Sunday, February 19, 2012


In and around Bobo

Visits this year from my daughter Dawn and her family and from my colleague from John Carroll University, Elizabeth Swenson, gave me a chance to see some tourist sites I would not otherwise have visited.  


I have written about Tiebele, the village of painted houses.  Another village that is opened to tourists is the village of Koro, located on a high plateau near Bobo-Dioulasso. This is a picture of the slope up to the village.

This is an example of how you manage to make a foundation for a house on the side of the hill.  I guess you just hope there are no earthquakes!

We did see a few people who appear to be living here, although many of the houses seemed to be vacant, like this one.

Our guide told us many of the people live down on the plain most of the year, especially during the growing season, and return to the village only for ceremonies and special events like weddings and funerals. Life can’t be easy here. We passed these women carrying water up the hill as we were leaving. Can you imagine doing this several times a day to have water for drinking, cooking, washing dishes, and bathing?


One of the things they pointed out to us was the place where the men meet to discuss problems.  Only men are supposed to enter this area, so here is a picture of my son-in-law, Jay, sitting in the place reserved for men. This structure is very similar to the one Janet and I saw in Mali, in the Dogon county, when I visited her there in 1984. 

Here is a view over the rooftops of the village to the plain below.  You can see the village is a long way up, which would make it easy to defend

There were fetishes here, similar to those we saw at Tiebele.  We were told this one at Koro was put up by someone who was hoping for twins.

The other village tourists can visit is in the heart of the city of Bobo-Dioulasso. It is referred to as the Old City and, as with the other places, you can visit it if you pay a mille (about $2) per person, and tip your guide at the end of the visit.  The money helps with civic projects, we were told, and it is the way the guides make their living. Unlike Koro, it was clear that there were lots of people living here. This is a typical street in the old city, with women at work.

There were also lots of kids around.

One of the things we were shown was a big fetish site. 

Here is a close up of the chicken feathers from someone’s sacrifice here.

This is the place the men of the old city meet to resolve problems.  Our guide said they do not turn malefactors over to the city police but discipline them themselves. Penalties can include fines or beatings.
This is the oldest house in the old city, supposed to date from the 11th century.  They must refresh the coating pretty often to preserve it.

Because this is a tourist attraction, along the way the guide took us to several places where we could buy souvenirs. At the first place there were a couple of folks playing traditional instruments and singing songs in the local language. Here you could buy instruments, carvings, and CDs of the group that was playing there.

Another stop was at the black smiths’.
They were making figures out of the iron. Nice, light little souvenirs to take home with you. They are only about 5 of 6 inches tall.

We also visited a place that sold bags and purses, and one where people were making figures out of bronze, but I will tell you about that in a future blog on arts and crafts in Burkina Faso.

Another tourist attraction is the grand mosque.  Here is a view from the entrance to the old city that is right across the street from it.

When I was traveling with the Garrett-Larsens we took a tour of the mosque.  The interior was mostly pillars holding up the roof.  There is not a large, open area such as you see in churches, but just corridors between the pillars.  


Here is the place where the Imam stands when he is teaching the lesson on Thursdays when the Muslims have their biggest gathering of the week.


Here are the steps we took to get up to the roof of the mosque.


Up on the roof  you could see something of how the building was constructed. 

There is a loud speaker that broadcasts the call to prayer five times a day (or more).  You can see it toward the top of this spire in the picture below. In my village there is a wake-up call broadcast at 4:30 every morning sofolks can be up and be ready to pray at 5:00. No need for an alarm clock! I can’t understand anything that is said, of course, because it is all in Arabic.

Another thing we liked in Bobo were the decorations in the middle of their traffic circles. This one is in honor of women.

This one lighted up at night, with the top part green. the bottom part red, and a yellow star in the middle, like the Burkina Faso flag.  To us, it looked like a Christmas decoration. It looks pretty cool as a crystal pyramid, too.

In Ouaga we visited the national museum,  no photos were permitted inside, but here are a couple of the buildings.

We also visited the music museums in Bobo and in Ouaga, but I will tell you more about that in a later blog on music in Burkina Faso.

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