Getting to Bondoukou turned out to be more difficult than imagined, after we were misinformed in Kong, and ended up on a faulty bus to Bouaké that had so many problems and such a lousy driver that we decided to get off in Katiola after the fall of night. An early rise allowed me to catch the first bus from Bouaké towards the east, finding a road that was pretty good, and I made it to what almost is a border town in the far east of Ivory Coast: Bondoukou, before it was dark again. I was dropped at a gas station, and saw the Koudouss mosque right across the street: one of the many mosques of this city that is dubbed the town of a thousand mosques. I installed myself, contacted the director of tourism, and turned in early after two long days of traveling, allowing an early rise the next morning.
The lady director had arranged someone to take me to Sorobango, and when we came back, we continued directly to explore Bondoukou itself. We head for the oldest building of town, the residence of Samory Touré. Even though it carries his name, it is not at all sure the great freedom fighter ever lived here: the house was built by Aboucar Touré, no family, who might have donated it to the famous son of Ivory Coast. In any case, the building is in a sorry state, with crumbling walls, collapsed floors, and big cracks showing future damage. Laundry lines are attached to one side of the ruins. My guide takes me inside, and we have to be careful not to step into one of the holes in the ground. It is here, on top of the stairs that lead to nowhere as the second floor is completely gone, that I suddenly feel very dizzy: the first signs of another bout of malaria that I will treat within a few hours.
When I look more closely, I see remains of decorations on the walls of this former residence. We walk outside the building; meanwhile, I wonder why this is not better protected and maintained. That, of course, is a foreign thought here: most people have other priorities, and understandably so. We drive to the house erected by Binger in the late 19th century. The roof is gone, and the rooms are now used by a local family as cooking place. A broken plaque reminds the visitor that the famous French explorer once lived here. We visit a modern mosque, and next to it, find the remains of the oldest mosque in the region, Sudanese style, but getting too small for the growing population, so almost completely torn down. We pass the Great Mosque several times, have to seek shelter when a violent sand storm hits the streets just before rain comes down from a black sky. The director takes me to his museum on a big roundabout in the middle of town. It turns out the museum does not really have a collection. There are several murals to be seen, depicting mighty chiefs, and the director is proud to show his private collection of masks and wooden carvings, purchased locally to protect them. Judging from the dilapidated state of the rooms, it will take some tie before this museum will actually have its own collection. When I walk the city by myself, after confirming my malaria in the local hospital, I find several more mosques. This is considered one of the most islamic towns in the country, even though there are also several churches. A thousand mosques? Probably not, but this town is certainly rich in religious buildings.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Bondoukou (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Bondoukou.
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