Skip to navigation

Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Burkina Faso: Ouagadougou

Ouagadougou Cathedral
Ouagadougou Cathedral looks like it's been neatly beheaded by an aeroplane

Poor old Ouagadougou, it really doesn't stand a chance. Despite sounding like a 1970s concept album, the capital city of Burkina Faso reflects the country it represents, in that it has no serious tourist attractions; for this heinous crime it's rarely anything other than a transit city for people travelling between Mali and Ghana. For me it was exactly that, and I expected nothing other than a few days of killing time while waiting for the legendary bureaucracy of Ghana to chug its way through my visa application.


But Ouaga isn't just about shops and shopping, it's about the incredible conflict between Burkina Faso being amazingly poor, and the quality of life in its capital for the casual visitor. After the big city shocks of Dakar and Bamako, Ouagadougou is a clean, ordered, polite and downright civilised city, perhaps best summed up by the fact that the city's grid-based road intersections are all controlled by traffic lights... and they're actually obeyed. This is highly unusual for West Africa, and makes wandering round the city possible without the constant game of hit-or-miss that normally characterises the African pedestrian experience.

Republic Day

Republic Day, which falls on 11 December, is a national holiday to celebrate the day in 1958 when the French territory of Upper Volta voted to become an autonomous state, paving the way for independence in 1960. Even though there have been plenty of political upheavals in Burkina since those heady days, Republic Day is still Burkina's principal holiday and the capital parties hard.