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Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta, is a landlocked country in West Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the south east, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the south west.
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About Burkina Faso
Until the end of the 19th century, the history of Burkina Faso was dominated by the empire-building Mossi. The French arrived and claimed the area in 1896, but Mossi resistance ended only with the capture of their capital Ouagadougou in 1901. The colony of Upper Volta was established in 1919, but it was dismembered and reconstituted several times until the present borders were recognized in 1947.
Independence from France came to Upper Volta, which was renamed Burkina Faso, in 1960. From 1984 until 1987, it was under the leadership of Thomas Sankara, otherwise known as the Che Guevara of Africa. Sankara's regime proved to be very popular, as he averted much power and influence on the World Bank and IMF, encouraging worldwide aid to fight disease. Most of his programs were successful, though not successful enough to protect the country from political turmoil. He was ridiculed in the West for his authoritarian rule, banning free press and trade unions. In 1987, a coup led by Blaise Compaoré, a colleague of Sankara, toppled the regime and executed Sankara, citing deterioration of relations with foreign countries.
Since 1987, Blaise Compaoré has been leading the country. Things have not improved during his years in office, and many of Sankara's policies for stability and economic growth have been largely dismantled, making Burkina Faso one of the poorest countries in the world. Political unrest has worsened, and economic reforms remain very uneven.
Starting in Gorom Gorom, you can take a camel ride out into the desert and even sleep out there on the sand. Guides can arrange this for you from Gorom Gorom and it can be expensive if you do not pick your guides carefully. Take warm clothes and good blankets if you plan to sleep in the desert. Women should bring pants to wear on camels because skirts (especially African pagnes) tend to fall open due to the shape of the saddle.
There is a beautiful hike alongside the waterfalls outside of Banfora. The admission price is one or two thousand francs. Be careful not to spend too much time in the water - tourists occasionally catch bilharzia, also known as Schistosomiasis, from swimming in the falls. The locals will tell you that swimming will not make you sick, but it can.
Also near Banfora is a lake (more of a pond, actually) where you can take a trip out on a pirogue to see the hippos. Do not expect too much. Often all you see of the hippos is ears sticking up out of the water. Remember, hippos are dangerous animals who do not like being bumped by pirogues that get too close, so be careful. This will cost two or three thousand francs per person.
A couple of hours West of Banfora is Sindou, with the Sindou peaks. These rock formations are somewhat like the North American hoodoos. They are needle-like peaks that have shaped by wind erosion. The Sindou peaks are a great spot for a short hike or a picnic. A guide is not necessary to find your way around but can tell you many fascinating facts about Senoufo culture and the time when the village, which is now at the base of the peaks, used to be located up on the plateau. Look out for the thorned plants on the plateau - the Senoufo imported them from Mali to use the thorns to make poisoned arrows. Admission is XOF1,000. You will need to give the guide a tip.
Buy fabric and get an African outfit made. In Ouagadougou, you will pay XOF3,750 for "three pagnes" of fabric. You can then take this to a tailor and have three items made - for women this is usually a shirt and skirt then a length of fabric left over to make a wrap-around skirt. Men can have shirts made. The going rate for a woman's outfit and skirt is XOF3,500. Fancier models and embroidery will cost extra, as much as f XOF20,000 if you want elaborate embroidery.
See the crocodiles at one of the crocodile lakes outside of Ouaga, on the road to Bobo-Dioulasso.
Explore the mud mosque in Bobo-Dioulasso. An imam's son can serve as your guide. Remove your shoes at the entrance. Dress modestly. Women should be prepared to cover their heads, although this is not always requested. You will need to pay admission (XOF1,000), give a tip to the guide and give a tip to the kid who guards your shoes while you are inside.
Explore the elaborate mosques in Bani, near Dori on the road to Ouaga.
Any run-of-the-mill Burkinabé restaurant will most certainly have one or all of the following:
Tô = a millet or corn flour based jello-like dish served with a sauce. Sauces commonly are okra-based (fr. "sauce gumbo" - tends to be on the viscous-side), peanut-based (fr. "sauce arachide"), baobab-leaf-based (not bad tasting, but very slimy), or sorrel-based (fr. "oseille", another green-leaf, a little sour).
You eat this dish by breaking off some tô with a spoon (or, if you want to go local and your hands are washed, use your finger - just remember to use always the right hand, as the left hand is considered "unclean" because it is used for bathroom purposes) and dipping it into the sauce. Definitely an acquired taste.
FuFu = a pizza-dough-like ball of starch served with a sauce. Made by pounding boiled ignames (sort of a super-sized version of a yucca-potato hybrid, called Yams in English). The sauce is usually tomato-based. Eaten in the same manner as tô.
