I’ve lived in Conakry for a good nine months now, but on Wednesday I got to experience it as a tourist, tagging along with my family on a guided tour of the city. Thanks to my connections at the Ministry of Tourism I found an English-speaking guide to show us the sights and provide some useful and interesting background information. We saw the bollard where the Portuguese slaving ships pulled in, the ruins of an old penitentiary, the island that inspired Treasure Island, Guinea’s first bauxite mine, the national museum, and the mausoleum of Sekou Toure, Guinea’s first president. I learned some botany too, and can now identify tamarind and breadfruit trees and a kelp-like bush whose name I don’t know that Guineans use as toothbrushes.
However, the highlight of the tour was without doubt a private performance by Le Phare de Tamara, a group of twenty or so singers, drummers, and dancers, who entertained us for a good half hour with music, traditional dances, astounding acrobatics, and fire-eating. I was actually kind of embarrassed to have caused that many people to expend that much energy under the blazing tropical sun for my personal benefit, but it was an amazing show.
The rest of the family’s stay went well too – visits to waterfalls, shopping in a local market, family Rock Band, drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the Charge’s house, commissioning dresses from a tailor who makes house calls – but I really enjoyed the opportunity to see Conakry as a visitor and to see it with people who were here solely as tourists. Those are very few and far between.