Exploring Conakry

In 2013 when my Lonely Planet guidebook for West Africa was written “there [weren’t] many travellers going to Guinea” which means they only write a brief history of the place so I instead went to the internet for research about what to do in Conakry. Long story short, there isn’t much however I spent the day trying to see everything and indeed anything that was worth seeing.

I jumped on the back of a motorbike to take me to the Corniche of Conakry and the Grande Mosquée de Conakry which is almost certainly the most architecturally impressive building in the city, I wandered the outside and then went into the huge prayer hall which had numerous green pillars propping up the roof and impressive dome. When I went outside, I was just putting my shoes on when a man approached and started gesticulating and pointing at an ID badge hung around his neck, in my limited French I think he was saying I should’ve had a guide as I am a tourist and it should’ve been him, I made a hasty retreat whilst muttering “pardon” and “je ne comprend pas” as I went.

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Wanting to explore on foot I walked along the main road, a two-lane highway, towards the end of the Corniche. Along the route I passed a highly recommended night club (unsurprisingly shut at 0900), the Garden of 2 October which was also suitably uninviting and many other random albeit rather normal (for West Africa) sights. The tip of the Corniche was a lot more vibrant, when I eventually made it there.

Along practically every street there were kids, teenagers or young men playing football on the street or in a small clearing of scrubland, the goals they were playing with were typically half a metre wide, an impossible target for the untalented. There was much more of a buzz to the city with people selling any number of household goods and produce at small stalls at the edge of the road. My wanderings took me to the Port du Boulbinet were there were dozens, if not hundreds of pirouges (long wooden boats) moored, ready to take passengers to the nearby Iles de Los or to go out fishing, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of people along the quay, jostling for a space aboard a departing boat or trying to land the best deal on fresh fish. Just slightly along from there was a restaurant called Obama’s Restaurant and Bar which was a wooden shack built on stilts which jutted out into the water, from here you had an excellent via back along to the harbour but I was far enough away from the noise to sit and read my book over a cold coke.

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Now I was content I had seen all there was to see I decided to walk all the way back to my guesthouse, to see a little more of the city and its different districts. I knew it was a long way as I had looked up the distance that morning on Google Maps however, I hadn’t fully appreciated how far that would feel in the hot sun. Nevertheless, I carried on and I was very glad I hadn’t decided just to get a taxi back, there is no substitute to experiencing a city by walking through it. I stopped a couple of times to take photos, purchase water and to haggle and buy a small wooden carving of a man in traditional Guinean dress. I was very grateful of returning to my guesthouse as by this point it was late afternoon and I had walked over 20km in 30-degree sun for most of it. A thoroughly enjoyable day though and if you’re in West Africa I would recommend visiting although any more than a day in the city itself might be slightly overkill.

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