Attractions in Yamoussoukro.

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Côte d’Ivoire’s political capital is located 240 kilometres from Abidjan and is a magnet for religious, commercial and niche tourism. Visiting Yamoussoukro is a feast for the eyes—a pearl of grace.

Its shine is one of elegance. Majestically perched, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace is Yamoussoukro’s main attraction. The church stands gracefully in a natural setting of greenery. The place also attracts the curiosity of free spirits. They find comfort in the change of scenery and the peace of mind. For all that, it is an oasis of symbols for believers. This finery endows it with curiosities. The Basilica entices visitors to recharge their batteries. Thousands of people come here on group, family or personal pilgrimages to connect with the timeless. A plunge into the renewal of faith and prayer. The city draws its essence from this captivating renaissance. In the past, it was nothing more than a rural dwelling, anonymous like so many others.

The birthplace of the first president of the Ivorian Republic, Yamoussoukro has gradually transformed to become the country’s political capital. Félix Houphouët-Boigny had great ambitions for Yamoussoukro. In 1983, he wanted a basilica modelled on St Peter’s in Rome. On 10 September 1990, Pope John Paul II travelled to Yamoussoukro for its consecration. The building’s prowess is immense. Recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, the Yamoussoukro Basilica is the widest Christian building in the world. It is 150 metres wide, compared with 115 metres in Rome. Its sublime dome is sixty metres high. This makes it the highest basilica in the world. The Yamoussoukro Basilica can accommodate 18,000 people, with a seating capacity of 7,000. 

Recognised by the Guinness Book of Records, the Yamoussoukro Basilica is the widest Christian building in the world.

In this “city of peace”, other attractions catch the visitor’s eye. A stone’s throw from the Basilica is the former residence of the city’s builder, Félix Houphouët-Boigny. In front of this magnificent residence, a lake teems with sacred crocodiles. They emerge from the water to be admired for a long time. Feeding time for the animals is one of the highlights of the visit. Sports enthusiasts can also enjoy jogging, walking or cycling along the lake that weaves its way through the town. The local gastronomy can be savoured in the many maquis and local restaurants. Opposite the lake, La Brise is the place to go for a taste of both European and African cuisine. In addition, some hotels and guest houses offer a warm welcome. The Hôtel Président offers every comfort for major international meetings. With 285 rooms, 14 senior suites and 4 junior suites, this hotel enhances the quality of seminars, congresses and prestigious weddings. What’s more, the city’s cultural richness invites the curious. 

Baule cultural heritage 

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation remains an attractive landmark for visitors to the land of the former president. Housed in a magnificent setting in Yamoussoukro, the foundation, named after Côte d’Ivoire’s first head of state, perpetuates his legacy. The president gave the foundation a modern architectural jewel as its headquarters. It covers 48 hectares, with the main building towering 30 metres above it. It was inaugurated in 1989, on the occasion of the International Congress on “Peace in the Minds of Men”, attended by leading international figures.

The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Foundation

“Peace is not a word, it is a behaviour”. This powerful statement by Félix Houphouët-Boigny still stands the test of time. It sums up the philosophy of the first president of the Ivorian Republic. The eponymous foundation encapsulates this legacy. It is the Houphouët-Boigny Foundation for Peace Research. Jean-Noël Loucou is its General Secretary. For him, “the Foundation stands like a watchtower on the horizon of the city of peace in Yamoussoukro”. In essence, he says: “Peace was the leitmotiv of the political action of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who championed dialogue for the triumph of peace”.

Tourists looking for endogenous acclimatisation can indulge their passion. Yamoussoukro is the “Baule area” at the community level. They are also to be found in Bouaké, towards the centre-north of the country. Baoulé villages dot the localities around Yamoussoukro. The children of the region, even though they are in Abidjan or elsewhere, return to the area for three days during the Easter period: from Friday to Sunday. This is a tradition among the Baoulé, the commemoration of “Paquinou”. These three days are a time for reunion, reconciliation and rejoicing. To crown the festivities, the sacred Goli mask dances. A symbol of blessing for the village children, its rare appearance attests to Paquinou’s success. The drums beat out the rhythm of his movements. The conviviality that accompanies this ceremony renews the spirit of belonging to the land.

Baoulé Tani loincloth weaving adds to the cultural heritage of the Baoulé community. Over the years, generations have refined their traditional weaving techniques. The authenticity of this loincloth makes it unique. The colours and symbols convey an agreed message. It is easily deciphered by those who know it well. It is a pleasure to witness this work of local heritage. Baule craftsmanship is used to convey the facts or the narrative of its time. The finesse of the weavers testifies to Baoulé’s know-how. Art is passed on through practice. Yamoussoukro, a pearl of grace.

Alain Metodjo

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