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Burkina Faso, Africa
République du Burkina Faso
Republic of Burkina Faso


Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Ouagadougou 
Government - parliamentary republic 
Currency - Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (XOF)
Area - 274,200 sq km
Population - 12,603,185 (July 2002 est.)
Language - French (official), native African languages belonging to Sudanic family spoken by 90% of the population 
Religion - indigenous beliefs 40%, Muslim 50%, Christian (mainly Roman Catholic) 10%
Electricity  220V/50Hz (European plug)
Calling Code - +226 
Internet TLD - .bf
Time Zone - UTC

Burkina Faso is a landlocked nation in West Africa. It is surrounded by six countries: Mali to the north, Niger to the east, Benin to the south east, Togo and Ghana to the south, and Côte d'Ivoire to the south west. Formerly the Republic of Upper Volta, it was renamed on August 4, 1984 by President Thomas Sankara to mean "the land of upright people" (or "upright land") in Mossi and Dioula, the major native languages of the country. Independence from France came in 1960. Governmental instability during the 1970s and 1980s was followed by multiparty elections in the early 1990s. Several hundred thousand farm workers migrate south every year to Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana in search of paid labour. The inhabitants of Burkina Faso are known as Burkinabè or Burkinabé.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

Weather and Climate
A dry, cool season in Burkina Faso extends from November through March; a hot, dry one from April through May; and a hot, wet one from June through October. Rainfall decreases from more than 1,000 mm (more than 40 in) in the southwest (the most agriculturally productive part of the country) to less than 250 mm (less than 10 in) in the north and is heaviest in the summer. Average temperatures in Ouagadougou vary from 24°C (76°F) in January to 28°C (83°F) in July.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003)

Major Travel and Tourism Info (Travel Guide)
Burkina is one of the safest and friendliest countries in all of Africa. Although it receives only a small number of tourists per year, it is an excellent destination for anyone interested in seeing beautiful West African country and exploring African culture and music.

One of the poorest countries in the world, landlocked Burkina Faso has a high population density, few natural resources, and a fragile soil. About 90% of the population is engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture, which is highly vulnerable to variations in rainfall. Industry remains dominated by unprofitable government-controlled corporations. Following the African franc currency devaluation in January 1994 the government updated its development program in conjunction with international agencies, and exports and economic growth have increased. Maintenance of macroeconomic progress depends on continued low inflation, reduction in the trade deficit, and reforms designed to encourage private investment.

Visa Requirements
Passport and a visa are required to enter the country. You generally should purchase your visa in advance, although with 10,000 Burkina Faso CFA currency a visa can be purchased at the airport upon arrival.

Traveling by Plane
Flights are available through Abidjan, Brussels, Dakar, Paris on the following carriers: Air Afrique, Air Algérie, Air Burkina, Air France, Air Ivoire, Ghana Airways, Point Afrique, and Royal Air Maroc. Royal Air Maroc [1] offers some U.S. flights departing from New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

By train
517 km from Ouagadougou to the Cote d'Ivoire border.

By bus
You can also easily take the bus in and out of of Burkina to many countries, such as Ghana, Mali, and Benin.

Getting around
Buses and vans (cars) to Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Togo. Train service Abidjan-Bobo-Ouaga-Kaya. Hitch hiking not common.

Language and Communication
French is the official language, however African languages of the Sudanic family are widely spoken as well.

The currency of Burkina Faso is the Communaute Financiere Africaine franc (CFA). There are 528.29 CFA to 1 US Dollar (As of 2004). Credit cards are rarely accepted, but cash may be withdrawn with a card at certain banks in Ouaga and Bobo. Mastercard is not widely accepted at ATMs. Travellers' checks (better luck in euros than in dollars) can usually be cashed at local banks in Ouaga and Bobo.

Burkina Faso Food and meals
Any run-of-the-mill Burkinabé restaurant will most certainly have one or all of the following:

To = a millet or corn flour based jello-like dish served with a sauce. Sauces commonly are okra-based (fr. "sauce gumbo" - tends to be on the viscous-side), peanut-based (fr. "sauce arachide"), baobob-leaf-based (not bad tasting, but very slimy), or oseille-based (another green-leaf, a little sour). You eat this dish by breaking off some to with a spoon (or, if you want to go local and your hands are washed, use your finger - just remember to use always the right hand, as the left hand is considered "unclean" among Muslims) and dipping it into the sauce. Yummy!

Futu = a pizza-dough-like ball of starch served with a sauce. Made by pounding boiled ignames (sort of a super-sized version of a yucca-potatoe hybrid). The sauce is usually tomatoe-based. Eaten in the same manner as to.

