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Burkina Faso - Smiling People

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Travel pictures from Burkina Faso

by Dr. Günther Eichhorn

Itinerary

Burkina Faso map

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In January/February 2010 I had arranged for an individual tour through West Africa. After a great experience in Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda on an individual tour, I decided it is worth it to pay for an individual tour. It allows me to stop wherever I want, take pictures for as long as I want to and rearrange things as I see fit. The tour was organized by Balanzan Tours. I did have a bit of a problem with them, but eventually we came to an agreement how to solve it.

Itinerary

After a day stop in Dakar, Senegal, I arrived in Ouagadougou late in the evening. My guide was waiting for me with a driver in a Toyota Land Cruiser, the transportation for most of the trip. I was very happy that my guide was there. I was a bit concerned, since I sent a lot of money to Mali. They could have just taken the money and never show up. The fact that they were waiting for me took a load of my mind.

On the first day in Ouagadougou (often just called Ouaga) I was on my own. I walked around town for most of the day.

On the second day in Ouaga, my tour guide showed me the city. In the evening I visited a restaurant that had live music and other entertainment. It was pretty good, including a show with three men on high stilts that gave a really good performance.

The next day we started driving. The first leg of the trip was to Ouahigouya, for the last night in Burkina Faso. In Ouahigouya I visit the local market.

The next day we drove northeast through Burkina Faso into Mali.

Observations

Of the three countries that I visited on this trip through West Africa, I liked the people in Burkina Faso the best. They were generally very friendly and smiling. There was a distinct gradient in the propensity of people to smile from Burkina Faso to Mali to Senegal. A similar gradient was in the pressure from hawkers. There was much less pressure from hawkers in Burkina Faso than in Mali, and in Senegal it was even worse than in Mali.

The two hotels I stayed in in Burkina Faso were OK, clean, with running hot water (which was not always the case in Mali). The food was decent, basic local fare, nothing special, but usually tasty. The local beer is a fairly good lager, just what I like in a beer. It was quite inexpensive, especially outside of Ouaga.

Outside of the main cities, people live in small villages, mostly mud brick and straw huts. Food and other things are stored in separate granaries. Each family has a man's and a woman's granary. Women are not allowed to look in the men's granaries, and vice-versa. My guide said that part of the reason for this is that men are afraid that a woman might leave them if she looks in the man's granary and doesn't see enough food there.

There are may different tribes in Burkina Faso. Some are farmers, others (e.g. the Fulani) are herders that raise cattle, goats, and sheep.

Women mostly wear traditional ankle long dresses. I did see women wearing western style clothes, but these were distinctly in the minority. Men's clothing was more equally divided between traditional kaftans and western style t-shirts and pants. One thing that had to do with clothes was baffling me till almost the end of the trip. When women work with things on the ground, they bend down from the waist, not squat down in the knees. I somehow always had an odd feeling about that, it just didn't seem right. I finally realized why when I saw a teenager in a mini skirt in Saint Louis in Senegal. I am a cross-dresser, and a while ago I started wearing mini skirts myself. I very quickly learned the lesson how to pick something up from the floor while wearing a mini skirt. You do not bend down from the waist, as I saw the women in West Africa do, when you wear a mini skirt, unless you want do flash the people behind you. I had learned that embarrassing lesson so well, that it made me uncomfortable even to see other women bend down like that. However, women in West Africa almost exclusively wear ankle length dresses, so they can afford to bend down from the waist.

The most common food crops are millet and sorghum. My visit was during the dry season, so the fields were fallow. After the harvest, the millet and sorghum are thrashed. The millet straw is collected and stored in trees to dry. The straw is later used as building material.

The other important building material is mud. There are mud holes near every village, where the villagers make the mud bricks for their houses. The mud bricks have to be redone every year after the rainy season. The mud bricks are sun dried only, they are not fired.

I saw men, women, and children make these mud bricks. In general, it seemed that most of the work is done by women (which was also what my tour guide told me). Children also work frequently. The men seem to mostly sit around and talk. This was the same in Mali and Senegal, and was similar in East Africa, although maybe not quite as obvious.

