Malabo is this weird, fantastic place that reminds me of a mix of Kigali, Ashgabat and Luanda at the same time. Just like the last two countries mentioned, Equatorial Guinea has been one of the hardest visas for me to get, so I was so glad to finally be here.
Before arriving I had so low expectations of the place. Multiple people who had visited every country previously had said that Equatorial Guinea stood out as one of the worst countries. That it was super corrcupt, unfriendly etc but I have not experienced any of that. The people I have met so far have been very friendly and curious about me, maybe it is because I speak Spanish and they dont. Or maybe it’s just changing fast.
Cathedral of St Isabel, which is the old, Spanish name for Malabo
I was picked up at the airport and had a tour with my couchsurfing host where the first stop was at the most famous place, outside St. Isabel Cathedral, which had gotten its name from the old name of the city during colonial times. Right next to it was the heavily guarded entrance to the presidents Palace and we asked them if we could go down and visit the slave caves under the bridge/plattform that the soldiers were standing on and to our surprise they agreed, although we didn’t even get all the way to the entrance before they called us and said that they had changed their mind.
Inside Iglesia de San Fernando
Unlike most of the Worlds “Oil capitals” like Baku, Dubai, Manama etc the city was refreshingly easy to walk around and shared taxis are plentyful and relatively cheap at 1-2usd. The cultural center from the pictures below was a place where anyone could go to do homework, meet up for language exchange or just use the free WiFi:
Food here is like anywhere else in West Africa, with lots of roots like yam, magnok and cassava, some fish and hens (not chicken, but dry hens) and fried plantains and bananas. For just a dollar I also got a plate with rice and veg/coconuts sauce for a dollar so food here doesnt have to be as expensive as everyone had told me.
Christmas seems to be a big thing and streets were still heavily decorated and restaurants were playing Christmas songs on the radio even though it was mid january.
My favorite part of the city was the corniche that started from the Cathedral and went on for kilometers of kilometers of empty, clean streets. A comfortable, but weird place to be I thought.
The corniche was completely empty
The plan for Malabo, or Bioko Island is to turn it into a visa liberal, tax free place for tourists, just like Kish Island in Iran. By 2020 they have planned to replace Malabo with a city that they are building in the middle of nowhere on the mainland called Oyala. It is going to be interesting to see how this country will develop in the near future.
The drive up to the Sampaca cocoa plantation was also very nice. Sam parker was the name of the plantation owner in the colonial times, and with African pidgin english the name became Sampaca.