshly squeezed Moringa-powered green juice, while munching on locally sourced tofu in vegetable sauce.
So for the comfortable (and boujie) eaters: le Café de Vienne (owned by an Austria-born, Burkina Faso-bred, health-driven couple), le Verdoyant (nationally raved for its oven-baked pizzas and delish homemade sorbets with flavours as decadent as shea, moringa, or maracuja), le Nomade (refined in its decor and ever-changing menu inspired by its North African chef), or the gorgeous Tuareg-inspired Gondwana are amazing culinary destinations in buzzing and dusty Ouaga. For the more creative yet tastebud-reliant foodies: the restaurant of the French Institute (L’Institut Français de Ouagadougou) the Foyer of the Atelier Théâtre Burkinabé (ATB) – Burkinabé Workshop Theater or even Haregua (owned by a gentle and welcoming Ethiopian empress) bear the double advantage of being healthy and filling options while serving as popular concert and music festival venues.
With the bi-annual FESPACO, one of the largest, oldest and dopest African Film Festivals in the world the entertainment scene in Ouagadougou offers the cultural traveler geek unique opportunities to immerse in the rich tapestry of local and regional cultures and history(-ies). Be sure to also check out La Termitière- Centre de Développement Chorégraphique (Center for Choreographic Development) for bold and creative dance shows – based on the fruitful residency programat the center, the CITO Theater for adaptations of classic plays and comedies served by talented and melanated actors, la Villa Kaya for beautifully curated photographic exhibitions and the newly opened Poco & Co studio, owned by street artists/graphic and fashion designers extraordinaire, Aline Boubert & Gregory Dabilougou.
If you do not wish to miss even one beat of your daily gym routine (even on va or bae-cation), head out to the Rec Center (located on the grounds of the former US Embassy) or steady jog in the Bangré Weogo natural park (beware crocodile spotting is part of the experience and I kid you not).
Then comes the weekend and there is no greater city outing than driving/scootering to Koubri, a quaint and rejuvenating town where many Ouaga dwellers own a secondary home or go to visit relatives and friends. There you can stay at Les Bougainvilliers, a lakeside establishment catering to your most basic or expensive (quad driving) needs. But you can also decide to venture into the wild towards the border of neighbouring Benin and discover the national park of Nazinga. A must-do is to ride alongside the elephants in the sunrise and/or sunset. On your way back to Ouagadougou be sure to stop by the century-old painted houses of Tiébélé, where tales of totem animals and nightly kings and queens adorn the facades of the homes today’s town residents.
As the second and truly buoyant city of Burkina, Bobo Dioulasso often colloquially shortened to Bobo, seems drier and dustier than Ouaga, rainy season excepted. Yet despite bearing seemingly thirsty soil and famished landscape, Bobo can surprise the experienced traveler by not fully fitting in the reductive description of Sahelian aridity.
La Guinguette is a welcomed oasis located in the protected forest of Kou, whose originality stems from the vision of an environmentally conscious Burkinabé. A natural haven, La Guingette is ideal for those who want to hit the pause button and appreciate rare lushness and cool water.
As atypical as the Guingette is, la ferme de Samandoulougou, (Samandoulougou’s farm) offers rugged yet surprisingly comfortable lodging, homemade meals prepared by the ever-smiling Sundjata Keita- looking owner of the property as well as volleyball, swimming and card battling sessions in the heights of the salt mines of Bobo.
And for the determined urbanite, the heart of the city of Bobo is host of the Grande Mosquée (the great mosque) resplendent in its spiked glory, the old train station and the sprawling arts and crafts market known for stunning copper and bronze statues.
In closing, I would like to remind those who are ready to travel to Burkina Faso that the vastness of the land requires to factor in distances when planning to travel outside of the capital. And to do so it is best to plan your expedition(s) with a recommended driver who will ensure both comfort and safety.
Burkina, despite being hospitable and mostly safe, has experienced its share of civil unrest in recent years and the political situation remains, if not volatile, certainly one to watch out for. Yet it is my belief that this one aspect of contemporary living can readily be applied anywhere in our world today.
So let us continue to be bold and embrace travel while always remembering when we are on the continent that,
“We must learn to live the African way. It’s the only way to live in freedom and dignity.” –Thomas Sankara
AYA CONSULTING was founded by Muna D. Lobé, a trained social anthropologist and educator with extensive international research and work experience in Europe, Africa, North America, and the Caribbean. Follow @ayaconsulting on Instagram.
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