1/06/2011

Abidjan’s Golf Hotel: Fragile State of Tranquility



While visiting Abidjan in late June of 2006, I wrote a message to Grazyna – “I am staying at the Golf Hotel and I am well protected. A barbwire fence fortifies every yard of the perimeter and a unit of a UN Peacekeepers makes us feel safe. “ Later, I explained that the soldiers waved and smiled every time we came and left the compound, and the pictures showed the hotel being located on the lagoon which stunning scenery at sunrise.

Indeed, this particular UN unit came from Togo, and protected the hotel guests, but their duties did not protect them from engaging in heated discussions with the guests about the fate of African teams competing in the World Cup.

"This will assure Patricia," said John Banks, posing with Togolese soldiers.

Naturally, my colleague, John Banks, had to assure his wife, Patricia, that he was safe. So, we took pictures of ourselves with the soldiers and chatted about … the weather! She was glad to receive the email with attached assurances.

These days, the Golf Hotel is much more tense and will have received a lasting notoriety because of the recent political developments in the aftermath of Ivory Coast’s elections. About 800 UN troops are securing the hotel today as it serves as makeshift headquarters to Ivory Coast’s alternative government led by the internationally recognized winner of the elections, Alassane Quattara.

In 2006, and on two other previous occasions, the guests came in an out of the hotel with relative ease. But now, in January 2011, the situation is tense and on the verge of yet another civil war. The security forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo, who insists he won the presidential election, are denying access to the hotel. Since the crisis over the results began several weeks ago, few journalists have had access to the hotel premises.

Across the Ébrié Lagoon: Panorama of Abidjan.

Without getting into the current details of the crisis - covered by the international media - what remains from my 2006 visit are memories and images of a tranquil, even serene atmosphere of the hotel’s garden. The soldiers did not make one feel uneasy, and the Ébrié Lagoon’s quiet waters restored calm after a day’s hectic activities. But now, what also goes through one’s mind is a wish that the people of Ivory Coast, not only the politicians, will manage a way out of the impasse.

Tranquility at sunrise: Fishing for crabs in the Ébrié Lagoon.

A few images that follow are from that 2006 visit to Abidjan – the Cocody district, and a trip to a craft village on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea.

Wooden weapons for tourists: Would you put it in your luggage? Below: The Colonials.


Faces of Ivory Coast: Effervescence at the Cocody Adventist Church, above.
Below: Souvenir craft vendor from Abidjan.

Is the door really gone? As symbolic as you can have it - catching an Ivorian bus of expectancy.
"God is My Hope."