|Where to find information|
The highly efficient staff at the tourism ant hotel ministry and the national tourist office in Conakry can help visitors plan their trips within Guinea.
Boké and Nzérékoré also have tourism offices. Dalaba has an excellent tourism and development office that sells a remark-ably well-done booklet and offers guides and interpreters.
Four-wheel drive vehicles with drivers can be rented in Conakry. Hiring a driver is an invaluable advantage because he can speak at least one of the languages spoken in the interior, which is often enough because villagers often speak several.
|Meeting The Right People|
Visitors intending to camp are required to see the prefects and sub-prefects in large cities and village chiefs in the area concerned. They provide valuable details about their region or, if they do not have the time, know someone who can.
Museum directors in Kissidougou and Nzérékoré are precious sources of information about traditions and points of interest. It is also worth talking to the management staff at the two parks in Koundara and Faranah.
Generally speaking the reception staff at large hotels are valuable sources of information, but not as good as some of the taxi drivers just outside the door.
Hotel directors are not very accessible. But there is an exception. The one at the " hotel Baté " in Kankan has much to say about the city cultural events and symposia organized by the local radio stations. If he does not know the answer to a question he can often direct visitors to someone who does.
It is often possible for visitors to meet professors, historians and traditionalists (especially in Upper Guinea) as long as they are patient and take the time to ask for an appointment. Their addresses can be obtained from prefectures, some hotels and schools.
Tourism agencies that do anything besides sell tickets are sill scarce in Conakry. Hopefully in the future there will be new companies employing real professionals with field experience.
The Franco-guinea alliance in Conakry, a source of cultural information, has a library, sells local newspapers and puts out a quarterly bulletin called panorama.
A visa is required but the police for all travelers to Guinea. Americans may obtain one from the Embassy of the Republic of Guinea, 2112 Leroy Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (phone : 202-483-9420).
Guinea does not have an embassy in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, Australia or New Zealand. Travelers from those countries are advised to obtain visas and information from the Embassy in Paris, at 51 rue de la Faisanderie, 75016 (phone : 33-147-0481-48 ; fax : 33-147-0457-65).
Private hosts must file a certificat d'hébergement with authorities, but it is possible that this document may no longer be required. It is absolutely necessary to ask the embassy about this.
In theory passports are returned with the visa within 48 hours but those in a hurry should go to the embassy rather than obtain the visa by mail.
Travelers arriving by automobile and those who intend to camp may have to pay a deposit. Ask the embassy for information and explain your intentions.
Automobiles are allowed in the country nine days. Motorists must present an international drivers license, registration, proof of insurance, a pass issued by the Embassy of Guinea and a customs pass issued by a tourist agency or the automobile club of the country in which the vehicle is registered.
The following are not subject to customs duties upon entering Guinea : leftover travel provisions ; 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars for persons over 18 ; personal gold, silver or platinum jewelry (up to 500 grams) ; clothing and personal belongings ; camping equipment ; sport gear ; two different each ; one pocket camera and 10 rolls of film ; a deck of playing cards ; one tape recorder ; one portable telephone ; one portable computer ; one baby carriage ; and small personal appliances such as a portable iron or hair dryer.
A malaria vaccination certificate dated more than ten days and less than ten years is required for travelers.
Smallpox vaccination are no longer required. Cholera vaccination are necessary only in the event of an epidemic. Call the embassy for information.
A urine analysis for sugar and albumin is required for the malaria vaccination. It is not necessary to do the test on an empty stomach.
For additional information American travelers can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention international toll free hotline at 1-888-232-3228 (phone) or 1-888-232-3299 (autofax) or, on the Internet, http://www.cdc.gov.
Travelers stopping in Paris on their way to Guinea may call Air France at 33 141 56 66 00. An answering machine provides vaccination information. The airline has two free vaccination centers in Paris. The one at Les Invalides is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. No appointment is necessary. Children must be accompanied by adults. The second vaccination nation center is at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, Continental Square, the Uranus building, near the RER.
Appointments are necessary and can be made by calling 33 1 48 64 11 99. The center is open only on Tuesday. For other health information in France call 33 8 36 68 63 64.
|A Few Tips of Advice|
It is imperative to follow a malaria prevention treatment, which must begin the day before leaving and continue for two months after returning. The drugs chosen depend on the country of destination as well as on each person's individual case. The best thing is to consult your personal physician.
