Bouaké, home of the Baoule people, is Cote D’Ivoire’s second largest city, with a population of 536,189 (2014 census). It is situated on a plateau in the Vallee du Bandama Region of central Cote d’Ivoire. Bouaké is a 4-hour drive from Abidjan and was established as a French military post in 1899 before becoming an autonomous municipality in 1969. It is a city, on crossroads between the country’s north and south, steadily making progress away from the devastation of the civil war.
Today, among other things, Bouaké is a tourist delight with a beautiful recreational park and lots of relics to capture the imagination of visitors. La Promenade, built by Quartz Agi, is strategically located within the city and open 7 days a week for lovers, fun seekers, children as well as the elderly. The city also has a remarkable cultural centre which curates the historical odyssey of Bouaké in pictures as well as a modern theatre for stage performances.
Moving around the city is primarily through motorcycles or taxis. The city’s markets are colourful and vibrant, but silent at night time except on weekends when the clubs and bars are in their full elements. French is the lingua franca, while Baoulé is the major local language spoken in the city.
Bouaké is a vibrant commercial city with important tourist attractions such as the La Promenade Entertainment Park, the St. Michael’s Cathedral and the Bouake Festival. Your visit to Bouaké will be incomplete without checking out the Centre for Culture and Reconciliation, a significant destination for the understanding of Bouake’s history.
Don’t miss out on the Bouaké festival, an annual colourful event that kicks off at the end of March and runs through the beginning of April. The University of Bouaké, the school of forestry, and the cotton-textile institute are also places worth seeing.
On your way to Bouaké, stop at Yamoussoukro to catch a glimpse of the world’s largest church, Basilique of the Notre Dame de la Paix, the imposing Hotel Président as well as the Galerie d’Arts Pluriels, a beautiful art gallery run by an Ivorian art historian.
Rice and stew with beef, chicken or fish are staples in Bouaké. If you are served any meal in Bouaké, Rice will always be added as a ‘dessert’. Indeed, a meal without Rice is incomplete. Other dishes include Aloko (fried bananas), Kedjenou (seasoned meat and vegetable sauce), Attiéké (made from grated cassava) – a popular side dish.
Local drinks to look out for include ginger beer, local palm wine and Youki soda (which is a little sweeter than tonic water).
Generally, Ivorians are very generous with food, especially to strangers. They believe that eating not only feeds the body but unites people with a communal spirit. At every given meal, the dining table is usually full with all kinds of food, drinks and desserts, so prepare for a big treat. Before and after the meal, a bowl of water and soap is usually passed round for washing of hands. If you don’t get to eat with a local family, you can visit any of the local maquis (restaurant) to order food at reasonable prices. Bon appetit!