Douala: the commercial hub
Douala is not the capital of Cameroon, but the most significant city by its population, and by its economic role. The city was named after the Duala, the local ethnic group that originally settled in the area.
As the Cameroon chief commercial Centre, Douala has an international airport and a harbor with extensive docks, and is a terminus for two railway lines extending into the interior. Industries include the manufacture of aluminum products, beer, soft drinks, textiles, and the processing of timber and cacao beans.
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 is divided into quarters or quartiers: Akwa, is the center of the city and the place where you will be spending most of your time, the Municipal Artisanal Stand, and Bonanjo the administrative district.
The Douala Museum (Musée de Douala) is in the Hotel de Ville on the second floor. It gives you a pretty good introduction in Bamoun and Bamiléké art, very useful if you want to buy something later on.
Close to the Museum is the Place du Government (Government Square) with its “Chinese Pagoda” – built by Rudolf Douala Manga Bell, a local ruler who was executed by the Germans in 1914.
Day trips from Douala can be made to the mountain resort of Mt Fako (Also known as Mt Cameroon) and to the beach resort of Limbe both only an hour away. Better, wild beaches with gold sand are in Kribi, three to four hours by bush taxi.
Douala is home to many monuments and museums, such as the New Liberty Monument (Deido) and the General Leclerc monument in Bonandjo. The Government Square also boasts the Unknown Soldier Memorial. Recently other memorials such as the 50th Independence Anniversary memorial have been added to the growing list of existing landmarks.
Even though the city has seen its road network being rehabilitated in recent years, driving in Douala can be chaotic. Cars and moto-taxis commonly known as Benskins share the roads, with the latter seeming to rule the traffic while ignoring all traffic rules. Newcomers are advised to be careful, or to hire a local driver to be on the safe side.
One of the busy arteries of Douala, near the Lagos Market, the immense flea market where important business deals are made. This part of the city is one of the busiest. Images of kids playing football is common in the Economic Capital of Cameroon. The “Boulevard de la Liberté” on the lower left is one of the main thoroughfares leading to Bonanjo, the City Administrative and business centre (where many of the city’s monuments can be admired) and the airport. Douala can become unrecognizable at times when moto-taxis invade the streets. Moto-taxis are a major inconvenience to drivers and authorities, but a life saver for the local population, which has hard time moving around town.
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