As soon, as you arrive at the airport, a smiling person-sometimes dressed in an official-looking uniform-may offer to help speed your way through the entry formalities. Politely decline this generous offer-by replying that someone in waiting for you, for example-as these people may be seeking opportunities to rob or swindle tourists, so be careful !
The period to go Guinea depends on what you are looking for. Usually, December through March are the months with the best temperatures and light.
|Choosing The Best Period|
That period is in the dry season, which starts in November and ends in May every-where except Forest Guinea, where it lasts-if it exists at all-only two months, January and February.
The beginning of the dry season is the best time to go for seeing one of the country's main attractions : the unbelievable number of waterfalls.
The falls are most spectacular during the rainy season, beginning in August. But the idea of looking at them in the pouring rain may be dissuasive. The flow remains heavy for several months, but the best time in December and January.
Until recently large canoes capable of carrying 20 or more passengers plied the Milo and the Niger between Kankan and Bamako. Today the water level is too low for this kind of service except in August. The trip is worth it, but this means of transportation is vanishing.
The light is best everywhere during the first thee months of the year. However, the translucent air after the first heavy rains in June and July makes it possible to see the furthest distance-at least between downpours. The rainstorms are so violent it is impossible to see the scenery.
The national parks are closed during the rainy season, reopening in November at the earliest. In any case the final months of the dry season, from March to May, is the best time to see wildlife because the tall grasses are dry, improving visibility and watering holes become few and far between, so there are more animals around those that remain.
|The Rainy and The Dry Seasons|
But that is also the hottest time of year, which lasts from April to early June. In addition, a thick fog often shrouds the mountains, which is especially regrettable in Fouta and on the admirable road between Labé, Mamou and Kindia-one of the country's most beautiful.
The heat is most difficult to beau during this period, especially in Upper Guinea. The difference is spectacular as soon as the first heavy rain falls. But at least the heat is dry. In lower Guinea the air is humid year-round and it feels hotter even though the temperature may be lower.
The heat is always bearable in Fouta and at night air-conditioning is unnecessary, even during the dry season. Campers should not overlook the fact that during the first mounts of the year night are quite cool in Fouta, where the omnipresent fireplaces are not for decoration. Temperature may drop to 10 C (50 F). but warm clothes are necessary even in April and May.
People who have slept outside in the Badiar-Koundara region during those months can recall how much they enjoyed it-for the first few hours. Then a chilly wind begins to blow accompanied by dew that makes a waterproof sleeping bag indispensable.
The ponds festival always takes place in May. The hunting season lasts from December 15 to April 30.
The currency in circulation under the First Republic was the Syli. Today it is the Guinea franc, which comes in coins of 5, 10, 25 and 50 FG and banknote of 100, 500, 1,000 and 5, 000.
There are many banks in Conakry and some have branches inn the capitals of administrative regions and sometimes prefectures. Traveler' checks may not be used outside Conakry, so it is generally advisable to change the necessary amount of money before leaving the capital.
Currency can be exchanged in hotels, many shops and unofficial money-changers, including some cab drivers. Before hand it is indispensable to ask for the exchange rate and, if you are not changing money in a bank or a hotel, for the safest place to make the transaction.
French money is often accepted, and American dollars almost always are.
A few large hotels in Conakry, such as the Hôtel de l'Indépendance, accept credit cards, including to pay for restaurant bills, room service and phone calls. It is advisable to lock your return trip airline ticket, extra money, credit cards, travelers checks, passport and other valuables in a safe as soon as you arrive.
|The Pace of Life|
In theory people get up and go to work early in Africa. Between eight and nine everyone is on the job.
That is no guarantee of finding the person you are looking for. Like everywhere else in the world, and all the way up and down the social scale, people have many reasons to be unavailable, from meetings to conferences, seminars and business trips.
Guinea is a predominantly Muslim country, so work comes to a grinding halt at one on Friday afternoon. Administrative and private offices shut down for the employees have gone to pray at the mosque.
The notion of time is completely different in Africa. A letter to a ministry often takes a week, if it ever arrives at all.
It would be a waste of time and energy to think that the value of a minute is the same in Africa as it is in the West, and especially to believe that the pace of time can be changed. People must be accepted the way they are wherever they are.
|Where to Buy|
Regular travelers to Conakry give similar advice when it comes to shopping. Anything can be found in the capital city, but not necessarily where you except it or when you need it.
