Arrival in Abidjan
Trip Start Mar 26, 2012
32Trip End Apr 29, 2012
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Where I stayed
Hotel Ibis Plateau
We took off a little late, toward the east, then banked right and started south, across France, the Mediterranean Sea, Algeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso. I noticed on the flight map that we flew almost directly over Mopti, in Mali, a fascinating place I visited on a personal side trip out of Ouagadougou six years ago. Mopti is a desert trading post located on several islands where the Niger and Bani Rivers meet. Among other trade items huge slabs of salt arrive by boat from Timbuktu just down river, slabs that Touareg tribesmen cut from a prehistoric seabed in the Sahara Desert, and transport by camel caravan. Tasting that salt was an other-worldly experience. Mopti is also the jumping off spot for a visit to the village of Djenné where the world’s largest mud-brick mosque is located, as well as to the amazing Dogon cliff village areas.
Sadly, Mali is having major problems at the moment. Touareg fighters have been staging attacks in the north of the country for quite some time, demanding more support for their people from the government, and just last Wednesday there was a military coup in Bamako, with rebel soldiers deposing the President who fled to an undisclosed location, and closing the boarders. It’s a good time not to be in Mali. These events would have some slight impact on us when we finally arrived in Abidjan.
We landed late, and though entry formalities went pretty quickly at passport and visa control, things dragged from there. Once in the luggage delivery area, we waited for our suitcases to arrive, then had our luggage tags checked (about the only place in sub-Saharan Africa that I know of that does this), then had to run them through an x-ray machine for the security people. I waited at the Accord Hotel desk for half an hour while they corralled the rest of the clients who would be going to the hotels served by the shuttle. The mini-bus was full to overflowing. When every seat was full, they folded down seats that filled even the aisle which completely disappeared.
I could tell by the wide eyes and questions of some of my fellow travelers that this was their first time in Abidjan, and probably Africa. To have suitcases piled in a precarious heap between the driver and the passengers in the small bus was not the normal Western way of doing things. To have to occasionally catch a suitcase as it rolled or fell toward a passenger was also surprising. We had learned from an announcement in the arrival lounge that dignitaries were arriving from neighboring African countries for a summit meeting on the Malian situation. That meant there were all sorts of official delegations arriving and being whisked in armed convoys to their hotels. We were stuck in traffic for half an hour or more while more important people were sent on their way.
At one point we stopped next to trucks full of soldiers on-hand for security. They were armed with the usual AK-47s and an occasional rocket launcher, all very businesslike, things Westerners almost only see on TV or in movies, which startled my seat mates. It got very quiet and contemplative in the bus. As we drove on, however, I found that the situation in Abidjan had improved. It was around 8:00 pm by the time we drove into the city proper and I saw that the streets were full of people. Not long ago the streets were nearly empty at night due to security concerns. Passengers were dropped at the Pullman and Novotel Hotels, the more expensive ones, before the last few of us arrived at the Ibis, which has been recently redecorated and updated and looks quite nice now.
Paul Tia was waiting for me in the lobby to welcome me, and so we could discuss our plans for the next few days. He told me he and his family were well, and that the Church members in Côte d’Ivoire are doing well. We’re set for visits to Abidjan tomorrow, to La Mé on Wednesday, and for leadership seminars on Thursday. These will allow us good and constructive use of the time spent together here.
After our talk, I said goodbye to Paul and sent some messages to let my family know I had arrived safely, and had a quick bite of dinner. It’s been a long trip, and I believe I will sleep well tonight.