May 14, Ibis, Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Before visiting all I really knew about Equatorial Guinea was the thwarted coup attempt against President Obiang funded by Margaret Thatcher’s son in 2004 (a.k.a the Wonga coup), for which he pleaded guilty (eventually) and was given a four year suspended sentence and a $500k fine in South Africa. British mercenary Simon Mann didn’t fare so well, and spent 5 years in the notorious Black Beach prison in Malabo as part of a 34 year sentence, from which the president eventually pardoned him. Mr Mann is apparently doing fine now as he made a killing on his book deal
President Obiang is still in power (37 years so far) and the government are keen to improve their image, which is hard to do in a country where the per capita wealth is higher than Britain, but much of the country live on less than a dollar a day. (Guardian article). He is still clearly working on his image as there are huge billboards of him all over town!!!
Equatorial Guinea isn’t covered in the Lonely Planet Africa guide as apparently not enough people visit to make it worth their while. There are only four sights listed on TripAdvisor (one of which includes the new sports stadium), and I dutifully wandered around town to visit these, clocking up 12km of walking and sweating several buckets. Compared to Douala, this place is paradise – huge big clean buildings, level footpaths (though no-one appears to walk anywhere except for a couple of kids I saw), and ultra modern highways. Its a little bit like an African version of Turkmenistan – you can really see where they are spending their oil money!
After exhausting the tourist sites, I wandered round the markets and chatted to some old men in my appalling spanish. I also tried the supermarkets but they were pretty sad compared to the ones in Cameroon and Gabon, and I couldn’t even find any dark chocolate to buy (#firstworldproblems).