The best way to cope with the situation is to purchase an item that seems attractive when it shows up without worrying about whether or not you will need it in the immediate future.
Supermarkets in Conakry-the " Bobo " in Camayenne between the hotel of the same name and the forest, the " V " in Coléah near the high school and the " Bellevue " across the street from the houses of the same name-stay open until the regulation time of 7 p.m.
One person will say that there is nothing in them, while another will claim the opposite. The former most likely wanted something in particular at a specific time, while the latter was probably lucky enough to find something he or she had been unsuccessfully looking for a long time.
Supermarkets are probably not the best-stocked or the most fun places to go shopping.
Markets, such as the Niger market, small stores that are impossible to find for those not in the know and street stands are better bets. All of them are open much later than supermarkets and every day of the week. There are so many that it is best to seek advice from someone who lives in town.
A housewife or her cook knows where to find the best meat, for example, in the maze of streets.
Cabbies, drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles and tour group leaders also know where to find a specific item on a given day. The markets and open-air vendors do not always offer the best prices.
Peddlers around bush taxi stations are a good source for fruit, bread, ready-cooked African meals, hard-boiled eggs (specify !), loko (spicy fried bananas),shish kebab and, curiously, boxes of processed cheese.
Coyah water is also easy to find there as well at most markets in small cities, which are open from dawn until very late at night.
|Tipping and Bargaining|
Service in not included in hotel bills. Tips are still an important source of income for luggage handlers and porters, who accept 1,000 FG bills as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
The drivers on organized tours expect tips ; they can be tremendously helpful with shopping and information. Polite drivers should be tipped more than rude ones to show you appreciate the difference. As an example, a good driver should be given 25,000 FG for ten days.
It is always a good idea to carry 500 FG banknote because cab drivers rarely have change.
Prices for items purchased from markets and open-air vendors as well as the cost of hiring a private taxi for a day are open to bargaining-up to a point.
It should be kept in mind that everything has a true cost. If a price is driven down too far it may be at the a living and sometimes support a family. For course there is the usually act of the vendor who looks desperate even as he is getting ready to double his price.
A bit of tact is necessary to stay within the appropriate limits. The point is not to cheat the vendor. Sometimes it may feel better to be cheated oneself !
In Conakry it is easy to find all the drugs commonly prescribed in Europe at comparable prices. The best packaging and prices of items such as absorbent cotton and Band-Aids can be found in pharmacies, and certainly not at the markets.
P, the other hand, market stalls offer traditional powders, unguents and elixirs for medicinal purposes-as all sorts of rubbish sold by snake-oil salesmen.
Everyone is free to try this or that product and see what effect, if any, it has on their health.
Cautious travelers, or those who do not have time to visit the different stalls, are better off going to Western-style pharmacies.
Common pharmaceutical products are easy to find in regional capitals. But rarer drugs should be purchased in Conakry or, better yet, brought from home.
|A First Aid Kit |
Travelers are strongly advised to carry a well-stocked first aid kit including the which can become a serious health threat if left untreated ; an antiseptic for cuts ; medicine for sore throats, stuffy noses, insect bites, intestinal and stomach disorders and sore eyes ; water purification bush if no Coyah water is available (clean water is necessary even for brushing teeth) ; aspirin ; and a malaria drug, which is usually taken every morning.
Homeopathic or plant remedies may also come in handy. Anti-venom serums do not keep well in the heat, so it is point-less to bring them along unless you have a cooler-but remember that several days may go by without being able to stock up on ice.
Venom pumps could be useful. Many healers and fetish-men give vaccinations but is not always easy to find them on the road.
|Mail and Telecommunications|
Conakry and all the prefectures have regular maid and phone service, although letters do get " lost ". in Conakry, all major hotels as well as many communications centers downtown have fax machines.
Mail must be sent to a post office box or general delivery ; mail carriers do not exist in Guinea and letters are not delivered to private addresses. In Africa family names always come first on the envelope. If a letter is addressed to John Smith it will be filed under " J " and not " S ".
Like everywhere else, else, the weight of a standard letter is 10 grams.
Portable phones companies are currently competing for the Guinea market. The problem of phone connections with the regions is likely to be solved soon.
