Guinea

Typical street scape in Guinea

Jim’s Perspectives:

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. 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 coolest thing to a cluster-frick that I’ve ever seen it’s a lawless traffic circle with cars headed in all directions.

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 given this 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 check out this video of what most of the roads are line in Guinea.

Family walking through downtown Conakry
Typical neighborhood scene in outskirts of Conakry

Country Background:

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. 

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.

Guatemala

Ruins in Tikal! Jim's Perspectives: Tikal, about 50 miles northwest of the border with Belize, is located deep in Guatemala’s rainforest, was created in 1966 and was the first protected area in Guatemala. At its peak some 1,500 years ago, Tikal was home to an...

Mauritius

Jim's Perspectives: This is a cool island, one that’s much more Asian than African and if you spend a measurable amount of time in Africa, you’ll notice it from the moment you land at its swanky view airport. Most everything is neat and clean in this tiny gem of an...

Mongolia

The capital of Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar and the official language is Mongolian. About 3.5 million people live here. Mongolia used to be more heavily dominated by folk religions such as Shamanism, but today, most of the population follows Tibetan Buddhism. The time zone...