Abidjan is a city of contrasts. Fueled by one of the strongest economies on the continent, and a government that has sought stability and Western alliances, the city of Abidjan has its share of shiny highrises, imposing modernist architecture, as well as its poorer, overcrowded neighborhoods.
Abidjan, which is located in the southeastern corner of the country along the Atlantic Coast, was made the capital by the French, when an uncontrollable outbreak of yellow fever forced them to move from Grand-Bassam. In 1960, Abidjan became capital of an independent C?te D'Ivoire. Twenty-odd years later, that honor was removed to Yamoussoukro, late president Houphouet-Boigny's home village. Abidjan remains, however, the largest city and the commercial capital of the country.
Abidjan is situated on a lagoon system, and the fingers of the Ebri? Lagune snakes its way around the city, cutting it up into five regions, which are further divided into districts. The Plateau district is the commercial and financial hub of the city, replete with modernist skycrapers, rush-hour traffic, and noisy crowds. Treichville is the city's poorest district, while Cocody and Deux Plateau are Abidijan's middle-class residential neighborhoods. Loud and bustling Adjam? is home to many immigrant families.
For a good introduction to Ivoirian Art and culture, stop by the National Museum. Well laid out exhibits display an impressive collection of woodcarvings, masks, musical instruments, pottery, fabrics, photography from the colonial era, and different tribal costumes.
Abidjan, as the economic center of the country, has several good markets, where you can buy handicrafts, fetishes, traditional medicines, arts, and crafts. They include the Central Market, located in the Plateau district; the March? Artisinal, especially good for handicrafts; Treichville Market, a hodgepodge of goods from all over West Africa, and the Adjam? market, the largest in the city.
West of Abidjan, toward the Liberian border, are some beautiful stretches of coast. Sassandra, which is thought to have the best beaches of the entire area is just a few hours bus ride from the city.