The following are the area codes for Guinea : Faranah, 81 ; Kankan, 71 ; Kindia, 61 ; Labé, 51 ; Mamou, 68 ; Nzérékoré, 91.
|Radio, Television and Newspapers|
Radio stations include the two national networks, radio-Guinée and RCS FM ; Radio France internationale ; BBC ; VOA ; Radio-Mali ; Radio-Sénégal ; voix du Nord ( Saint Louis, Sénégal) ; Sud-FM ( Zinguinchor) ; and Africa N 1 (Gabon).
Television stations include the two national networks, France 2 and Canal France international ; CNN ; Canal plus Horizons ; and an Arabic channel. Newspapers include the daily Horoya, the weeklies Indépendant, Indépendant plus, L'oil, Union, Nation and the satirical Lynx and Lance.
|The Cost of Living|
The fact that the Guinean Franc (FG) is worth about twice as mush as the old French Franc is impressive. A 160,000 FG hotel bill may seem prohibitive, until you realize it is the equivalent of 800 French Francs-or less than US $140. That is the same price for a similar-category hotel anywhere else in the world.
Even in Conakry there are less expensive accommodations, but it is impossible to find anything for under 50,000 FG unless it is a room without air-conditioning.
Outside Conakry the average rate falls to between about 35,000 and 50,000 FG for an air-conditioned room. But air-conditioning is not always indispensable, especially in Fouta. The price often has nothing to do with how comfortable the room is. Prices go up and down depending on the time of day, the hotel owner's mood and how many rooms are left. Sometimes they are the same whether the room is air-conditioned or ventilated.
Restaurant prices vary. Meals including side dishes start at 5,000 FG, less in local restaurants. Lunch and dinner buffets are popular, especially in Conakry, where major hotels offer all-you-can-eat spreads including a wide variety of cold, savory and sweet dishes for 10,000 FG.
In the regions there is little difference between restaurants serving European cuisine-when they exist. The bill should come to about 5,000 FG. There is often only one entree and no dessert-while mangoes can be scooped up by the bushelful on the ground outside !.
|Taxi and Car Fares|
Group taxis cost between 100 and 500 FG and private cabs in Conakry from 1,000 to 5,000FG per trip. A taxi costs 5,000 FG an hour without air-conditioning, 7,000 FG with.
Renting a car is expensive, especially when the deposit and the cost of insurance and gas are taken into account. Rates vary depending on the category. Gas costs 850 FG and diesel fuel 700 FG a liter.
The cost of renting a canoe varies a lot. To visit the Loos Island the flat fee is around 40,000 FG without much limitation on the time. The price is the same to travel from Boffa to Farenghia.
|Good Manners and Customs|
It is always difficult to do and say the right thing in a new environment. False friendliness is exasperating, easy to detect and insulting, while Africans are resentful of indifference.
Of course it cannot hurt to say " bonjour " when entering a room or an office or before asking for information. Shame on the Westerner in a hurry who starts a conversation with " Excuse me, Sir ".
|When meeting someone, Guineans exchange an endless series of greetings that goes something like this : |
" How are you ? "
" Fine "
" So, how are you ? "
" Fine, and you ? "
I'm fine. What about you ? "
" Everything's fine. And how's the family ? "
And so on. Without exaggerating, each party says " ça va " at least ten times, even more if two people have not seen each other for a while or are in an especially friendly mood.
The important thing is to patiently wait for the end without displaying surprise or annoyance. This ritual is just the translation of the traditional polite phrases in African languages that are infinitely more varied than the never-ending " how are you ? " and made it possible to courteously inquire about a person's family, village and social environment without seeming to pry.
The questions may have appeared insignificant but they enabled whoever asked them to figure out what his host is all about.
French, the official language, is used by everyone in Conakry. But before arriving in a village it is a good idea to learn how to say " hello ", " goodbye " and " thank you " in the local language-even if the pronunciation is off the mark ! the effort, no matter how small, will always be reward with a smile.
|How to Express Thanks|
How should you thank someone who has offered their hospitality or their services as a guide ?
In general, never give money to children (or candy, which ruins their teeth). Never offer a Muslim a bottle of alcohol. On the other hand would be appreciated by a Christian and even more so by an animist, who will offer it as a libation to the ancestors. Afterwards it would not keep him from drinking most of it after sprinkling a few drops on the ground.