Ragout d'Igname = boiled igname in a tomato sauce. A beef and yam stew
Riz Gras = Rice cooked in tomato sauce and flavored stock, often with onion. Sometimes served with extra sauce on top, but not a given.
Riz Sauce (Rice and sauce) = Pretty self-explanatory. White rice usually served with a tomato or peanut sauce.
Spaghetti = Usually spaghetti is served au gras as opposed to spaghetti sauce.
Haricots verts = Green-beans, usually from a can, with tomato sauce
Petits pois = Green peas, usually from a can, with tomato sauce
Soupe = usually chicken (fr. "poulet"), guinea fowl (fr. "pintade") or fish (fr. "poisson")
Salade = a salad of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onion with a mayonnaise-based dressing (mayo, vinegar, salt, pepper)
A Burkina specialty is "Poulet Telévisé" aka televised chicken, or roast chicken, since many locals say if you watch the roaster it is like watching TV!
- Beignets = (mooré samsa) fried bean flour
- Fried ignames, patate douce (sweet potato french fries)
- Alloco = Bbq'd plantains
- Brochettes = bbq'd meat sticks, or liver, or tripe, or intestines
- Porc au four = baked greasy pork bits served with hot sauce (fr. "piment"), salt, and if you are lucky, mustard. Best enjoyed with a Flag beer (to make "champagne", add some tonic)
- Gateau = fried dough. Comes in all sorts of varieties, best when fresh.
- Bisap = hibiscus leaf cold sweet tea, sometimes enhanced with mint and/or ginger (XOF25-50)
- Yamoku, or Gingembre = sweet ginger drink (XOF25-50)
- Toédo, or Pain de singe = sweet and "smoothie-like" in texture. Made from baobab fruit.
- Yoghurt = sweet dégué = yoghurt mixed with millet balls, sometimes couscous.
- Dolo = millet beer.
The West African CFA franc (XOF) is used by Burkina Faso. It is also used by Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. While strictly a separate currency from the Central African CFA franc (XAF), the two currencies are used interchangeably at par throughout all CFA franc (XAF & XOF) using countries.
Both CFA francs are guaranteed by the French treasury and are pegged to the euro at €1 = XOF655.957.
Credit cards are rarely accepted, but cash may be withdrawn with a card at certain banks in all major towns (Ouaga, Bobo, Banfora, Dori, and Ouahigouya are confirmed). In general, most bank machines will accept only VISA cards, with a PIN or a CarteBleu. MasterCard and Maestro no longer have partner banks in Burkina Faso. Make sure you have a PIN for your credit card in order to access money from the bank machines. Travelers' checks (better luck in euros than in dollars) can usually be cashed at local banks in Ouaga and Bobo, but with large change fees.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Burkina Faso on Wikivoyage.
Cities in Burkina Faso
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Ouagadougou is the capital of Burkina Faso and the nation's cultural & economic centre. Its name is informally shortened to Ouaga (pronounced: WA-ga).
- Central Market
- Place des Cineastes
- Stade du 4-Aout
- Kabore Tambi National Park
- Ouagadougou Cathedral
Points of Interest in Burkina Faso
Laongo is home to a variety of sculptures by local and international artists The park's scattered pieces of granite have been transformed into beautiful works of art
The Sindou Peaks in Banfora consists of a narrow chain of soft rock that over the years has been eroded into unusual rock formations
Burkina Faso is the home of music in West Africa.
- Festival International de la Culture Hip Hop (International Festival of Hip Hop Culture)—Ouagadougou & Bobo-Dioulasso; October; Two weeks of Hip Hop performances
- Festival Jazz (Jazz Festival)—Ouaga & Bobo; April/May; Features big names from around the continent
- Festival des Masques et des Artes (FESTIMA; Arts & Masks Festival)—Dedougou; March of even-numbered years; Hundreds of troupes of mask dancers from across West Africa perform.
- Festival Panafricain du Cinema (FESPACO;Panafrican Film Festival)—Ouaga; Feb/Mar of odd-numbered years; Africa's largest film festival held every other year brings stars and filmmakers from across the continent.
- Semaine National de la Culture (National Culture Week)—Bobo; March/April; music, dance, theater, and masquerades fill the air this week in Bobo
Central Market - Ouagadougou
Dioulassoba Mosque - Bobo Dioulasso
Place des Cineastes - Ouagadougou
Bobo Dioulasso Cathedral - Bobo Dioulasso
Stade du 4-Aout - Ouagadougou
Houet Museum - Bobo Dioulasso
Mare aux Hippopotames - Bobo Dioulasso
Kabore Tambi National Park - Ouagadougou