The capital is Conakry and the official language is French. About 14 million people live here and the main religion is Islam, though there is a small Christian population. Guinea’s top exports are gold, aluminum ore, crude petroleum, postage stamps, and special purpose ships. One of the last countries to be colonized by the French in 1890 and was one of the first countries in West Africa to gain their independence in 1958.
There are four discreet regions in Guinea: coastal, foot highlands, Savannah and forest. The country shares a border with 6 countries including Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast. This is one of the wealthiest countries in all of Africa with plentiful resources bauxite, gold, diamonds, and aluminum.
Despite all of the wealth generated from the these the country still has to import rice to feed its people. Without doubt, all of the wealth is lining someone’s pockets which is a shame given Guinea’s dramatic infrastructure needs.
The country’s land is rich and fertile which further complicates matters. Why aren’t people cultivating the land, growing crops to feed the villages, etc? Why hasn’t the government allocated or sold small parcels to its people. This is certainly a curious place, which best explored overland in a 4×4. The roads are decent in some places but mostly a mess.
The capital, Conakry is a big hustling bustling mass of a city that reminded me of Haiti’s Port-au-Prince. People roamed the streets selling their wares and every square inch was spoken for. The city is an urban sprawl of tin-built shanty villages. But I have to tell you I loved the place when I visited in 2017!
Other people I had met spoke despairingly of it, but I appreciated the energy and life of this wonderful metropolis. Driving through the city’s streets would be impossible for a foreigner as there are no street signs to speak of and the horns from the many motos and cars would intimidate most Western drivers. All roads in Conakry lead to kilometer 36 which is the closest thing to a cluster-frick that I’ve ever seen. It’s a lawless traffic circle with cars headed in all directions.
To get a good meal and enjoy several times of authentic cuisine, eat at MLS restaurant in Conakry, a buffet with good, clean food and service. Right outside the capital, travelers can visit the calm Îles de Los, an island group off of the coast of Guinea that makes for a perfect getaway with both beach and tropical forest.
Outside of the capital city, take a day to go visit the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with stunning views for photographers and nature lovers. This reserve is known for being the home of threatened species such as the viviparous toad and a type of chimpanzee that uses stones as tools.
Definitely be sure to try the popular Malamba drink, made from sugar cane and flavored with roots and spices before fermenting until it becomes alcoholic. Be sure to get it from a place where it looks well-prepared, as drinking too much or drinking a bad batch can taste good in the moment but not feel very good over the next day.