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Malabo, Equatorial Guinea

April 26, 2011

Colleagues at work gave me some background information on what to expect when I found out that I would be visiting Malabo, EG.   As part of routine on any of the trips I take my preparations include some fact findings on the place and country.

Malabo is the capital of this small West African country Equatorial Guinea.  EQ located just north of the Equator at the hinge of the West African coastline.  A small country that can be traveled across from end-to-end in a couple of hours I would imagine. Write-ups on the country describe it as a country of luscious vegetation and beautiful scenery, including tropical forests and correctly so.   It is comprised of two territories, one on the mainland of Africa, Rio Muni, and Bioko Island where I was suffering. 

A former Spanish colony for almost two centuries Equatorial Guinea gained independence in 1968.  Just like other ex colonies EQ retains many of the interesting features of it past rulers to include in my opinion a touch of the Spanish architecture but what makes the country unique among its neighbors in West and Central Africa is that it is perhaps to the best of my knowledge the only African country with Spanish as the official and widely spoken language. 

With a tropical climate EQ’s weather is mostly hot and humid with I was told days when the temperature is quite pleasant.  Rainfall is heavy for much of the year, decreasing slightly in most areas between December and February and often limited to a few hours of the day or night.

 The main island is considered to be a biodiversity haven featuring one of the best turtle nesting beaches in Africa but also one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of endangered primates. I never had a chance to experience or see either. There were more demanding issues occupying my mind like staying alive.  In my humble opinion it would be a stretch by far a stretch to call EQ a tourist destination.

The airport was a small typical third World one small building with no air conditioning but plenty of chaos just to keep things interesting.  I was met at the airport by an expeditor which was a blessing in full view.  There was plenty of red or green tape depending on the color of the currency to go through that included a full blown security check of the luggage that meant take every little thing out of the suit case for an examination that only the examiner knew the purpose of.  This by the way was on exit out of the airport which left me wondering what the security might be when entering the airport with intent to board an aircraft.  To keep the suspense at minimum suffice it to say on exit out of the country the security resembled a routine “you are fine then I am fine now take a hike”.  Not exactly one that calms the nerves in these shaky times of hijackings and shoe and body bombers.

The ride to the hotel was short and wet. But the hotel itself was a near five star Sofitel very plush very comfortable.  I soon found out that the hotel was owned by the President of the country. As it happens the palace that the president called humble abode was located right next to the hotel. That’s keeping an eye on your investments.

Situated right next to the coast the hotel offered a pleasant view of the water and the shore line. I say shore line because that’s all it was and a port of sorts that was used to ferry people back and forth from the mainland.  There was a good amount of activity taking place at the shore as a result of expansion brought about by the recent discovery of oil off shore.  The other three directions were a mixed bag of an orange palace Mr. President’s home and slums.  I mean slums that would rival that of India and Brazil. As it happens the Palace was situated right in the middle of the slums. I guess a very accommodating President who liked to live amongst the people as it were, and he was.  Photography was not encouraged as a matter of fact taking pictures of the Palace was an offence that could have consequences ranging from years in jail to a benevolent mention in the obituaries.

Business was limited to mostly hospitality and grocery stores all owned and operated by foreigners. The Lebanese like most African country’s I have visited had cornered and conquered the restaurant business and the Indians the few that were running the largest grocery stores where hygiene was not a priority. Best practices I suppose.  Getting around town was a pointless task because there was no getting around to be doing or having. Taxis were kind of tricky. Only the wily discerning could tell a taxi from a private car. They were not marked. I figured it added to the mystery and mystique of the place.

My routine was just that a routine. Work and then look forward to the hotel then turn right around and look forward to work. Only to be disturbed by the urge to eat, this led to a quest for restaurants and fine eating establishments.  Eating yes fine there were none. Except for one time when I was invited to join the host to a visit to the oil company compound that was like a country within a country with good places to eat, swimming pools, tennis courts and golf courses.

Then the much eagerly awaited day for departure finally arrived. Some numerical sense told me as I normally do to approach the front desk to break the bad news of my intended departure. Malabo, EQ had a final surprise waiting for me. The near five star hotel did not accept credit cards.  As, I quickly reviewed my options my mind went numb at the prospect of how many years would it take to wash enough dishes to finally be set free from my enslavement.  EQ now afforded me the opportunity to boast about carrying cash in a suitcase. Literally! I was home free.



One Comment
  1. Dan S permalink

    Glad to hear that the trip wasn’t too bad!

    There were a couple pirate attacks on the palace a couple years ago – supposedly a few boats of people from the mainland (Nigeria?) paid a little visit over to the palace, and shot up a few of the guards. Supposedly the guards had managed to blow up one of the boats with a grenade, but most of the attackers had escaped into the city…

    Speaking of primates – did they still have the Drill Monkey penned up behind the restaurant? When I was there, the kids were bothering it with sticks, so the Drill was very nasty to visitors.

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