I went down to the embassy this morning on my bike to change money and talk to Todd about a panel discussion they want me to do at the “International Education Week”, coming up in November, return books to the library, etc. As I pulled into Ouaga 2000, near the embassy, the sun was beating down and it was easy to convince myself that I wanted to visit the Monument to the National Heroes, located in the big traffic circle in the center of Muammar Qaddafi Avenue that runs right up to the Presidential Palace.
It says something about the political style of the Compaoré government that the big boulevard running up to the front gate of the presidential palace is named after Qaddafi, and yet Compaoré was always considered a reliable friend of the West, especially France. The new guys haven’t gotten around to renaming it, though in fact there is still a lot of sympathy for Qaddafi here and a sense that he was betrayed by the Western powers that he thought he had finally reconciled with.
Anyway, there I was on Qaddafi Ave., sun beating down, and there was a nice shady monument right there.
So I stopped for a rest. A couple of nice ladies agreed to show me up to the top, for a fee, and after 10 minutes or so in the shade I was up for some steps. So here’s a panoramic view of Ouagadougou:
To the north, towards the university
to the northeast, the direction to my house
To the southeast, towards the embassy (the blocky, fortress-like structure at the center is the US Embassy)
To the southwest, and a little bit of a hill leading to the neighborhood where Maty’s family lives, Patte d’Oie
The big building to center-left on the skyline is the Laïco Hotel, where the Ambassador was not kidnapped during the coup (regular readers will remember the incident where I received the official denial of the rumor before I heard the rumor, something that always makes the bs detectors go off, but in this case it was 100% true, nobody had tried anything against the diplomats or officials during a little dust-up there – see “everybody was kung-fu fighting”). The hotel under construction near Brenda Soya’s house is in the center-right of the photo, in the middle distance, so Brenda’s house is maybe 1 km from here.
And to the northwest, towards the bulk of the city, downtown, ministries, main market, etc
If you compare this to the view from the Jamestown lighthouse of Accra (“Jamestown, Ghana”), you can see the difference between the two cities. Ouaga is a big city, but spread out and not up. I think this monument might be the tallest structure in the city. Accra has plenty of skyscrapers, also plenty of highways and traffic jams reminiscent of Lagos in the good old days.
And here I am, puffing and blowing after climbing all those darn stairs. “My old enemy, stairs.”