The Capital City of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso's capital city which is pronounced Waggadoogoo, or known locally as Ouaga ( Wagga ) hosts the pan-African Fespaco film festival every two years. An important event, uniting filmmakers and cultural celebrities from all over Africa, providing a colourful and cultural celebration of arts, crafts and music, with representatives, artists and traders from most of the surrounding countries.

My trip had been roughly planned long in advance of knowing that it would coincide with the Film Festival .. so although an added bonus, the problem of a corresponding lack of accommodation was something which neither Alaghi nor I had fully considered, whilst travelling through Mali with its many distractions. Just occasionally one has to trust to luck and we were lucky that our newly-made friends Kate and Tracy ( seen looking out of the bus windows in this picture ) had telephoned ahead during one of the bus breakdowns and had managed to reserve a room at the Hotel Rose de Sable.

Kate or Tracy, my memory fails me as to who was who, but the one on the left in the picture, was lucky enough to have been studying in Djenné ( Mali ) for the past few months as part of her US university degree course and both were on a limited budget, hence the overnight room rate would have to be similarly limited. That sounded the ideal place for us and luckily they agreed to let us accompany them to the hotel to see if there were any other rooms available. Hiring a local taxi at the bus station, we all arrived at the hotel around 2.30 am. to find the night manager somewhat surprised to be inundated by guests. Due to our delayed journey, the day staff who took the booking had thought it would not be taken up, when the girls did not arrive at the appointed hour.

Yes, they had a double room for the girls and could Alaghi and I please wait whilst they sorted that out first. No problem to us, but a problem to the girls when they saw the state of their room, which had recently been vacated by the previous guests and not been touched by the hotel's cleaners.
Under no circumstances were they going to sleep in a used bed etc. etc. and that was that !!!

The girls, not best pleased, finally settled on an adjacent but smaller twin room, leaving the night manager in a quandary as to where to put Alaghi and I. The twin-bedded room the girls were now in was the one we would have had and a double room was the only one available at that tariff.
The only other alternative was a large twin-bedded room with air conditioning, TV and at the top of their price structure .. a tad expensive for us. "Oh dear," we said .. and did our best to look helpless.

Bless him .. swearing us to secrecy, especially from the girls who had accepted their very plain and cramped conditions much too quickly .. and realising that whilst good friends, we didn't sleep in the same bed .. he kindly offered us this most expensive room in the hotel for the same rate as the cheapest one, if we promised not to use the A/C !! How could we refuse ?  Thanks girls ;-))

For a comfortable stay in a friendly atmosphere, 2 km away from the city centre, I can recommend    
The Hotel Rose de Sable
Cartier Saint Lyon Tel: 50313014

We met the other residents at breakfast the next morning .. mostly European and S. African camera crews and reporters who were spending many hours in hot cinemas, watching hundreds of films.
One such camera crew told us that they had spent 6 hours at a border entry post, arguing the initially asked for $1000 'import duty' on their camera equipment down to $200 !!  Nothing changes.

Ouagadougou was a pleasant surprise, more modern, much cleaner, very much quieter and so much

cheaper than any West African city I know. Although classed as one of the poorer countries of West Africa, evidently the desert sands of the Sahel do not cover the entire country and much of it is a fertile producer of fruit and vegetables. For a long time Burkina has been the major supplier of beef cattle and other livestock to the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where the tse-tse fly largely prevents livestock raising.

Whilst the general population are by no means rich, there were virtually no people begging and children did not approach with their hands out asking for money .. as is the case in most of the neighbouring countries.  The ultramodern buildings and their architecture were very reminiscent of the more affluent cities of South Africa. Even the back streets .. with their poorer, traditional city compounds .. were 100% cleaner than I have seen before in West Africa.

Internet Cafés had up-to-date systems with high speed connections, the food in the cafés and restaurants was tasty, well prepared and presented and all the people we met, as we tried to find our way around and make contacts, couldn't have been more friendly or helpful. I was very impressed.

Alaghi and I walked the streets of the capital, asking here and there if anyone knew where the Hausa bead traders were .. with little success. Seemingly beads were not in the forefront of local business.
It was only when we called a halt for a much needed tea / coffee break and were sitting at an outside kiosk having a rest, that we saw a small line of market stalls 100 metres away, which looked as though they could be interesting.

Crossing the road we talked to the Fula guy in the first stall, who was selling a host of 'antique' bronze figures, some modern powder glass beads and an assortment of shells and ju jus. Introducing ourselves, saying that we were trying to find the Hausa bead trading community and mentioning that we hoped to find Baba 'Peace Corp' Cisse ( our good friend from Sévaré ), who was supposed to be in Ouaga selling his beads at the festival, brought a big smile to his face. "He is my best friend .. I have his telephone number on my mobile," he gleefully said.

Lady luck had shined on us once again .. as five minutes after telephoning Baba, he arrived in all his glory, and what glory it was !! I wonder if the President of Burkina Faso realises that he has a rival in the ceremonial grandeur stakes ? I think the accompanying picture will tell its own story !!

After a really warm greeting to us both, we accepted his invitation to drive us to the festival market in his executive-looking, four wheel drive 'land cruiser'. Driving at a sedate pace through the crowded streets .. Baba was hailed from all

directions .. grinning from ear to ear, roaring out his replies and regally waving with all the magnificence of the greatest African chief ever. It was glorious to behold and had Alaghi and I in fits of laughter !!

Magnanimously treating us to the CFA 300 festival entry fee, we followed in his wake, serving as his entourage as he swept inside .. greeting and being greeted by just about everyone he passed. A well known and obviously popular character in Ouaga .. his entrance to the festival market was equal to the arrival of a king .. and what a festival it was .. absolutely amazing !!