Transportation for people between cities and within is with buses. Private transportation is a lot with motorcycles and mopeds. Outside the cities a lot of transportation of goods is with donkey carts. In the towns, people drawn carts are frequently used to move goods around. And a lot of goods are carried by men and women on their heads, especially when they bring goods from the settlements to the markets and bring back their purchases.

The markets are an important part of society. In the larger towns, the markets are daily, in the smaller villages they may be only once or twice per week. I visited a large market in Ouahigouya; it was quite interesting to walk through the market. Everything is for sale that you may need. One part is the food market, the other part is for other household goods.

The largest market that I saw was the Grand Marché in Ouagadougou. It was brand new, it had burned down a couple of years before and was rebuilt.

With the population density fairly high in the area that I traveled, there is no large wildlife left. The only wildlife that I saw was birds and small animals like lizards and geckos.

Summary

Burkina Faso is a fairly poor country, but the people seem to be happy and friendly. I didn't have much time in the country, so I only have a very superficial impression of everything.

All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn

Villages and Towns

local village mudLocal village with mud and straw huts. (753k) close-up village rightClose-up of a village. On the right is a storage platform for millet stalks, and next to it a straw covered granary. (773k) millet straw storedMillet straw stored in a tree for protection from grazing animals. (561k) mud brick factoryMud brick "factory". The mud bricks are made locally, often by kids. (747k) village well villagersVillage well with villagers filling up their water containers. (746k)
seen frequently womenAs seen frequently, the women are working, while the men are watching. This was a common theme throughout my trip through West Africa. (629k) kids working wellKids are working as well. That too was common throughout the trip. (691k) sheepSheep. (568k) cow exclusively humpedCow. They were exclusively the humped Zebu type of cows in West Africa. (731k) hot pink yellowThe hot pink and yellow are the colors of Zain, one of the cell phone companies, the same as I saw in Kenya. (604k)
small mosque outsideA small mosque outside Ouahigouya. (664k) mosque small townA mosque in a small town between Ouaga and Ouahigouya. (607k) cathedral ouagadougouCathedral in Ouagadougou. (471k) front cathedral ouagaFront of the cathedral in Ouaga. (470k) hotel room ouahigouyaHotel room in Ouahigouya. Throughout the trip, the hotel rooms were basic, but fairly clean. I stayed in "upscale" hotels, so I almost always had air conditioning, but not always hot water. (308k)
little brook runningA little brook running through Ouaga. It was extremely dirty and stank to high heaven    :-\( (716k) drainage ditch ouagaA drainage ditch in Ouaga, filled with garbage. This was common throughout the trip through West Africa. It was a lot worse than what I saw on my trip through East Africa. (697k) view buildings grandView of buildings in the Grand Marché in Ouaga. (692k) colorful goods storeColorful goods at a store in the Grand Marché in Ouaga. (797k) carved tree streetA carved tree on a street in Ouaga. (574k)
carved tree ouagaAnother carved tree in Ouaga. It had carved slogans about AIDS prevention, talking about abstinence, marital fidelity, etc. (503k) village chief visitingA village chief was visiting the town. He came on horseback with a large entourage of people singing and chanting. (630k) visiting village chiefVisiting village chief procession. (569k) visiting village chiefVisiting village chief procession. (735k) visiting village chiefVisiting village chief. (526k)


Markets and other shops

view produce marketView of the produce market in Ouahigouya. (925k) view produce marketView of the produce market. (818k) market vendorMarket vendor. (781k) fruit vegetables displayFruit and vegetables on display. (681k) vendor selling tomatoesVendor selling tomatoes, peppers, and onions. (642k)
customer bending checkCustomer bending down to check out the offered wares (see comment in main text). (612k) more relaxed vendorA more relaxed vendor in the market. (759k) bananas saleBananas for sale. (542k) rice millet sorghumRice, millet, sorghum, and other grains for sale. The goats and sheep were ubiquitous. Sometimes they would start eating the produce, if the vendors weren't paying enough attention. (640k) grain peanuts vendorGrain and peanuts vendor with child. (651k)
dried tamarind driedDried tamarind and dried onions for sale. (701k) grain peanut vendorGrain and peanut vendor. (738k) dried fish veryDried fish. It was very smelly in that area. (670k) household goods marketHousehold goods market. It was across the street from the produce market. (683k) pots salePots for sale. (754k)
tailor market footA tailor in the market with a foot operated sewing machine. (554k) food stall roastingFood stall. He was roasting chickens on an open grill, and peeling onions with a machete. (614k) guide obama baseballMy guide (with Obama baseball cap), selecting a chicken from the grill. My driver is on the right. (705k) restaurant market ouahigouyaA restaurant in the market in Ouahigouya. (692k) food vendor streetFood vendor in the street in Ouahigouya. (695k)
cooking streetCooking on the street. (650k) tourist shops bronzeTourist shops with bronze statues in Ouaga. (678k) artisan shop artisanArtisan shop in the artisan village on the outskirts of Ouaga. (933k) restaurant ouahigouya gluedRestaurant in Ouahigouya. They were glued to the TV, watching a football game in the Africa Cup that was held in Angola. (634k) horse racing bettingHorse racing betting parlor. (661k)


