By all accounts, Douala, situated on the Wouri River, is a large, industrial city with little to offer most tourists. The city, which is the largest in the country, has been stretched to its limit by a population boom brought by a growing economy that far surpasses the country's capital of Yaound?. Today, Douala's port handles some 95 percent of the country's maritime traffic, and is second only to Kinshasa as Central Africa's largest city.
Douala's history began as a small, sleepy fishing village. The Portuguese arrived in the 15th century to establish the slave trade. It wasn't until 1845, when British missionary Alfred Saker arrived, however, that any Europeans settled the region. Through negotiations with area chiefs, the Germans succeeded in wresting the town away from the British. Following World War I, Douala was made a French protectorate to which they sunk considerable effort into building.
Though at first glance Douala appears a jumble of lackluster architecture, roadways and congested streets, the city does have a few sites to offer. Douala is divided into quarters or quartiers: Akwa, is the center of the city, where you can wander the high quality crafts market, the Stand Municipal Artisanal. Jewelry, masks, antiques, and artwork can be bought here. Banajo, is the administrative district, and has a few interesting monuments.
For livelier action, head to the quartiers Lagos and Kassalafam, where you'll see how most of the city's residents live. Lagos is also home to one of the largest open-air markets of the region, the March? de Lagos -- a grand, sprawling affair, where you can buy anything from African medicines to hand-woven fabrics.
From Douala, you can easily head out to more serene surroundings. Just an hour's drive away is the coastal town of Limbe, a popular resort town; or Bu?a, where you can take a trek up the country's highest mountain and active volcano, Mt. Cameroon.