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Guinea is a former French colony that borders Guinea-Bissau and Senegal to the north, Mali on the north and north-east, Côte d'Ivoire to the east and Liberia and Sierra Leone to the south. Unrest in Sierra Leone has spilled across the border, creating humanitarian emergencies and threatening the stability of this country.
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Guinea belonged to a series of empires until France colonized it in the 1890s, and made it part of French West Africa. Guinea declared its independence from France on 2 October 1958. The first president, socialist Ahmed Sékou Touré, faced a lot of criticism from the West for alleged human rights violations and suppression of opposition parties. He believed in building a powerful, self-sufficient nation, without reliance on foreign powers.
When he died in 1984, General Lansana Conté took over. Under Conté's rule, things did not improve and the ideals of Touré were soon left behind. Conté made too many political promises and most of them were never fulfilled. In 1993, the first elections were held, though their results were disputed - as have those in all subsequent elections. Conté died in 2008 without appointing a successor, leaving chaos in his wake. Immediately following Conté's death, on 23 Dec 2008, a man by the name of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara took power as Guinea's new President staged by a coup d'état. Even though Camara came in as a popular figure, this has proved to be another political blow for Guinea and Guineans. Civilian protests have been often met with live gunfire and physical abuse at the hands of military and police personnel. In December 2009, Camara was involved in an assassination attempt, and the current "big man" is Alpha Condé.
The coastal region of Guinea and most of the inland have a tropical climate, with a rainy season lasting from April to November, relatively high and uniform temperatures, and high humidity. Conakry's year-round average high is 29°C (84.2°F), and the low is 23°C (73.4°F); its average annual rainfall is 4,300 mm (169.3 in). The Sahelian Haute Guinee region has a shorter rainy season and greater daily temperature variations.
In Conakry, one of the best places to grab a beer and hangout is the beach bar in Taouyah, an area with a large market and mostly residential with some night clubs and restaurants. Many expats, including the Peace Corps headquarters, live here and meet up at the beach around sunset for great pizza or fish or chicken dishes. There is a great breeze, live music, and lots of locals playing soccer games until the sunsets, especially on the weekends.
Music in Guinea is one of the best cultural activities the country has to offer. Some of the best Kora players in the world are from Guinea. There are many bars that offer live music.
The French-Guinean Cultural Centre has some great musical shows as well as movies, plays, ballets, and hosts exhibitions and conferences. It also has a library and multi-media centre. Members can take out books and use the computers and internet. This is a great place to meet expats, and local musicians, and artists. Most people there will know the best places to go see a show that week.
Outside of Conakry, there are many attractive tourism destinations for the adventurous traveller. Infrastructure, such as hotels, roads etc. is lacking outside of the capital but you can find basic places to stay with limited electricity powered by generators.
The Foutah Djallon area has superb hiking, sweeping vistas, waterfalls and cliffs. Fouta Trekking is a local non-profit that promotes equitable tourism. They offer hiking tours ranging from three to five days or tailored tours. Tourists stay in villages with part of the revenue going back to the villages for community development. Labe, the historical capital and seat of the Foutah Empire that reigned in the pre-colonial times, is a bustling city with some interesting history. You can buy beautiful traditional cloth in various navy blue colors. On the road from Conakry, via Kindia, is the city of Dalaba, where the major chiefs of the country met to determine the fate of the soon to be independent country from the French in 1958. There is an old mansion that you can visit and a ceremonial hut with amazing carvings inside. Kindia has some of the best vegetable and fruit produce and thus a lively market.
The coastline from Conakry up towards Guinea -Bissau also offers great tourism with beautiful untouched beaches, mangroves, and wildlife viewing. Bel Air is a well known tourism destination on the beach about two hours from Conakry on a well paved road. There is a large and usually deserted hotel where past political leaders have met. Its a very popular destination around major holidays. A much nicer place to stay if you like more eco-tourism is Sabolan Village which is a small hotel on a beautiful beach that is off the well paved road that leads to the Bel Air hotel. There are about ten modern huts there and a restaurant. Its a bit expensive for what you get but the setting is amazing. If you have a tent or want to stay in a more authentic and cheaper place, you can go down the beach or along the path, past the actual village, and stay in nice huts made by a local villager and now run by his son. Expats who work in the mining areas rent out the huts and come on the weekends but you can always pitch a tent. You have to bring your own food however.
For the more adventurous is a trip to the island archipelago near the Guinea-Bissau border called Tristao. You can drive from Conakry to Kamsar and from there you can get on a local boat to the Tristao islands. The boat takes four hours and usually runs once or twice a week. You can sometimes get lucky if there is a fishing boat going back to Tristao but they are usually very heavily loaded and may not be as safe as the passenger boat. Manatee, turtles, and many different bird types live in the Tristao archipelago. Its a very isolated place with many animist traditions still in existence.