If you want to show an adult your appreciation and all you have is cash you can soften the impact of such a seemingly brusque way of expressing thanks by saying, " I could not find the kola nuts that you would have liked, so allow me to give you this to buy them. "
Kola nuts are traditional offerings on special occasions such as weddings. They are also given as a token of thanks to healers and important figures.
It is always acceptable to give a few coins to a griot who dedicate a couplet to tourists on festive occasions-if only to encourage him not to mix a little vinegar with the honey of his praise, which in any case visitors will the honey of his praise, which in any case visitors will not understand.
|Give Useful Things|
Visitors can also give money to a village chief-not for him, but for the countless projects that are planned or under way, including dispensaries, schools, soccer, fields, which can also be given in kind. Children's clothes and sweaters are also highly appreciated gifts.
In some villages the conversation about what people need is much more straightforward. They have no trouble telling you that they need tools such as a daba, or wheelbarrow, and motors for their canoes.
Sometimes they are interrupted by children asking for balls or hunters who need ammo !
The main thing is showing that you want to express thanks for a favor, and not to pays for it.
Lastly, like everywhere else in the world, Guineans are happy if you are interested in their lives, history, customs and ideas. Nothing could touch them more-if the interest is sincere.
|Knowing How to Take One's Time|
Thanking people with gifts requires spending a little time learning about their customs, way of life and specific needs.
Instead of rushing from one region to another trying to see everything as most tourists do-and running the risk of blurring individuals in your memory-it is more important to see less but in a better way.
By the way, independence when it comes to spending the night and having meals also enables you to choose where you want to stay and to spend as much time there as you want.
Anywhere visitors take the time to sit down and stop looking at their watches they will find plenty of people who will enjoy a conversation, you can talk to lots of people, from the prefect to the subprefect, hunters, fishermen, notables, traditionalists and simple villagers, would be all too happy to talk about their history, customs, legends, local medicines and, in the case of women, beauty and cooking tips. Visitors can learn a tremendous amount from all of them-starting with a notion of time that we in the west have forgotten.
Guineans are surprised to see white foreigners rushing around, even on vacation. Just when they are getting to know and like the visitor they are having a conversation with, he or she must run off to discover something else-not taking the appropriate amount of time to adequately see it, either. Many tourists " do " a country without understanding it.
|Respecting Local Traditions|
Contact with calmer, quieter people is a great way for Westerners running the rat race year-round to wind down and enjoy life. Conakry, the capital of the country-with its noise and traffic jams that are so bad it can take two hours to drive through one of the neighborhoods on the city's edges-is not the ideal place to really become reacquainted with this forgotten wisdom.
But is small cities and, especially, villages, everything is more harmonious, life slows down and things return to their proper perspective.
Taking one's time is also the way to obtain someone's agreement to be photographed. Some Africans hate the idea of having a stranger take their picture, which they consider a sort of theft.
I must be recalled that mask-wearers pick up the smallest bit of straw fallen from a raffia costume, for example, to keep a sorcerer from casting an evil spell on them.
The idea that something which has been in contact with a person's body keeps some of their vital energy is still widespread and linked to having a picture or video taken. In addition, the Fulani and Malinké consider their livestock another self and have the same concerns about them.
Other people may be delighted to pose in front of a camera. It is very important to photograph them with a Polaroid so they can immediately see the picture. But it is always advisable to ask everyone whether or not they wish to be photographed.
Another good reason to become acquainted with local residents is that dances are easier to organize for foreigners who have become friends, even outside traditional periods.
Even more importantly, villagers can explain a dance's meaning.
Americans say time is money. But accumulated time is another form of wealth.
Conakry has Asian, French, international, Italian and African restaurants. African cuisine is based on rice with various meats and fish sauces-which are always very spicy-red oil, peanuts, shea, soumbala (dried, ground fermented locust beans in milk) and potato leaves, which are more popular than the tuber itself.
Sometimes yams replace rice. They are prepared in exactly the same way as are prepared in exactly the same way as potatoes, millet, fonio, and manioc.
Tô is a dish from Upper Guinea made up of manioc balls and a fresh or dried okra sauce. A specialty in Fouta is manioc or corn couscous with curd and butter. Along the coast borokhé-fish with palm oil-is a popular dish.
Like everywhere else in Africa, soccer is the most popular sport and major matches take place in Coléah stadium in the Dixinn neighborhood.
