French Colonial city of Grand Bassam After we watched the laundrymen at work and got enough pictures of their strong backs, we were taken back on the buses to drive a long way on a decent enough highway to the old French Colonial city of Grand Bassam, the first French settlement in the territory and the country’s first capital from 1893 to 1896 when a yellow fever epidemic emptied thecity. Today about 5000 people live in this city with its ghostlike aura and since the late l970s it has been revived somewhat by a small investment in restoring its crumbling colonial buildings (only a very few have actually been completely restored) and inviting craftsmen and artists to live in its confines. Its ghostly appearance is due to the complete abandonment of many of the sections of the city and its having been given over to squatters until the half-hearted restoration began. The hotel where we “landed” after our long drive was one of the buildings that has been restored and it was very attractive. We were taken to old and dilapidated structures where we were shown batik creations, pottery works, painting and sculptures. We bought a small batik tapestry which seemed to epitomize this poor country and its need for fresh water.
We saw many students of all ages walking home from school during what must have been their lunch hour. They were all in uniforms of differing colors denoting the grade level they had attained. Their noisy conversations, running and skipping gave the moribund city its only real sign of life!
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