Yaounde, the city

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As an architect, the city of Yaounde like Accra, stirs up feelings of disappointment anytime I really look at it. The feelings are more intense in Yaounde because the topography is beautiful – even breathtaking at some points. Yaounde is hilly in the purest sense of that world. It’s not the harsh, unfriendly kind of hilly, no it’s gentle slopey, rolling familiar-looking green hills mixed with enough steep inclines to make jogging rewarding, and cycling exhilarating (cycling downhill, at least).

The planning (or lack thereof) is sad and sometimes upsetting. Especially when one spots a perfect hill that could have had the buildings upon it as adorning jewels and not unfortunate occurrences. It’s disappointing because I came to Cameroon expecting to see examples of that inherent grace and appreciation for beauty that seems to run in francophone cultures.

Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful buildings – several in fact, but the overall composition isn’t usually picturesque.

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They’ve Got An Awful Lot Of Taxis in Cameroon

No troskis. Really, No troskis. Just a whole lot of taxis, in Cameroon.

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Yellow taxis in Yaounde

 

There are no taxi stations, so taxi drivers move around town all day looking for passengers. And, mind you, this is a shared taxi system. Depot (“dropping” in Ghanaian English), where one person hires a taxi isn’t common. It’s mostly tourists or Kuukuwa 🙂 that try it.

This is how everyone else does it.

First stand by the road in the loosely demarcated taxi stop areas, making sure you’re facing the general direction of traffic to the area you wan’t to go to. A taxi with empty seats will slow down (sometimes very negliglibly) when it approaches you. Now here’s the tricky part. You have to quickly tell him where you are going and make an offer of the fare you wish to pay, and speak fast because he slowed down oh, he didn’t stop. For example.

*Kay and Em at roadside waiting for taxi. Sees taxi approaching. Kay clears throat*

*Taxi slows down, driver turns to look at Kay and Em*

Kay: Carrefour Etoudi, deux places, trois cent francs.

If taxi driver accepts the offer, he stops and honks. Kay and Em get in. If he doesn’t accept, or isn’t going in that direction, he ignores them and drives off. The average cost is 200 francs, but if it’s a very short distance and you have an authoritative voice, you can pay 100.

 

You can imagine how stressful this system can be for someone who doesn’t speak French well, or know the names of places. For instance, the second and last time I tried this system the taxi driver drove me to an unfamiliar neighbourhood because my “Carrefour Bastos deux cent francs” sounded like something totally different to him. Now, I just do depot for my daily routines, and if I want to go somewhere special, I call my taxi driver pal… another story for another day.

 

Last Night, I Was A Prostitute

Yes.

I learned a new thing about life last night in Yaounde, as I sat in the bar of Hotel Mont-Febe drinking in the amazing few, and a cocktail. Actually, make that two new things.

Lesson 1: A cocktail is a very alcoholic drink.

I guess I have Hollywood to blame for thinking cocktails are just one step up from non-alcoholic drinks. I mean, in movies, it’s always the girls and effeminate guys that order them. And the hard guys do straight shots or martinis! So anytime I’m in a bar, and they don’t have Red Bull, I order… yep you guessed it… a cocktail. Last night, when I began to feel light headed after 3/4 of my glass of la bombo or bamba cocktail, a state I only reach after 2 and a half glasses of white wine, I stopped drinking. My la bamba had 1 shot of red rum, 1 shot of white rum, and fresh fruit juices. Last night, I learned that 1 shot is equivalent to 1 glass of wine, and 1 glass of wine is equivalent to 1 beer. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m the village drunkard, and I didn’t even know!!

Lesson 2: A young lady sitting alone in a bar drinking a cocktail is assumed to be a prostitute.

And there I was thinking my frohawk was hot! I had no idea! I thought all the men that tried to hook up with me were being unusually pervy, but nope, they were just at regular, normal perv level. They thought I was a prostitute. Hahahaha
My first “customer-to-be” was an Italian man with leathery skin and balding hair. He came to sit across from me and attempted to chat. He spoke Italian and very broken English, so I seized the opportunity. Told him I spoke only French, and after 5 minutes of trying to communicate, he gave up and left. Feeling satisfied with myself, I leaned back, caught the eye of some other white guy and he winked at me. Ei! I frowned at him so he didn’t come over. Then came Mr. Avocat (lawyer) the Senator. When I interpreted what he was asking in French as “What do I have to do to get you?”, I thought it was just my bad french. Even when he said “I want to do you”, I thought it was just his bad English. But when he started begging for “just once, just small… Don’t left me tonight… I want you”, I started feeling uncomfortable. His shock when I insisted in paying, and when I actually paid for my food and drinks was amusing, and eye-opening.

He changed his strategy then. I guess initially he thought I was telling a lie when I told him I was an architect from Ghana. His new strategy was saying he had fallen in love with me and wanted to marry me. Also that he would give me contracts to build in Cameroon. Ladies and Gentlemen, it was a scene out of a Nigerian movie. I was even a little afraid, because he told me he’s a winner who always gets what he wants. To my “I have a boyfriend”, he said “left that, left that, I will be your boyfriend. Tu es belle… I’ll do anything” Mr Avocat Senator spoiled my night, I had to run to the safety of my room when he started getting touchy. When I got back to my room and was complaining to my boyfriend, he laughed at me paaaaaaaaaa. That’s how I learned lesson number two. Of prostitutes sitting in hotel bars and drinking cocktails!

*facepalm*

The Accra Furqan: An Ottoman masterpiece in Accra

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Though it’s still under construction, one cannot help but be impressed by the mosque on the Kanda highway. It is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture, and the arches and perfectly formed domes, in spite of the forest of wooden formwork, give hints of the elegance that is associated with Islamic architecture.

The Accra Furqan, also the Ghana National Mosque, is a gift from the people of Turkey to the people of Ghana, and with its impressive series of domes and semi domes, it has the potential to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.

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See the flag of Turkey up there?, and those are some of the skillful workers. So many domes!

 

Constructed with 4000 cubic metres of concrete and 700 tonnes of steel, the Accra Furkan is far from solid or compact. True to the Ottoman architectural style, the domes seem almost weightless, and combined with a clever mix of courtyard spaces and arched walkways, the building manages to appear huge and yet “light”.

Erdiogan Getinkaya’s design is influenced by the Blue Mosque (or the Sultan Ahmet Mosque) in Istanbul as well as the Selimiye Mosque. The 8000 capacity mosque is scheduled for completion in late November, just in time for Ramadan Prayers.

 

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I made some friends 🙂 They’re the 2 of 3 Ghanaian workers there. The project has an unbelievably small workforce!

 

There are 50 domes in the Accra Furqan building, the largest and main dome sits at a height of 36 metres from the ground and is supported by 4 2.1metre diameter columns at 20 metre intervals. At each of the four corners of the mosque building is one 62 metre high minaret where the “muezzins” will perform “adhans”. The exterior of the building will be finished in polished marble, with the domes cladded in lead.

The facility as a whole will contain a school, health facility and a home for the National Chief Imam.

 

 

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Architect’s Rendering , not even half as beautiful as the mosque under construction