Bicycle racing is also a popular sport for Guinean people.
Conakry's Petit-Bateau marina in is off limits to visitors in town just for a few days, but the hotel of the same name is planning to build a marina for its guests where tourists will probably be able to rent sailboats.
Hunting is practiced throughout the country but subject to regulation and prohibited in certain areas (see insert).
There are seven categories of traditional holidays : those related to the Muslim and Christian religions which, apart from festivals celebrating a specific activity, such as group farm work (kassa) ; the transition from one age group to another (barabila), the repaving of roads between villages (solasa), and another road work and the acquisition of new facilities ; ceremonies that are held when someone dies ; circumcision and initiation, and weddings and baptisms.
Lastly, there are festivals that take place only in Upper Guinea which honor a determined artist, who is always a dancer and a miracle-worker or seer at the same time.
They can be held at any time of year and are open to all the people living in the place where they occur.
Weddings, baptisms, the ceremonies held on the day a person dies and 40 days thereafter, the death of a chief hunter, or simbonsi, and events marking the inauguration of a public building, the yorodalaka, are celebrated differently depending on the region.
Ceremonies to mark a boy's circumcision or a child's, adolescent's or woman's initiation take place thoughout the country, but traditional animist rituals are most widespread in Upper and Forest Guinea, where old traditions are especially lively.
They can be spread out between June and April for boys and from February to May for girls.
In May there is a major Catholic pilgrimage to Boffa in which the faithful walk all the way from Conakry.
In April and May many places hold a festival intended to obtain a good harvest and protection from disasters from the spirit or spirits living in a sacred pond. Fishing is allowed in the pond during a limited period. The most famous festival of this king takes place in Baro, a few kilometers from Kouroussa.
In Mandingo areas the dankounso in December and January marks the start of the hunting season for the brotherhoods of hunters, who have their own deities and rites.
The doudasso is a ceremony to invoke the spirits protecting the village. It takes place in December and January, primarily in Upper Guinea.
The baradossa celebrates the cleaning of the village, and the gbalanda the construction of watchtowers. They also take place in Upper Guinea in December and January.
Rites whose purpose is to enlist the spirits' protection during farm work take place from Mays to December.
The taargol in Middle Guinea lasts from January to May, when learned men read and interpret the Koran before receiving the title of thierno. The months-long cycle ends with a big celebration attended by the inhabitants of several cities.
Muslim holidays include the sunkaro sali, which marks the end of Ramada, and donkon sali, which commemorates God's lifting of the order to Abraham to sacrifice his son.
The diombendé sali in May is the Muslim New year's day. They also celebrate mouloud, the anniversary of Mohammed's birth, and latabaskiou, the feast of the sheep.
October 2 is Independence Day, April 3 is celebrated as the anniversary of the day the armed forces seized power after Sékou Touré's death and the start of the brief period during which no one knew who would succeed him.
The second Republic declared August 27 a national holiday to recall the day in 1977 when the women of Conakry, Nzéréloré and Kindia rose up against the Touré regime, expressing what the entire population felt, including the men.
It should be remembered that brutal repression was in full swing during that period and demonstrating was a tremendously courageous act.
|Handicrafts And Souvenirs|
The center de formation féminine (women's Training Center) at the corner of rues KA.011 and KA.026 in Conakry has a large ground-floor shop where all the items made above as well as products from various regions are sold.
Guinea's women specialize in dyeing. There are five different methods, including dyeing fabrics in solid colors ; " la salade " in which the fabric is moistened, crinkled between the fingers and then sprinkled with dye ; the " tie-dye " approach, the wooden stamp process, in which wax is applied to the mark left by the stamps before the entire fabric is plunged into the dye ; and a method in which a brush before dyeing.
|Dyed Booboos |
There processes are used on many different fabrics, especially bazin, untreated percale cotton in 40-centimeter strips, or lépi. The women will do any job on request : the color, design, technique and the garments can be chosen from among the models offered. They include several kinds of traditional booboos as well as beautiful dresses with many flounces framing the low neckline.
These dresses are for middle-aged women, although they look even more becoming on younger ones. The shop, and many others, also carries models based on contemporary Western styles. Of course they are not as elegant.
Whatever the model, it is possible to purchase additional yardage of the fabric of which it is made. That is also true for the ready-made tablecloths, so you can have matching napkins or curtains.
