Côte d’Ivoire – bonkers Yamoussoukro

Yamkro is a bonkers town! It is officially the capital of Côte d’Ivoire but isn’t really as all business, embassies and ministries are in Abidjan! It was built by the first president who was in power for 33 years to become the capital in 1983 on the site of his home village. It is the home of the mad basilica and several empty six lanes highways.

Yamkro Basilica

We started by visiting the worlds tallest basilica -modelled after St. Peter’s, but higher. The windows – the largest area of stained glass windows in the world – were made in Bordeaux. The chandeliers were made in Murano. The marble entrance walkway is 1km long. The garden is modelled on Versailles (but doesn’t really look like it).

Two of the few worshippers at the basilica
The building is air conditioned. The building seats 20000 people, but given most people in Côte d’Ivoire are Muslim, peak service is 400-800 people on Sunday.
Picture showing the relative size of Yamkro versus St. Peter’s
Apparently it was ‘gifted’ by the president to the people of Côte d’Ivoire from his own ‘personal funds’ (which no doubt were ‘legitimately earned’ from the populace). The largest attendance ever was for the presidents funeral where 200,000 people filled the gardens outside). One nice touch is that there is a statue of an African Mary. I also like the electric candles which you illuminate by feeding coins into slots. And hilariously the president had inserted himself into the stained glass depiction of Palm Sunday. Amusingly there is a small exhibit comparing the size of the basilica with St. Peter’s and the Notre Dame, to fully demonstrate this is the biggest in the world.  It was quite an experience but hard to comprehend why all this money was spent here versus on all the other things that could have been invested in.  

The dome of the basilica

After a quick stop off for supplies in the piss-reeking downtown, we retired for the afternoon to the hotel president (the poshest in town) in search of coffee and lunch at the ‘famous’ panoramic restaurant. The view was great but did highlight that Yamkro was bizarrely empty. I would have taken some pics of the view but the windows were filthy. We were successful on lunch and chocolate cake! They eventually asked us to leave the restaurant when they closed at 3pm as we were still freeloading on the wifi, but did invite us to relax on the couches in reception and keep using the wifi. We finally abandoned our ‘office’ at 6pm, but were amused that not once did anyone question our right to be there….. something that would have certainly happened elsewhere.  

Hotel President! The UFO of Yamkro

A few of us skipped dinner with the whole truck as it can be irritating to wait a full hour (or two) for most restaurants to cook 19 meals, and then dividing the bill always seems to be a nightmare. Instead we headed out for a ladies night to La Brise, are pizza and steak and confined ourselves to topics that did not involve moaning about anyone or anything to do with the truck.   
Yamoussoukro, December 5, 2016

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