Kamsar is the main bauxite mining export town, where major shipments of bauxite leave from the Boke region. There are some pretty good hotels and restaurants that cater to the mining executives and expats. The Boke region is the main bauxite mining area. Boke, the administrative city of the region, has an interesting colonial museum, some decent hotels, and a Lebanese store on the main road where everyone goes to watch the football games (soccer) and have cold Amstel lights (when the generator is on).
Many options are available for dining. For a mere GNF20,000 (roughly USD4), you are able to dine on delicious, nutritious food. If your taste buds would prefer something international, many other choices are available as well. The beef in Guinea is very good, and is highly recommended. Pork isn't served because of the dominance of Islam but is eaten among the forest people of the South east (Guinee Forestiere). There are good restaurants that are Lebanese which have European-styled breakfasts.
Outside of the Capital, Conakry, you can can often enjoy local dishes (consisting of Guinean style rice and one of the 4 main sauces with sometimes beef or fish in some cases) at a hole in the wall' local restaurant for less than USD1 (GNF3,000-6,000 depending on the exchange rate). You will leave full!
In Kankan, Guinea (Haute Guinee), there are few places to choose from if you wish to eat at a more decent restaurant. There is Hotel Villa and Hotel Bate. As of mid 2008, these were the top two places for lodging and meals. A typical plate can cost anywhere between GNF35,000 and GNF55,000. Note that prices of food and drinks can often dramatically increase at the spur of the moment and without any explanation!
Fruits are very inexpensive here, especially compared to the higher costs in neighbouring countries (Mali, Ivory Coast and Senegal). For those who love pineapples, on the national road (which literally goes from the North of the country to Conakry in the South) you can find people selling this tasty fruit very cheaply on the side of the road in and around Kindia. Mango fruits, oranges and bananas can also be found in abundance throughout the country and at a cheap rate, especially at road sides.
Another alternative to eating out is eating "IN". Since Guineans are generally welcoming and friendly people you may be invited to their home to share a meal. Most Guineans eat together from one big dish. Enjoy the experience and don't drink the local water if and when they offer it to you. Please have your bottled water handy (Coyah, Milo, etc.).
Canned European beer is available as well as a local "Skol" lager beer.
Water bottled in the name of Coyah is available everywhere for about USD0.50 per 1.5 litre bottle and is very good. Conakry's tap water is generally not safe unless filtered/boiled.
They do not sell a lot of trinkets in Guinea, but they do have wonderful clothing that you can purchase. The tailors there are very skilled and can create an outfit very fast (approximately a day). Masks, wood statues, djembes (drums), traditional clothing, bags made in Guinea are sold in many of the areas outside of major hotels in Conakry and along the roadside. Always haggle, especially if outside a major hotel as prices there are higher. A good rule of thumb is to halve whatever the opening price is and also to walk away if the prices don't come down. Negotiations are supposed to take awhile and are a way of figuring out the "walk away" price point for both buyer and seller.
The largest market in Conakry is Madina market. You can find everything and anything there. Be careful of pickpockets, mud (during rainy season) and traffic. Its a pretty hectic and chaotic place but you'll find the best produce, electronics etc. at the best prices. You can hire a young boy to haul out your purchases for you if you are walking back to a parked car or where you're staying. Fee is about GNF5,000 (USD1).
In certain parts of the country you can also find some nice carvings, many of which are created in the city of Kindia.
The Guinean franc (French: franc guinéen, ISO 4217 code: GNF) is the currency of Guinea. Banknotes circulate in denominations of 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 and inflation is rampant.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Guinea on Wikivoyage.
Cities in Guinea
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Conakry is capital of Guinea and the economic, commercial and trade center for the area.
- Guinea Palais du Peuple
- Guinea National Museum
- Monument de la Revolution
- Guinean Presidential Palace
- Stade 28 Septembre
Points of Interest in Guinea
Guinea has some spectacular landscapes with a few tropical, dry forests remaining, and the rainforests in the south are lush, verdant and full of wildlife - much of it destined for the cooking pot.
In Conakry, there is the National Museum which highlights the distinct ethnic tribes in Guinea and various traditional instruments, masks etc.
The main port is located at the tip of the peninsula in Conakry, near the President's Palace. You can take a boat from there to the islands of Loos for a day or overnight trip. Its a bustling place where fishermen offload their daily catch.
Cape Verga has some of the best beaches in Guinea for exploration.
Mount Nimba is the highest mountain peak in Guinea for trekking.
Guinea Palais du Peuple - Conakry
Guinea National Museum - Conakry
Monument de la Revolution - Conakry
Guinean Presidential Palace - Conakry
Stade 28 Septembre - Conakry
Conakry Grand Mosque - Conakry