192-Part Guide To The World: Guinea

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The Independent Online

Official NameRepublic of Guinea.

Official NameRepublic of Guinea.

LocationOn the western end of the bulge of West Africa.

LanguageOfficially French, though Malinké is spoken by at least 40 per cent of the population. Fula and Susu are among the other major languages.

SizeAbout 246,000sq km, or between seven and eight times the size of Belgium.

PopulationJust over seven million.

National DishThe usual West African specialities of grilled fish (the well-off) and rice with sauce (everybody else).

Best MonumentNobody would visit Guinea for its monuments, as opposed to its green, mountainous landscapes, but the Palais de l'OUA, in the capital Conakry, is the grandest building in the country. It is just a pity that the conference for the Organisation of African Unity in 1984 - for which it was built - was cancelled after the death of Guinean President Sekou Touré.

Most famous citizenOf the many famous Guinean musicians, Mory Kanté is best known, especially in France, where he now lives. His speciality is fusing rock and soul with traditional African music.

Worst moment in historyPresident Touré, who led Guinea's drive for independence in the late 1950s, was to become a dictator who was more in the mould of Josef Stalin or Mao Tse-tung than General Charles de Gaulle. By the 1970s his rule had degenerated into a reign of terror that saw a quarter of the population forced to flee the country.

Best moment in historyProbably the 1977 "market women's revolt" which involved market women rioting in Conakry after Touré decreed that all agricultural produce be delivered to the state-run co-operatives. The riots then spread around the country and the governors of Kindia, Faranah and Boké were killed. Touré, remarkably, was forced to mend his ways.

Essential accessoryConakry is one of the wettest cities in the world, receiving more than four metres of rain per year. Take an umbrella.

What not to doDo not go wandering around the Palais de l'OUA at night. According to the travellers' grapevine (so it must be true) such behaviour will provoke security guards to shoot you.