Cities and Towns in Africa
Ponta do Sol is a town at the Northern tip of Santo Antão island and a good base for doing day hikes on the island. It is a place that easily grows on you after staying a few days. Originally being a fishing village, tourism is modestly becoming an important part of the town. The small harbour is a lovely place where you can watch the fishermen skillfully manoeuvre their small boats through the rough waves into the relative safety of the harbour. You can watch the people weigh, sell and clean the catch of the day and then enjoy the good fish and seafood in one of the restaurants while watching the sun set.
The capital Praia is just an overgrown version of any other town in Cabo Verde. A beach, a harbour, and a cluster of mismatched concrete dwellings, all kept in the usual dull grey. Well, that is not totally true, Praia also has an Old Town, called the Plateau since it’s raised above the rest of the city. Here, the houses are a bit more cute and colourful, and there is a range of colonial buildings, like the court house and President Palace, which even has a splendid viewpoint behind it. The Old Town also has a shaded town square, a vegetable market and a pedestrian street, 5. De Julho, which is mostly famous for its range of restaurants. Since the people of Cabo Verde is very easygoing and calm, it should not come as a surprise that Praia is just the same.
Santa Maria is the tourist capital of Cabo Verde. Lots of hotel complexes with sunburned Europeans and even more construction sites with half-built resorts extending along the long sandy beach from Santa Maria town. The town itself is surprisingly nondescript outside the tourist zone, which consists of the tiny town square and the streets leading up to it. There is a small selection of bars, restaurants and shops - and to less appeal, a never-ending flow of West African touts. So yes, Santa Maria is as touristy as it can get, but it still provides what most people are coming for; namely sun, sand, and chilling at the beach – not to mention wind for the kite surfers.
Small, dusty, and dirty Fomboni is the capital of Mohéli. There is an airport in walking distance and a harbour that seems to be functional – else, it's pretty much just a one road town. A wide sandy beach runs along the town, but it's dirty and full of garbage (which is not that unusual for Comorian beaches). The area right next to the beach is, however, a charming mix of trash, scruffy shacks, lovely baobabs, and a stranded ship. Fomboni functions as the transport hub for the whole island and you might have to transfer through here when going from, let's say, Itsamia to Nioumachoua.
Iconi was once the capital and home of the ruling sultan. Not much has been preserved besides a handful of ruins and a couple of city gates, but since the Comoros don't have many historical sights, the few ones stand out. Some of the gates can be difficult to locate, but the old men who sit at the square don't mind acting as guides for a small tip. Recently, Iconi also got a new massive mosque with an equally huge swimming pool that gets filled with seawater at high tide and drained at low tide. The seafront and the coastline south of town are also worth having a look at, turning Iconi into a rather appealing side trip from Moroni.
The federal capital of the Comoros, Moroni, often is the first view of the Comoros a visitor will have, and it's a perfect introduction to the country. Although a bit stretched out, the city is fairly easy to get around and deserves a good exploration. The old medina downtown Moroni is very rundown, but always fun to get lost in. The two markets North and South of town are excellent places to get your share of crowd mingling, while being greeted with friendly "Bonjour!" by almost everyone. And the great volcano Karthala provides a fabulous backdrop while the ocean completes the picture.
Moya is semi-famous for its pretty beach sought for wedding photo ops. Located on the southern side of Anjouan island, the village has a great view of the ocean and the road to get there either from Domoni or Mutsamudu is absolutely stunning. As with most beaches in the Comoros, Moya's beach isn't the place to lounge lazily half-naked for it is heavily used by the local fishermen, and it disappears almost entirely at high tide, but it sure is a lovely place to chill and learn about the local customs.
Wedged between the mountain and the sea, the small city of Mutsamudu is the most charming of the Comoros. Yes, it’s dirty and dishevelled, but boy does it have character! The old medina takes up a good area of the city and is a wonderful maze of crooked alleys, mosques and half-demolished (or half-built) buildings, some with old Swahili wood-carved doors. People here are friendly and the women are beautiful, with sandalwood paste on their faces. The old citadel built in the 18th century overlooks the city and offers splendid views of the mountains and the sea. And since fairly cheap accommodations abound in the city (a rarity in the islands), there is no reason to pass on this gem.
Though Nioumachoua is the second largest town on Moheli, it's still just a large village. It's beautifully located on a hill that slopes down to a long pretty beach. There are splendid views from everywhere over Moheli Marine Park and its uninhabited islands. During the day, the kids play football under the big baobab tree, while in the afternoon the fishermen come to shore with their catch and turn the beach into a lively market. For a bit of exploration, it's possible at low tide to pass the rocky outcrop at the eastern end of the beach and get to the mangroves on the other side.
Little Ouallah 2 is a very refreshing place. The quiet village on the southern side of Mohéli is by a little bay with a picturesque beach. It's also by far the village with the best "bungalows", those basic rooms managed by local organisations throughout the island. The villagers here have really put an effort and the wonderful layout and landscaping are only bested by the food cooked by a very talented local lady. What's even more interesting is the pristine condition of the village: you'd be hard-pressed to find any trash around, houses are well kept and the infrastructure is well maintained. You wouldn't think it was worth mentioning in a travel guide, but among all the other towns and villages, we assure you this one stands out!