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A great renaissance

Tom Sykes goes on a cultural journey through Côte d’Ivoire, stopping at some of this largely unvisited West African country’s art, craft and music hotspots

A fiter Côte d’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast, gained independence from France in 1960 and thrived from its cocoa and coffee exports, economists called it ‘the miracle’. A more recent miracle is that this small (it’s slightly bigger than the British Isles) Francophone republic has just emerged from 10 years of civil war with its incredible array of cultural draws intact. Not to be missed are the ancient arts, crafts, songs and dances of its 60 ethnic groups (the country is one of the most multicultural societies on Earth) and its buzzing contemporary music venues, innovative modern art galleries and laidback cafe and restaurant scene.

A young girl peers from beneath a row of handmade necklaces in Côte d’Ivoire

I begin in Abidjan, the largest city, in the chic Plateau district whose sumptuous hotels and elegant restaurants overlook the picturesque Lagoon Ebrié. The Rotonde des Arts Contemporains houses street-scene collages by artist KJ Houra, the eerie war-themed pencil sketches of Grobli Zirignon and a beguiling mixed-media piece called Soldat by Konan Romaric Assié, which sardonically depicts a soldier with an epaulette made from banknotes. In the same building is the famous Abidjan Café, where I devour the best of Franco-Ivorian cuisine: tender steak with alloco (plantain fried until crisp on the outside and melted in the middle).

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About Travel Africa

Come rain or shine - how the seasons affect your safari experience • On foot in Mana Pools • 5 Amazing islands in Mozambique • Guide to Tanzania's Udzungwa Mountains • South Africa's emotive Battlefields • Why Tsavo West? • Tree-climbing lions in Uganda • Cultural journey through Côte d'Ivoire... and much more!