Transportation

lot goods carriedA lot of goods are carried on the heads. (632k) woman way grandA woman on the way to the Grand Marché in Ouaga. (531k) woman grand marchéA woman in the Grand Marché, carrying produce on her head, and her baby on her back. Small children are carried exclusively like this. (606k) street vendor cartStreet vendor with a cart of goods in Ouaga. (595k) bicycles common modesBicycles were common modes of transportation, both for men and women in traditional clothes. (593k)
bicycle rider traditionalBicycle rider in traditional clothes. (598k) also used carryThey were also used to carry large loads of goods. (649k) donkey carts everywhereDonkey carts were everywhere. (848k) even center ouagaThey were even in the center of Ouaga. (683k) motorcycles mopeds everywhereMotorcycles and mopeds were everywhere. Especially Ouaga was full of them. Here is a street full of them, waiting for a green light. (656k)
small buses mainOne of the small buses that are the main transportation in the towns and between towns being loaded. (615k) trucks frequently secondTrucks are frequently second hand from Europe. This one was from Germany, from a moving company in Hannover Isernhagen, a city I am very familiar with. (636k) since cars trucksSince cars and trucks are frequently second hand, they need to be fixed frequently. Here is a repair shop in Ouaga. (599k)


People

men traditional clothesMen in traditional clothes. (605k) man head scarfMan with head scarf. (502k) ponderingPondering. (587k) deep thoughtDeep in thought. (472k) way somewhereOn his way to somewhere. (551k)
kids always smilingKids were always smiling and always ready to pose. This was much more relaxed here than in Mali and Senegal, where even kids didn't always like to be photographed, and frequently asked for money when I tried to take pictures. (710k) teenagerTeenager. (733k) young kids posingYoung kids posing. (562k) young girl cuteYoung girl with cute hairdo. (581k) smile!What a smile! (514k)
smiling girl cuteSmiling girl with cute hairdo. (501k) young boyYoung boy. (441k) impish smileImpish smile. (519k) young kid sureYoung kid, not sure whether to smile or not. (635k) young girl evenYoung girl. Even the youngest girls had elaborate hairdos. (505k)
wonder whether goingI wonder whether he is going for the chickens. (636k) young woman traditionalYoung woman in traditional dress. (714k) smiling womanSmiling woman. (578k) woman child colorfulWoman and child in colorful dress. (552k) woman traditional dressWoman in traditional dress with toddler on her back. (489k)
woman western clothesWoman in western clothes, carrying her baby. (574k) woman traditional dressWoman in traditional dress. (504k) colorful clothes closeupColorful clothes closeup. (564k) older woman marketOlder woman in the market. (595k) closeup woman elaborateCloseup of woman with elaborate hairdo. (516k)
beautiful hairdoBeautiful hairdo. (538k)


Nature

fallow fields acaciaFallow fields with acacia trees. (686k) african baobab adansoniaAfrican Baobab (Adansonia digitata). These gnarly trees are quite striking. (626k) african baobab adansoniaAfrican Baobab (Adansonia digitata). (673k) gecko wallA gecko on a wall. (328k) lizardLizard. (588k)
egyptian vulture neophronEgyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). (541k) egyptian vulture flightEgyptian Vulture in flight. (323k)


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All pictures are © Dr. Günther Eichhorn


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© Dr. Günther Eichhorn
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