Three hours south of Yamoussoukro, nestled in between the canals and waterways, lies Abidjan the economic capital of the Ivory Coast. Considered the crossroads of West Africa both economically and culturally, Abidjan benefits from clement temperatures year round, reaching average highs of around 88˚ Fahrenheit, or 30˚ Celsius. Like much of West Africa, this city has cachet and soul, and enjoys a diversity of cultures, traditions and people, notably through the French influence (Abidjan is the largest French speaking country in West Africa), but also through the steady stream of tourists that make the city both vibrant and cosmopolitan. Although its reputation was tarnished during the civil war in 2011, Abidjan held firm and has blossomed into a stunning coastal city, ripe for exploration.
The French connection is clear to see all over the city and expect to find Parisian style bistros and gourmet restaurants dotted all over town. However, if your tastebuds prefer a more authentic and African experience, les maquis — local street food stalls — can be found spread out all over the city. Pull up a chair next to friendly locals, and dine out on specialities such as kedjenou (chicken with braised vegetables), attieke (cassava ground into couscous-like grains and eaten with fish or meat) and aloko, (fried banana served with onions and chillies).
Originally a fishing village, Abidjan is a city of stark contrasts. Local craft markets sit comfortably next to sprawling skyscrapers, so architecturally advanced that one might be forgiven for questioning whether you are not in fact in Manhattan. Tourists mingle side by side with natives, while children play football barefoot in the streets. Granted, the war may have left some aftermath, but overall this proud, beautiful city shows no signs of slowing down.