After a week or two in the interior of Côte d’Ivoire, Editor-in-Chief and I would emerge from the 40C days and 90% humidity to arriving in Abidjan and stay with friends for the weekend. Weekends for those in Abidjan meant going out to the coast of Grand Bassam, a coast blessed with having a narrow strip of sand that sits between the crushing, un-swimmable waves of the Atlantic and the primordial lagoon that runs for hundreds of kilometers to the east and west of Côte d’Ivoire’s de facto capital.
We and our friends would go to La Maison de la Lagune which is a place I will always cherish with its classy, older French owner who would strut about in a tight dress with no intention to hide her g-string. She had hired too many unqualified local staff as opposed to a few qualified ones and the service could be horrible at times. The French military would often arrive before us and have eaten all the beef but the restaurant sat next to the waves. A saltwater pool lay alongside it for quick swims. And the hotel sat behind it all, gazing upon the lagoon. The few times we went were some of my most lasting memories of the time I spent in Côte d’Ivoire.
Indeed, living there in 2010 wasn’t without its peril and we left just before the unpleasant times of getting former President Gbagbo out of power arrived. But even though that conflict was bloody and unnecessary, I would have never thought that a place like this beach area of Grand Bassam would be attacked by Islamic terrorists. It’s such a meaningless place really. Both expats and local Ivorians spend time there, mindless of the congestion of Abidjan for an afternoon, eating fresh lobster for $10 or grilled meat from one of maquis that was even more affordable. Many of the photos circulating the aftermath from the vantage of cellphones show dead Ivorians which makes one wonder as to what the purpose of this was?
I never spent time at the Etoile du Sud Hotel where these gunmen struck. My only truly unpleasant time in Grand Bassam was having malaria fully attack me while we tried to spend a relaxing weekend. A weekend that was made less so due to the road blockades which apparently seem to serve no purpose given the sad events of today. One can only assume that now, there will be more.
It makes me just want to hold on to the memories of buying roasting peanuts in re-used Rum bottles from the girls on the side of the road before turning back on to the A100 to return to Abidjan and reality.