Interview: Joseph-Olivier Biley
How would you describe the lifestyle in Abidjan to business and leisure travellers?
JOSEPH-OLIVIER BILEY: Côte d’Ivoire is becoming increasingly famous for its culture and lifestyle. The country’s cosmopolitan capital, Abidjan, is becoming one of the most popular places to visit and set up business ventures in West Africa. Foreigners do not find it difficult to get accustomed to the lifestyle of the country, nor its main city. The friendliness and happiness of the people living in Côte d’Ivoire is key to attracting not only tourists, but people who come for business purposes. Although there can sometimes be misleading images of Africa in the media, Abidjan and the rest of the country are great places to visit.
Where would you recommend first-time visitors to Abidjan spend their time?
BILEY: People who come to Côte d’Ivoire should be open-minded and adventurous. Abidjan, the economic capital and main city, is a good starting point from which to visit the rest of the country. Located in the south, Abidjan is divided into multiple municipalities, each one with its own unique character and traditions.
Among these municipalities, Yopougon offers hundreds of maquis (local bars) on the well-known Rue Princesse, where visitors can eat and go out at night to experience a truly local environment. There is also the trendy Zone 4, a more cosmopolitan neighbourhood characterised by its French, Italian and Lebanese restaurants, among others. Plateau, Abidjan’s downtown business district, is surrounded by impressive skyscrapers overlooking the Ébrié Lagoon. Lastly there is Cocody, known for its laidback restaurants, bars and hotels where locals and tourists can easily interact with each other.
Another of Abidjan’s strengths is its proximity to the sea. Beaches and seaside villages like Grand-Bassam, Grand-Lahou and Jacqueville are not far from the city centre. My personal favourite is Assinie, a little coastal village that offers beautiful hotels and fresh seafood where both locals and travellers can go to enjoy the weekend.
Which types of local cuisine would you suggest to an international visitor?
BILEY: In general, Ivorian food is very rich and diverse. Foreigners need to experience local food, especially the popular dish poulet braisé, or braised chicken, that can be found in many restaurants and is usually accompanied by either alloco or attiéké – fried plantains and cassava semolina, respectively. Moreover, visitors who have the chance to go to the beach towns should make a point to taste the grilled seafood and fresh fish.
Since Ivorian food is usually quite spicy, it is advisable to ask the waiter whether a dish is spicy or not. Due to its location, Côte d’Ivoire is rich in agriculture and many tropical fruits are grown. It is a great idea to enjoy an all-natural passion fruit or pineapple juice with a local dish. The cuisine of Abidjan and other Ivorian cities is characterised by its wide variety, which reflects the country’s multiculturalism.
In what ways can foreign residents explore Côte d’Ivoire’s traditions and customs?
BILEY: Côte d’Ivoire enjoys a mixture of cultures, where dozens of different ethnic groups live together. One way to become familiar with the culture is to get immersed in the different forms of art while strolling around markets and shopping areas.
Ivorians are very patriotic and proud of their culture, and they never miss the opportunity to talk about their cultural background, history and traditions. In addition, museums such as the Civilisation Museum of Côte d’Ivoire and the Modern Art Museum in Abidjan perfectly reflect the rich, diverse components of Ivorian culture and history.
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