192-Part Guide To The World: Cote d'Ivoire

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The Independent Travel

Official Name: Republic of Cÿte d'Ivoire.

Official Name: Republic of Cÿte d'Ivoire.

Language: French is the official language. Over 60 African languages are also spoken, including Yacouba, Senoufo, Baoulé, Agni and Dioula.

Population: 14 million comprising Akan (including Baoulé and Agni), Krou (Yacouba or Dan primarily), Senoufo, Mande, Lebanese and French.

Size: Approximately 126,000 square miles (Belgium would fit into it about 10 and a half times).

National Dish: Traditional African dishes (which are always eaten with the hands) are kedjenou (chicken with different vegetables and sealed in banana leaves), foutou (mashed plaintain or yam mixed with palm oil and served with aubergine sauce) and attiéké (cous cous made of grated cassava). Local palm wines such as bandji are also popular.

Best Monument: The Basilique de Notre Dame de la Paix in the capital of Yamoussoukro is almost an exact replica of St Peter's in Rome. It was built in only three years at a cost of US$300m (half the national budget) and is the tallest church in all of Christendom. Its 36 stained glass windows, all hand blown in France, are the piÿce de rÿsistance.

Most Famous Citizen: Felix Houphoüet-Boigny (known in Paris as the Grand Old Man of Africa) who became president of the Republic of Cÿte d'Ivoire upon its independence in 1960. He was admired for continuing close links with France but criticised for maintaining diplomatic relations with South Africa. Under his guidance the country became one of the most prosperous states in the continent. The world-famous reggae artist Alpha Blondy is Cÿte d'Ivoire's best-known singer.

Best Moment In History: For 20 years post-independence the country maintained an annual economic growth rate which was the highest of Africa's non-oil exporting countries. This was thanks to increasing production of coffee (Cÿte d'Ivoire was third only to Brazil and Colombia), cocoa, pineapples and palm oil.

Worst Moment In History: By the early 1980s world recession and a local drought had shattered the Ivoirian economy and thanks to the overcutting of timber and collapsing sugar prices, the country's external debt increased threefold. This led to a violent strike in 1990 by hundreds of civil servants and students who blamed the economic crisis on corrupt government officials.

Essential Accessory: Always carry your passport with you as gendarmes regularly stop people, and they will ask for your passport as well as your international driving licence if you happen to be driving. Take your phrase book as English is not generally spoken.

What Not To Do: Don't kill snakes - they are regarded as sacred by some ethnic groups. Also, when buying traditional items in the markets never accept the first price. Hard bargaining is expected. Special purchases include wax prints, indigo fabric, wooden statuettes and masks, bead necklaces, pottery and basketware.