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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Praia, Cape Verde Islands

Now in Praia, Cape Verde. Flew here last night from Dakar. NOTE: M1 does not roam here. On Saturday, we will fly to Guinea-Bissau where M1 does not roam either. On Sunday, we will try to re-enter Senegal again by land and head for Gambia, where M1 may roam. So it could be 3 to 4 days before I am contactable by mobile.
Ever heard of Cape Verde Islands? This is a very small country with 400,000 people and 500km off the coast of West Africa. Interestingly, it is named after Cape Verde, a geographical feature not even in the country itself, but in Senegal. Cape Verde was first settled by the Portuguese and became an independent communist state in 1975.
Small and isolated, it also often suffered from droughts. Its history was tragically affected by major droughts where as much as 40% of the population perished in subsequent famines. The latest famine occurred in the 1980s during which the country survived on food aid from Portugal and the USA. By the late 1980s, communism was abandoned and the country began to develop tourism actively. Today, it is the richest West African nation on a per capita basis, and classified as a middle income country by the UN.
Haven't seen much yet but first impressions were ok. The airport was modern and clean. The roads were good and there seemed to be nice buildings around. The hotel cost was reasonable at US$30, which was better value than many West African establishments which were more costly but lousy in facilities (or cheap but practically shit holes). Only surprise was that not many people at the airport seemed to speak English, which is strange for a tourism-oriented country.
The Cape Verdians are a beautiful mixed race people formed from the unions of Portuguese and African slaves. Generally black or darker in complexion, they have mixed European and African facial features. They also look friendlier and less aggressive than black Africans, who can be intimidating to the tourist.
I will see more of Cape Verde today.

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