Guinea Conakry is located on the West African coast. Conakry is the capital city. It is an ex-French colony which became independent in 1958 that is why the official language is French. The country has a superficy of more than 245,000 km2 for a population of about 12 million inhabitants. Guinea is divided in 4 natural regions:
- Lower or Maritime Guinea (Basse-Guinée)
- Middle Guinea (Moyenne-Guinée)
- Upper Guinea (Haute-Guinée)
- Forested Guinea (Guinée forestière)
Each region is dominated by one ethnic group, respectively: Soussou, Fulani, Maninka and Kissi. They have different langages and dialects, their own culinary traditions and clothings and live together. Many rivers, such as the Niger, Senegal and Gambia, have their source in Guinea, making it the “Water Tower” of West Africa. Here are 5 reasons why you should visit Guinea.
1. Conakry and its islands
Loose islands such as Kassa, Tamara and Room are a must do after landing in Conakry. You will have to take a boat from Conakry’s harbor to get there. Mangroves and beaches face the Atlantic ocean. The sand is sometimes red because it gets its color from the stones. I love the contrast it creates with the water. In the evening, before going back to your hotel, have some fresh grilled fish around a fire and listen to the locals singing and playing traditional songs by nightfall.
For a nice beach you should go to Bel-Air, Guinea’s most famous one. You will have to drive one hour from Conakry to get there but it is worth it. 7 kms of white sand with coconut trees all along, await you. The sea is calm in this area which is perfect to swim during the low season (October to March). You will have the choice between hotels and bungalows next to the beach.
2. Dalaba’s wild landscapes and waterfalls
If you like wilderness and nature in general, you have to go to Foutah Djallon. Because several rivers take their source from there, the region has many waterfalls – some higher than others – and water places where you can just take dive and relax for a day. I recommend you Ditinn Waterfall in Dalaba, a city in the Foutah Djallon region, quite in the center of Guinea. I love the fact that nature there has all the power and did not move in centuries. I hope it stays this way so that people could still benefit from it.
3. Traditional handcraft and clothes
Guineans are very talented when it comes to handcraft and DIYs. I will give you just a few examples:
Leppi, this blue fabric, is typical of the Fulani culture. The fabric is completely white at first and then has to be dipped several times into a blue indigo mixture to get these colors. The patterns are handmade. Women and men wear it for weddings, baptisms and other celebrations.
Fetewol, is what we use to seperate seeds or create small balls with corn or yuca flour, to put in a porridge.
Calabash, comes from a fruit, it is used as a bowl or a spoon for the smallest ones. It looks like a green pumpkin when it’s still raw. They have to be molded and sculted before drying under the sun. They are waterproof and will last you a lifetime.
4. Trekking in Foutah Djallon
Foutah Djallon has many trekking trails that will lead you to typical villages where you can stop and interact with people. You can book a tour directly from Conakry or from Labé – one of the main city of Foutah Djallon – 7 hours by car from Conakry. You have to be used to trekking a bit, since the shortest circuits will last at least 3 days with different stopovers and you will spend the night at locals’ houses. For the most courageous ones, you can choose a 14 days circuit. In both cases, you will take small unusual trails to end up discovering more waterfalls and montains’ views. The region has a lot of high spots from which you could admire the wild nature and take nice pictures.
5. Street food and authentic village life
I love living in the village because of the atmosphere and the food of course! People grow their own vegetables and fruits. So, you will always be able to eat something seasonal and fresh. There are new arrivals every morning, by dawn, at the Makiti (i.e. traditional open air market). First thing in the morning, I go with my cousin buy what we would need to cook the main meal of the day. We come back home and cook together with an old wood system. The food takes a while to be ready but it hence tastes amazing.
And when you don’t want to cook, you will always find something to eat: grilled meat or plantains, boiled yam, fresh mangos or coconuts, traditional caramel sweets and ice-creams. Indeed, the real challenge will be not to gain too much weight during your stay in Guinea.