Abidjan is the largest city and former capital of Cte d'Ivoire. Abidjan, the de facto (and former) capital, is the commercial and banking center of Cte d'Ivoire. It stands in bri Lagoon on several converging peninsulas and islands, connected by bridges. The city is a study in contrasts. On one hand the city is hot and humid, congested and full of street hawkers. On the other hand, Abidjan is referred to as the "Paris of West Africa" because of its parks, broad boulevards, universities, exotic fashions and museums. Districts include Cocody, an upscale residential area located east of the modern business district, and Treichville, located southward on Petit-Bassam Island, with its busy traditional market. Banco National Park lies north of the city. Abidjan harbors numerous government departments. It is also the hub of the national road system and the terminus of the Abidjan-Niger Railway, which extends northward into Burkina Faso.

Abidjan's modern port opened in 1950, when the Vridi Canal was cut through a sandbar, linking the bri Lagoon with the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. Formerly West Africa's pre-eminent port, Abidjan is attempting to bring back traffic which veered to other ports during Cte d'Ivoire's political unrest. Since a military putsch in December 1999, as well as widespread civil unrest in the ensuing years, traffic has switched to other main regional ports such as Accra, Lome, Cotonou and Dakar. Xenophobia and harassment of foreigners, as well as numerous illegal roadblocks along the country's roads, have further discouraged shippers from using Abidjan's port. The Abidjan Port Authority has invited delegations of shippers from the landlocked countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger -- which have seen increased difficulty in imports due to Abidjan's problems -- to working sessions to discuss improvements in the situation.


Population and language

A 1995 estimate placed Abidjan's population at around 2,793,000. Estimates for the population of the Abidjan metropolitan area as of 2005 vary between 4 and 5 million inhabitants. As Abidjan is inhabited by people from a wide array of different ethnicities, the French language is used as the language of communication in the metropolitan area, which is the second-largest French speaking metropolitan area in the world after Paris. A specific colloquial Abidjan French has even appeared, with a pronunciation and some colloquial words distinct from standard French. The area of Abidjan is recognized as the only area in Africa where French (colloquial Abidjan French) is truly a native tongue.

Geography and neigbourhoods

Abidjan lies on the bri Lagoon. The business district Le Plateau is the centre of the city. It lies with Cocody', Deux Plateaux (the richest neighbourhood with big mansions for rich people and diplomats) and the slum area of Adjam on the north shore of the lagoon, while Treichville and Marcory (also poor areas) lie to the south, Abobo-Doume and Yapougon to the west and Boulay Island in the middle of the lagoon. Further south lies Port Bout, home to the airport and main seaport. Abidjan is located at 5°25' North, 4°2' West (5.41667, -4.03333). [1] (http://earth-info.nga.mil/gns/html/cntry_files.html)


The city grew after the construction of a new wharf in 1931 and its designation as the capital of the then French colony in 1933. The completion of the Vridi Canal in 1951 enabled it to become an important sea port. In 1983, Yamoussoukro was designated as the nation's capital, but most government offices and foreign embassies are still in Abidjan.

Places of interest

The University of Abidjan, several technical colleges, and the national library and museum are in the city.

Sights in Abidjan include St Paul's Cathedral, designed by Aldo Spiritom, the Cocody Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art and the Parc du Banco rainforest reserve. Le Plateau is known for its skyscrapers, unusual in West Africa.

Le Plateau is the business centre of Abidjan. With its gleaming skycrapers, chic boutiques and outdoor cafes, le Plateau is a favourite place of business travellers. There are many different banks located in the le Plateau district.


Major industries include food processing, lumber, automobile manufacturing, and the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, and soap. There is also a large oil refinery.


Trains on the line to Ouagadougou run from several stations in the city, the most important being in Treichville. Ferries link Treichville, Abobo-Doum and Le Plateau. The airport is located approximately 10 mi/16 km from downtown Abidjan. Taxis and buses are available at the airport, but are considered unsafe. The taxis are metered and the fares are relatively low. Rental cars are also available, however the fees can be quite expensive. Vehicle accidents occur frequently, especially at night when roads are poorly lit. Roadblocks manned by government security forces are becoming magnets for corruption. Police officers routinely extort bribes from motorists. Travelers planning to travel outside of Abidjan should do so only in convoy, maintaining constant radio or satellite contact.


Abidjan Airport (Port Bouet International Airport) has a 3,000-meter runway and ILS 3B equipment. The airport has 25 check-in counters and nine boarding access points. AERIA, Abidjan Airport Management Company, operates and manages the whole airport area and relevant indirect services. There is a military apron at the airport. Private aircraft usually park in the commercial area, away from the terminal. Fencing and lighting are adequate at this facility.

A special airport police unit provides security at Abidjan's airport. X-ray machines and metal detectors are used to screen passengers and their baggage, but security measures at this facility are lacking both in terms of quality and coverage. Theft is a concern in the passenger terminal. Airport officials are known to be corrupt due to their low salaries. Incidents of theft and drug smuggling occur frequently. Do not allow ground service personnel to handle possessions without supervision.

Political Unrest

During times of political unrest, the Ivorian government closes the airport and imposes an overnight curfew for days at a time. There is also a French military base near the airport where protests may occur during times of political unrest.

