The historical town of Grand Bassam was the first capital of Côte d’Ivoire from 1893 to 1896 when an outbreak of yellow fever forced an administrative relocation. Located 45 minutes east of Abidjan, it was established at the mouth of the Comoë River estuary on the Gulf of Guinea by the French colonialists, and remained a key trading post and port until the growth of Abidjan in the 1930s.
For many years, Grand Bassam was abandoned and left to squatters after Côte d’Ivoire’s independence in 1960 and the transfer of all remaining administrative offices to Abidjan. But towards the late ‘70s, the town began to witness a reemergence as a tourist destination and craft center.
Grand Bassam is halved into two parts by the Ébrié Lagoon and both sides are connected by a bridge. Facing the Gulf of Guinea is the old French settlement known as Ancien Bassam where the more grand colonial buildings (some of which have been restored) are. It is also the site of the National Museum of Costume and the Cathédrale de Sacré Cœur, Grand Bassam.
On the inland, northern side of the lagoon is the Nouveau Bassam which grew from the African servants’ quarters and has now become the town’s main commercial center. In 2012, Grand Bassam was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site under criteria: (iii) cultural traditions, and (iv) icon of an era.
‘Niyi David explores the beautiful and enthralling continent of Africa with Afro Tourism, capturing colorful memories of places, cultures and events in words and images.