Ragout d'Igname = boiled igname in a tomatoe sauce.

Riz Gras = Rice made in the sauce. Sometimes served with extra sauce on top, but not a given.

Riz Sauce (Rice and sauce) = Pretty self-explanatory. White rice usually served with a tomatoe or peanut sauce.

Spaghetti = Usually spaghetti is served au gras as opposed to spaghetti sauce.

Haricots verts = Green-beans, usually from a can, with tomatoe sauce

Petits pois = Green peas, usually from a can, with tomatoe sauce

Soupe = usually chicken (fr. "poulet"), pentade or fish (fr. poisson)

Salade = a salad of lettuce, tomatoe, cumcumber and onion with a mayonaise-based dressing (mayo, vinager, salt, pepper)

A burkina specialty is "Poulet Telivise" aka televised chicken, or roast chicken, since many locals say if you watch the roaster it is like watching TV!

Beignets = (mooré samsa) fried bean flour
Fried ignames, patate douce (sweet potate french fries)
Bbq'd plantains
Brochettes = bbq'd meat sticks, or liver, or trite, or intestines
Porc au four = baked greasy pork bits served with hot sauce (fr. piment), salt, and if you are lucky, mustard. Best enjoyed with a Flag (to make champagne; add some tonic)
Gateau = fried dough. Comes in all sorts of varieties, best when fresh.

Bisap = hibiscus leaf cold sweet tea (25-50 CFA)
Gingembre = sweet ginger drink (25-50 CFA)
Pain de singe = sweet, is it baobab fruit ?
Yoghurt = sweet degaï = yoghurt mixed with millet balls

Music Lessons
Burkina is a great country if you are interested in learning West African drumming.

Staying safe
Burkina Faso is one of safer countries in West Africa. There are no special precautions, in terms of safety, necessary.

You should always take precautions when traveling, but Burkina is a remarkably safe and respectful country. Women travelers rarely experience any problems. Foreigners, especially white foreigners, frequently garner significant attention (Nassara!) but the interest is entirely harmless.

Staying healthy
Yellow fever vaccination required. Malaria is a serious problem. Cholera vaccination may be required in event of outbreak. Meningitis is also a problem, and vaccination is highly suggested.

As there is a majority of Muslim people, remember to use always your right hand for eating, greeting, etc.

However, Burkina is at the same time one of the most open West African countries and people are in general very respectful to woman and any foreigner.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

History in Brief: Summary
Like all of the west of Africa, Burkina Faso was populated early, notably by hunter-gatherers in the northwestern part of the country (12,000 to 5000 BC), and whose tools (scrapers, chisels and arrowheads) were discovered in 1973. Settlements appeared between 3600 and 2600 BC with farmers, the traces of whose structures leave the impression of relatively permanent buildings. The use of iron, ceramics and polished stone developed between 1500 and 1000 BC, as well as a preoccupation with spiritual matters, as shown by the burial remains which have been discovered.

Relics of the Dogon are found in the centre-north, north and north west region. They left the area between the 15th and 16th centuries BC to settle in the cliffs of Bandiagara. Elsewhere, the remains of high walls are localised in the southwest of Burkina Faso (as well as in the Côte d'Ivoire), but the people who built them have not yet been definitely identified.

Burkina Faso was a very important economic region for the Songhai Empire during the 15th and 16th centuries.

From colony to independence
In 1896, the Mossi kingdom of Ouagadougou became a French protectorate after being defeated by French forces. In 1898, the majority of the region corresponding to Burkina Faso today was conquered. In 1904, these territories were integrated into French West Africa in the heart of the Upper-Senegal-Niger (Haut-Sénégal-Niger) colony.

Its inhabitants participated in the First World War in the heart of the battalions of the Senegalese Infantry (Tirailleurs sénégalais). It was originally administered as part of Côte d'Ivoire colony, but became a separate colony in 1919. On March 1, 1919, François Charles Alexis Édouard Hesling became the first governor of the new colony of Upper-Volta, which was broken up September 5, 1932, being shared between the Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Niger.

On September 4, 1947 Upper-Volta was recreated with its 1932 boundaries. On December 11, 1958, it achieved self-government, and became a republic and member of the Franco-African Community (La Communauté Franco-Africaine). Full independence was attained in 1960. The country's first military coup occurred in 1966; it returned to civilian rule in 1978. There was another coup, led by Saye Zerbo in 1980, which in turn was overthrown in 1982. A counter-coup was launched in 1983, which left Captain Thomas Sankara in charge. The current president is Blaise Compaoré, who came to power in 1987 after a coup d'état that killed Thomas Sankara.
(Wikimedia Foundation, Inc)

Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc

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