Occasional violence also occurs at the airport. Most recently, on 6 November 2004, Ivorian troops raided Abidjan's airport in an attempt to destroy French aircraft. One aircraft was slightly damaged during the incident, but there are no details as to the extent or specificity of the damage. As a result of the attack, the airport perimeter was sealed and closed to air traffic.

In the September 2002 mutiny, the Ivorian government closed Abidjan's international airport, as it usually does during times of unrest. Flights were diverted to neighboring Ghana and elsewhere. Unidentified gunmen briefly blocked the major highway leading in and out of Abidjan. Several carriers have cancelled service to Cte d'Ivoire.


The musical group Magic System were founded in the city in the 1990s.


  • The law requires that travelers in Abidjan carry one of the following: national identity card, employee card, consular card, residency permit or passport.
  • Although the overall situation in Abidjan has stabilized since the resurge in violence in November 2004, there are continual reports of violence. The U.N. has stated "its concern over the security situation" throughout Cte d'Ivoire, particularly in Abidjan. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ranks Abidjan as the second most dangerous city in the world.
  • The current political situation is highly unstable and security risks are acute due to ongoing conflict. Foreigners should avoid all travel outside Abidjan, the former capital, as well as rural and outlying areas. Other threats include crime, carjacking and demonstrations.

Ongoing Conflict

As the economic capital and largest city in Cte dIvoire, violence due to ongoing conflict remains a concern in Abidjan. Although the security situation has stabilized significantly since November 2004 and citizens have resumed regular daily activities, sporadic violence still occurs. Pro-government militia groups, some accused of theft and racketeering, have previously been concentrated in the Adjam district. There have been isolated incidents of violence between these militia and local residents.


Abidjan has been the site of sporadic protests, some of which have turned violent. Demonstrations have normally been over political issues revolving around political opposition groups and disgruntled military personnel. The Young Patriots, a pro-government youth group, conducted a series of protests throughout the country in March 2005 to demand the withdrawal of French peacekeeping troops. Although these protests have subsided, the possibility remains that these protests could resume, particularly as 4 May 2005, the date the U.N. peacekeeping mandate is set to expire, nears. While these protests did not occur in Abidjan, in accordance with a government ban on public demonstrations, government supporters wore red head or arm bands to show anti-French sentiment. Political protests remain a possibility as the national election, expected in October 2005, nears. Although all public demonstrations have been banned in Abidjan until 11 June 2005, visitors should avoid all protests that may occur.


Even before the September 2002 mutiny, the crime rate has continually increased as a result of poor economic conditions, an influx of weapons and refugees from neighboring Liberia, and urban migration. Burglaries commonly occur at residences, restaurants, and small businesses. Petty theft is prevalent throughout Abidjan and armed gangs are a growing problem. Tourists are frequently robbed on the Houphouet-Boigny and Charles de Gaulle bridges; travelers should not cross these bridges on foot. Persons who are victims of armed robbery should not attempt to resist thieves.

Please see "Country News" for periodic updates on crime trends.


Armed carjackings are very common in Cte d'Ivoire. Criminals customarily target four-wheel drive vehicles, and do not hesitate to shoot their victims when confronted with resistance. The vehicles are often used to commit other crimes, and are often discovered abandoned within 24 hours of the carjacking. The police force has established checkpoints throughout the city, in an attempt to curb the high crime rate.

  • Travelers should avoid the Treichville, Plateau and Abobo business districts due to high crime rates.
  • Avoid the Adjam district due to high crime and the frequent presence of armed militia groups. Armed conflict and violence are not uncommon in Adjam.
  • Avoid the DeGaulle and Houphouet-Boigny bridges (crossing the Lagoon) because they are dangerous areas for pedestrians.
  • Do not walk alone in the city, especially after dark.

The police are less than adequate in coping with crime. The police force is hampered by a lack of funding, training and support. At times, the police force has refused to respond to crimes while weapons are being used. Police are known to solicit bribes, especially at highway checkpoints and near Port Bouet Airport. Most police officials only speak French.

Human rights organizations have condemned alleged abuses by security officials against foreigners in Cte d'Ivoire as xenophobia continues in the country. The Ivorian League of Human Rights (LIDHO) charges that members of all the security forces have extorted money from West African immigrants, seized and destroyed their identity documents and subject people to degrading and humiliating treatment, especially at the many checkpoints along roads nationwide. At particular risk are immigrants fleeing Cte d'Ivoire due to increased persecution and insecurity: in the past, these travelers have been stripped of their belongings and sometimes stripped, beaten and humiliated in public places. While security forces are highly unlikely to behave this way toward Western travelers, such impunity poses a growing concern for all travelers to the country.

  • The police emergency telephone number is 170 and 112 for GSM cell phones.
  • The medical emergency telephone number is 180 and 112 for GSM cell phones.

Medical care in Cte d'Ivoire is substandard and medicines are in short supply. The following facilities are located in Abidjan:

Hpital de Port Bouet: (225) 21-27-85-00

PISAM (Polyclinique internationale Sainte-Marie) (Cocody): (225) 22-44-51-32

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