Yamoussoukro is one of the most bizarre modern cities on the planet. The capital of Cote d’Ivoire is a sprawling grid of paved streets, but few buildings line them. The former president Felix Houphouet-Boigny dreamt of creating a bustling capital, but his vision for “Yam” never came to fruition. Although the capital’s reality is different from the leader’s hopes, it is still worth a visit to explore its quiet streets. Visitors should use caution though, as recent conflicts have erupted throughout the capital and country.Grande Mosque Yamoussoukro:A tall perimeter wall surrounds the Fondation Houphouet-Boigny, the palace where the former leader is now buried. Sacred crocodiles protect the lake on the southern side, and visitors can watch them being fed in the evenings.Basilica on sunset, Yamoussoukro: The only other traditional tourist sight in the city is the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. The church is the world’s largest Christian house of worship and the most important symbol of Houphouet-Boigny’s legacy. Modeled after the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica, the church holds less worshippers but is structurally larger. Both the dome and the surface area are larger than its inspiration. Pope John Paul II insisted that a hospital be built on site, but the cornerstone he laid upon visiting still stands alone. The bold Cathedral of St. Paul may be dwarfed by the basilica in Yamoussoukro, but the church is one of the most beautiful in all of Africa. The tower is a huge stylized effigy of the saint himself, and the nave sweeps behind him like a robe. The interior is rich and warm thanks to the light that streams through the stained-glass windows.

There is little to do in the capital, but there are plenty of restaurants that serve up some of the best cuisine in the whole continent. The French legacy of Yamoussoukro means that there are many European restaurants in the city, but there is also an abundance of eateries offering traditional cuisine. While in the city, be sure to indulge in coconut pit, a local favourite served with coconut milk, steamed onions, tomatoes and ginger. You’ll also find many menus offering kedjenou, a chicken dish, and attik, a meat dish made with boiled attieke cereal with a healthy dose of vegetables and saffron.

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