Cities and Towns in Africa
Home to what could well be the largest concentration on scooters and motorbikes anywhere on the continent, any visitor to Ouagadougou (Wa-ga-dou-gou), or simply Ouaga, will have to learn to duck this buzzing menace or face the consequences. Burkina's capital and largest city is busy, but feels more like a large provincial town than a country capital. It's nonetheless Burkina's centre for everything. Shopping, nightlife and culture. The national museum, however, is an outright disappointment, and the main market is fairly ordinary. Instead, visitors should look to Burkina's nightlife given that Ouaga is one of the few predominately non-Muslim cities in the Sahel, as well as the city's skilled artisans. Ouaga's also considered Africa's cinematographic capital city, with a handful of good cinemas. Regardless of the notions above, most Western visitors will probably find Ouaga hot, dry and dusty, but once you've learned to cope, Ouaga is strangely pleasant, not least thanks to the fact that Burkinians are some of the kindest people on the planet.
Named after the royal town outside Lisbon, Nova Sintra is possibly one of the most pleasant towns in Cabo Verde. It's located among the clouds, high above the Atlantic Ocean and has the Island of Fogo in panoramic view on the horizon. The setting is fairytale-like. It's the biggest town on Cabo Verde's smallest inhabited island, and less than two thousand souls call Nova Sintra home. It has a distinct village feeling to it but has more to offer than your standard village community. Traditional Cabo Verdian live music is a given on weekends, and there is a supprisingly large range of bars and restaurants - there is even two nightclubs in town to keep visitors entertained.
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.
Banyo is a little friendly town close to the Nigerian border. It's either the first Cameroon town you meet coming from Nigeria, or the last if you're leaving Cameroon. You can change money and get a SIM-card at the small market. The roads to and from Banyo are horrendous, so don't be fooled by the relatively short distances.
Yaoundé is the capital of Cameroon, while the larger Douala is the economic center. Yaoundé has this friendly ambiance and it never feels too crazy, except around the super crowded central market. There aren't an awful lot of sights, but there are a handful of interesting art deco 1970s government buildings along with some museums like the Blackitude and National. The Notre Dame Cathedral, built in 1955, has some pretty Afrocentric mosaics. You can climb the "bell" tower for magnificent panoramic views over the city and the surrounding hills.
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.