The last time I was here, I was a toddler so I don’t remember anything. But from what I hear, it used to be the place to be. From what I see, the place is dead, the buildings dilapidated.
Grand Bassam is east of Abidjan. Lots of Ivorian Nzema people, also known as Apollo people, reside here. Grand Bassam used to be the French colonial capital city in the 1890s so there are a lot of formerly grand old colonial buildings. The town was also a major seaport in the early 1900s. Since the rise of Abidjan, Grand Bassam has gone dead. Now people visit for crafts, the local festivals, the beaches, and like us, for family.
Mama has a great network of extended family here including her mother, her grandmother now deceased, her aunties and uncles, and all their children. She has family on her father’s side here in the Ivory Coast as well. In Bassam. In Abidjan. In Treichville. All over! I got to practice my French but we mostly spoke a mix of English, French, and Nzema to each other. What trouble! But it was fun!
Of course grandmother got on my case because I couldn’t eat with my hands “the right way”, because I tied my cloth with the knot to the right instead of to the left (as a right-handed person would), because I don’t speak Nzema, and because I have not yet given her a great-grandchild!
I spent time on the beach chasing the little sand crabs into their holes.
I got food poisoning. No! No! Not that nausea, diarrhea, upset stomach kind of food poisoning. I mean the side effects of pure gluttony! We were served so much food, delicious food, and WE JUST HAD TO EAT! I would eat to the point of feeling full, very sick, and my heart would palpitate! I ate a lot of attieké with grilled tilapia. So delicious! The tilapia was so fresh that its gills were still moving when it was being prepared for cooking!
The thing about Bassam, and even Abidjan, that I didn’t like was the flies. There were so many! I was constantly in a race with them to finish my food before they took over. I was basically eating, or rather wolfing down my food, with one hand and waving the flies away with the other. Ah, what on earth?!
Abidjan on the other hand was dirty, and the smog and decreased visibility from the Harmattan didn’t help. Large collections of trash were on the streets as trash collection halted ever since toxic waste was ?inadvertently dumped last September. But even with the dirt, I could see how Abidjan was once called The Paris of West Africa. It is beautifully designed with its broad boulevards, tree-lined neighbourhoods, and plentiful parks. If it wasn’t for the political unrest and general decline of the economy, I would feel as if I were in France itself. Right now, I feel uneasy although it seems life is going on like normal for the citizens here.