Similar craft centers and models can be found in Fouta, in Labé, the atelier féminin (women's workshop) in Dalaba and the Nzérékoré crafts market.
Many women also dye fabrics in markets. In Kindia they specialize in indigo dye.
In Fria and Boké, the second-most common craft is shoe-making.
Apart from dyeing, Fouta is renowned for leather-working. The main centers are Mamou, Dalaba, Pita and Labé (sandals, handbags and bottle coverings). Artisans in Fouta also weave braided plant fibers into baskets and léfa-multicolored disks whose original purpose was to cover dishes but which are used in decoration, such as at the " Hôtel Sib " in Dalaba. A wide variety of items can be found in the shops in Labe, which has a highly successful crafts promotion program, and in Dalaba, where women have opened a handicrafts boutique with the tourism office. Craftsmen also have a group stand at the market in Dalaba.
In Upper Guinea, Dinguiraye specializes in lépi, Dabola in pottery, kankan in wooden sculpture, gourds, musical instruments, dolls and cast iron pots. But a little bit of everything can be found in the markets of all these cities, especially when it comes to fabrics.
The main crafts of Forest guinea are items made of plant fibers such as raffia, including baskets, decorative panels and ceiling panels combining bamboo or rattan and raffia and rattan and bamboo furniture.
But Forest Guinea is animist country, so there is wide variety of wooden masks and statuettes.
Animist traditions have made Forest Guinea a center of wood-and ivory-sculpting, which is no longer confined to religious objects. Artists in Conakry, kankan, Dabola and Guékédou also carve modern sculptures.
Craftsmen gave opened a shop called " Le Bonheur " in Conakry on the Donka road across from the university. They do quality works, give accurate price estimatezs and deliver on time.
These modern crafts may or may not be based on old objects. But are opportunities may come up to purchase items used in rituals, which are charged with energy. The only way to make such a discovery is by word-of-mouth.
There is no denying the fact, for the moment, Guinea has a severe shortage of hotels and restaurants. Not only are they few and far between, but the only starred hotels are in Conakry. The rest must be judged on sight.
|An Unpredictable Situation|
It is impossible to know exactly what you will find in the different regions. Perhaps the quality of a hotel has dropped so far a visitor may wonder what on earth ever came over the person who had so enthusiastically recommended it. On the other hand, a new manager may have taken over the place and decided to pay for the necessary upkeep.
Many reasons may explain the decline. Hotels are in a catch-22 situation. A steady stream of tourists is necessary for them to keep up their standards, but tourists won't come unless they can be sure of finding high-quality services. It's difficult to escape this vicious circle.
The current government has accorded priority to small hotels that do not require high investments or upkeep costs. The government should also encourage the use of dollar energy to offset the shortage of electricity, especially for water pumps, lighting and air-conditioning.
Most tourists fall into of two categories. Either they want to visit every region, which they cannot do without a four-wheel drive vehicle and frequently camping and eating outdoors because hotels and restaurants are in very short supply.
Or they limit themselves to a few cities where they are sure to find accommodation-which may be fully booked by a government delegation or participants in a convention, symposium, holiday celebration, funeral or some other unpredictable event.
|The Last Resort|
Visitors must therefore take the calendar of events and holidays into consideration and book ahead whenever possible. But completely unforeseeable events can always crop up.
There are several alternatives between sleeping outdoors and in hotel, including staying with villagers, in special centers built by companies to accommodate their employees (when they are vacant).
Otherwise visitors can ask hospitality to rectories and convents, especially in Nzérékoré and Boffa.
Nevertheless, such accommodations are too uncertain and unreliable to plan a trip around them.
Travelers to villages in the bush should always bring a sleeping bag, a small foam or air mattress and mosquito netting, which can also protect against spiders and cockroaches.
They are light do not get in anyone's way, can bee set up under an awing and let the cool night air through. Mosquito nets are ideal outside cities.
In cities the choice is often limited to small hotels with poorly-uninviting rooms that are often without electricity and running water because of power outages.
Noise can be a problem even late at night and it is advisable for people who want to enjoy a real sleep to bring earplugs.
Some current ideas about traveling can be wrong. Air conditioning and ventilation are not indispensable everywhere or all the time. When taking a room it is properly ventilated and that the window is secure to avoid a break-in