Sunday, May 12, 2013

What is Abidjan like?

I've never lived in a developing country before so I have no real idea what to expect.  I've spent time in the posh parts of Buenos Aires and Cairo and, in terms of comforts, neither felt very different from a developed country.  I suspect that Abidjan will be considerably more challenging.  

My only real knowledge is from anecdotes and Lonely Planet West Africa.

Before the conflict, Cote d'Ivoire -- particularly Abidjan -- was considered the jewel of West Africa.  Despite the violence, there are still a bunch of French ex-pats living there.  International summits used to take place there, but now they go to Dakar.  According to a Fulbrighter who's currently there, it's pretty posh for a West African city -- swimming pools, French pastries, gelato and wifi.  One fancy hotel used to have an ice skating rink, although it's unclear if that still exists.  

Lonely Planet says that "Abidjan's skyline is every bit as breathtaking as Chicago's," which I find hard to believe.  It's built along a lagoon (I've never lived by a lagoon) and it has a (cheap) commuter ferry service.  Hiring a regular taxi for the day costs $30-50.  

Law enforcement officers will apparently ask for bribes; I've never been asked for a bribe before.  According to Lonely Planet, you can politely refuse, so long as you have your paper with you.  Sounds a bit nerve-wracking.  

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