Getting To Know Burkina Faso

Are you ready for mud mosques, crocs, rock outcrops and waterfalls? And odd, more so than awe-inspiring, monuments?

That might not be what comes to mind (if anything does) when you think of Burkina Faso. But that’s on our itinerary as we get to know this little-visited, landlocked West African country — and do so in a short time.

Some Local Culture

Following my trip to Mali, I went to visit Burkina Faso. As I mentioned previously, Mali is sanctioned, which makes it difficult to come and go. It should have been easy to travel overland between the neighboring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso, but due to the sanctions and the pandemic, it was not possible for foreigners to travel between the two countries overland. 🙄

Instead of an easy five-hour drive, I had to fly from Bamako in Mali to Bobo-Dioulasso, the second biggest city in Burkina Faso. First I flew to Conakry in Guinea, then Lomé in Togo, and finally to Burkina Faso, which took 12 hours in total. The next day I would take another seven-hour drive from Ouagadougou to Bobo-Dioulasso, where my trip would finally begin.

Ready to go to Burkina Faso

The nice thing about Burkina Faso is that you can get a visa on arrival, so that made things easy enough when I finally landed at my destination. I spent the first night at a hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

I have to say, they had great pizza there, as well as a lot of mosquitos biting me. There were also a lot of prostitutes. There were I think 10 guys at the restaurant and 10 prostitutes waiting for them. I didn’t take one, but it’s a nice sight at all the posh hotels in Africa. 😅

A nice sunset from the hotel

The next day we had a long, boring seven-hour drive to take toward the south, near the border of Cote D’Ivoire. The only thing to see along the way is the Sahel Desert area. The scenery would change the next day. So that day we drove seven hours on a road that wasn’t so bad from Ouagadougou to Bobo-Dioulasso. 🥱

Once we arrived there, we visited a village near Bobo-Dioulasso. Half of the population there is Muslim and the other half is Christian, and this village was in the Christian part of the city. It was interesting to go to the local village. We saw some mud houses, and saw how people build structures and live their daily lives.

A local Bobo home

The architecture there was very interesting to see, and the tribe we visited, called the Bobos, is quite special and famous. Their language is also called Bobo, and there are about 110,000 of them in existence, with the majority living in Burkina Faso. They earn their living from farming, which is of utmost importance in their culture. It was interesting to spend some time with the Bobos and see how they live.

Exploring a bit around the town

After that, we went back to the local hotel in Bobo-Dioulasso where we would spend the next two nights.

Visiting Banfora

The following day, we explored Banfora in the southwest of Burkina Faso, which is another Christian area. While it is only the sixth most populated town in Burkina Faso, I thought it was by far the most scenic part of the country that I got to visit.

Beautiful Banfora

I loved seeing the change in scenery as you leave the Sahel Desert and begin to enter more pleasant, tropical regions. There’s quite a lot of water there with some rivers and nice rock formations which we went to see.

One of many interesting rock formations that we saw along the way

Outside of the sugar industry, which is huge there, the Banfora district is also a big mining area. We went to visit three different rock formations in the area, as well as a waterfall.

The waterfall looked nice and refreshing

The waterfall, known as Cascades de Karfiguéla, is quite famous in the area and is pretty big. It’s actually a series of waterfalls along the Komoé River, and it’s one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country. It’s a nice sight and a popular getaway destination for local tourists, who come in droves and swim under the waterfall.

Some locals enjoying a day at the cascades

It reminded me a little of Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, with the cast formations. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a swimsuit, so I couldn’t jump in the water there. Nevertheless, it was a nice experience to see this waterfall and climb around, taking some nice pictures in this region.

The locals look quite different 😂 But you can somewhat see the similarity to Plitvice in Croatia

It was quite some hiking. There were lots of mangoes growing, so we took some of those for lunch before going to explore other rock formations with a bit of hiking, nice pictures, and nice views. Then we had to drive back to Bobo-Dioulasso. As always, I had to work a bit in the afternoon and evening.

Hiking around to get some views of the landscape

A Mud Mosque and Holy Crocs

The next day we drove all the way back to Ouagadougou. I had another flight basically the next morning to move on to the next country, so it was just a short stay in Burkina Faso. Even though it was a short trip, it was packed full, so I still saw some stuff on the last full day.

That morning before our drive, I still had to visit the Grand Mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso, which was built in 1832.

The stunning mosque of Bobo-Dioulasso

It’s a very large mud mosque similar to some of those that I had seen in Mali, for example, in Djenné, Timbuktu, and so on. But unlike the others, this one was a real, currently operating mosque, so I had a chance to go visit inside of the mosque and see how all the local people pray.

Exploring inside of the mud mosque

It’s also possible to go up in the towers of the mosque, so I was able to climb up onto the roof, where there was a nice view of the surroundings of Bobo-Dioulasso. While this is one of the biggest mud mosques in the world, I didn’t think it was as impressive as the one I saw in Djenné. It was still pretty nice though, and completely bathed in white, so that gives it a special appearance that was different from the others.

It wasn’t my favorite mosque in West Africa, but it was still nice to see.

We drove about halfway back where we saw a lake that has some holy, sacred crocodiles that we would go visit next. We had a guide there, and we went together to the lake where he made some whistling sounds and the crocodile came out to greet us.

A holy crocodile coming to greet us 🐊

The crocodiles weren’t too big, they were probably one and a half meters or two meters maximum, so I wasn’t really scared. I took some nice photos of me just 20 centimeters behind the crocodile, and in that perspective, the crocodiles look much larger in the photo than they were in real life.

Which one of us looks taller? 🤔

These holy crocodiles apparently live off of the food people give them, plus there’s still some fish in the lake. It was a nice experience to see some nature in the area.

They say to “never smile at a crocodile,” but this guy was smiling big for the camera 🤣

What To Do in Ouagadougou

After that, we continued back to Ouagadougou, where we did a little city sightseeing and saw all the most important buildings of the city. There’s an independence memorial called Monuments des Martyrs that we visited and my guide told me a bit about it.

This odd monument has been described as “an alien spaceship which landed from another galaxy.”

We also saw the Thomas Sankara Memorial, dedicated to a revolutionary Marxist leader who did quite a few good things for Burkina Faso. He was president of the country from his coup in 1983 until his murder in 1987, and is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara.” Sankara was anti-imperialist and is known for having promoted a great deal of social, economic, and ecological change in the country. He focused on preventing famine, prioritizing education, improving medical practices, and promoting gender equality. It was quite interesting to learn about his life and impact on Burkina Faso, Africa, and the world at large.

Posing with Thomas Sankara

We also visited the typical sights you’ll see in any African country: the Parliament, the Presidential Palace, and the typical richer neighborhoods. Then I went back to the hotel to sleep and the next day I would fly to Niger through Bamako.

A nice local mosque

Join us next time to explore Niger!