Almost identical in shape, and somewhat similar in continental position, Burkina Faso is the Switzerland of West Africa. In fact its current name means under loose translation The Land of Uprights, which in the idiomatic forms of African language could also mean The Land of Honest Men or The Land Of Incorruptibles. Whether this is in fact the case either in Switzerland or Burkina Faso is debatable, but both countries enjoy reputations within their respective regions for order, cleanliness and industry.
It is there that the comparisons end however. Burkina Faso is one of the poorest nations on earth with an astonishing cultural diversity and a nominal dominance of Islam across the broader religious landscape. It is a bridge between the Bantu south and the Arabic north just as it stands as a communications and cultural conduit between the Sahara Desert and the tropical Atlantic seaboard of West Africa.
Politically Burkina Faso is aligned to the gray area currently occupied by Libya. Burkinabé influence has been detected in such local upheavals as the rise of Charles Taylor and the bloody Liberian civil war, as well as the consequent descent into horror experienced in nearby Sierra Leone. Burkina Faso now enjoys a reasonably representative government, although much of the political character of the country still resembles the period of rule of iconic military strongman and coup master Captain Thomas Sankara, whom it was who in 1984 changed the name of the country from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso.
Travel To & Within Burkina Faso
Why Travel To Burkina Faso
Perhaps the main factor that makes Burkina Faso such an attractive destination is that it is safe, effectively policed and well ordered. Second in importance is the local culture that is both richly diverse and relatively accessible, and thirdly Burkina Faso occupies a large tract of the Sahel and is an important ecological region. A significant slice of this is showcased as part of the Niger River W complex of parks spanning Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso.
The W complex of national parks is a very important regional conservation effort and is managed by inter-governmental co-operation between the three participating countries. Burkina Faso is the junior partner with smallest territorial involvement, but from Burkina Faso access to other regions of the park is relatively easy. Unusually in West Africa the park system is well run and conscientiously policed. It is largely free of human influence and hosts strong populations of elephant, lions, hippopotamus, cheetah and leopard as well as many others. The area is also an important bird habitat with some 350 recorded species including many long range migrants.
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The most visible manifestation of the highly complex Burkinabé cultural mix are music, dance and wooden masks. The latter, in particular those of authentic antiquity, are highly sought after by collectors, while the contemporary mask and Burkinabé sculpture markets provide much material for the curio and artifact trade in Europe.
When To Visit Burkina Faso
Competing with a crush of tourists is unlikely in the near future to be a problem in Burkina Faso so the factors to consider are mainly climatic. Burkina Faso suffers a hot climate with periodic bouts of humidity to add to the discomfort. The coolest months of the year are between November and February although expect some Harmattan wind activity during this period to bring in quantities of Saharan dust.
The hottest period is between March and June when temperatures can rise above 40°C with humidity peaking between May and October.
Burkina Faso is generally speaking a safe destination for travel. However street crime is commonplace, particularly in crowded areas where opportunist attacks of bag or jewelry snatching can occur. On the whole these do not have an overtly violent nature. Incidences of armed robbery on the main highways at night have been reported so night road travel should be undertaken with caution and only after obtaining local advice.
The risk of terrorism in Burkina Faso is low.
Health facilities in the country are fair to rudimentary so evacuation to Europe will be necessary in the instance of serious injury.
Homosexuality is illegal.
HIV/AIDS incidence in Burkina Faso is comparatively low. Malaria is prevalent, in particular in the southeast in the vicinity of the Niger River.