In last week’s blog post, we started our series on the culture of Cameroon with an article looking at the central role the arts play in the country. Literature, music, crafts and dance all mix in a cultural melting pot that helps to make Cameroon a nation of unparalleled diversity. But, this variety isn’t limited to the arts: Cameroon boasts landscapes and landmarks that are just as diverse as its culture.
So, while Autumn is drawing in and travel is restricted, this week we’ll be taking you on a journey through some of the iconic locations that make up the distinct nation known as ‘Africa in miniature’, from areas of breathtaking natural beauty to places of deep historical and cultural interest.
If there’s one city in Cameroon that could be a symbol for both the country’s uniquely diverse culture and geography, it would be the capital city, Yaoundé. One of the most strikingly beautiful cities in Western Africa, Yaoundé’s monuments and buildings are spread across seven hills, interspersed with plantlife and surrounded by swamps and streams, giving the effect of a green, breathing city.
Culture in Yaoundé is just as alive as its terrain. There are countless markets and landmarks to be found in the city, from the bold triangular Notre-Dame-Des-Victoires cathedral that features a beautiful mosaic at its centre, to the hopeful Monument de la Reunification (Reunification Monument) that was built in 1974 to celebrate the unification of Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon. Yaoundé also boasts several museums of art and culture, housed in buildings with unique histories. These include the musée d’Art Camerounais that can be found in a benedictine monastery and the National Museum, an impressive 30’s villa that was once the palace for the first president of Cameroon.
It may only have the second-largest population of the cities in Cameroon, housing around 2.8 million people, but with its location at the centre of Cameroon, it could very well be the heart of the country.
Much of our work helping children in impoverished communities gain access to education is based in Yaoundé, with the rest focused in the Boyo region in North-West Cameroon. If you’d like to find out more about our mission and what we do, please visit our About Us page.
2. Mount Cameroon
For a country that is famed for its varying extremes in climate and terrain, as well as its biodiversity, Mount Cameroon is surely its pinnacle. Mount Cameroon, also known as Fako, is an active volcano and the highest peak in western and central Africa, towering at 4,040 m or 13,255 ft above sea-level. It will come as no surprise that the volcano, located in south-west Cameroon, has an indigenous name of Mongo ma Ndemi, meaning ‘mountain of greatness’. This volcano, which has the most frequent eruptions of a volcano in western Africa, is matched in its extremity by Lake Nyos, which shares the same volcanic line and is one of 3 lakes in the world known to produce CO2 based eruptions.
Despite the volatile nature of the volcano, Mount Cameroon’s surrounding area is one of exceptional biodiversity. The volcano features habitats ranging from rainforests to grasslands and boasts a vast range of plants and animals, including elephants, antelope, monkeys and two bird species only found at Mount Cameroon. On the southern slope of the mountain lies the town of Limbé, which features the Limbé Botanical Gardens. These were established in 1892 and are the second oldest gardens in the whole of Africa, featuring over 30,000 plant species.
From sky-touching mountains to the sea, Kribi is a beautiful coastal town in South-West Cameroon. Known as ‘paradise in Cameroon’, it’s a town framed by its golden beaches and the glistening shores that surround it. Like much of Cameroon, the natural beauty doesn’t stop there: 8 km from Kribi lie the Chutes de la Lobé. These are dazzling waterfalls with waters from the river Lobé that tumble directly into the Atlantic Ocean.
Aside from its local geography, Kribi is also a town steeped in human history. Kribi has twin harbour-based towns in France, Ouistreham and St-Nazaire, as well as Kribi Lighthouse built by German colonialists in 1906, both of which are remnants of the town and Cameroon’s larger colonial history.
4. Dja Faunal Reserve
A country that has such a diverse landscape as Cameroon needs to be protected and so Dja Faunal Reserve was created in 1950 and made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987. This miraculous reserve, an integral part of the Congo Basin and almost completely encircled by the Dja River, is one of the largest areas of protected rainforest in Africa, with 90% of its forest undisturbed by external human activities.
Located in South-East Cameroon, the protected rainforest contains over 1,500 confirmed plant species, 320 bird species and 109 mammals, including forest buffalo and elephants, leopards and primates, 5 of which are endangered species. The success of the Dja Faunal Reserve, along with its natural boundary of the Dja river, is an inspiring example of humans working with the natural world, rather than against it.
We’ve seen much of what makes the geography of Cameroon so varied in this article so far, from mountains, to rainforests, to coastal hotspots. But, Foumban, along with Youandé, is one of the cities that makes the strongest case for the vast cultural diversity that can be found in Cameroon. An important city for the ancient kingdom of the Bamum people as well as being the city with the largest Muslim population in Cameroon, Foumban breathes the influences of both and is steeped in unique art, music, language and architecture.
Central to the city is the historic and German-inspired Foumban Royal Palace, built-in 1917 and where the current sultan of Bamum dynasty still resides, along with a nearby mosque, museum of arts and a craft market that separates the buildings called the Rue des Artisans. That such a small area of a city with a population fewer than 100,000 people could show such a range of influences is representative of Cameroon as a country. Whether areas are influenced by the environment, like Yaoundé, or the nation’s rich history, like Foumban, the combination of these factors is what makes Cameroon a country like no other.
These are only 5 of Cameroon’s fascinating locations to be explored. We hope we’ve inspired you to discover more!
If you’d like to learn more about Cameroon as well as our work, why not look at more of our blog posts?
If you have any questions about our work or Cameroon and its culture, leave a comment below!