Freetown, Baby!

God bless Islam by jc2010sl
March 24, 2010, 1:03 pm
Filed under: society | Tags: , ,

It’s common to see vehicles in Freetown adorned with various messages and injunctions. Many of them are religious in nature, and you’ll commonly see signs like “Believe in God”, “Trust in Allah”, or “God will provide”. I saw one yesterday though, that stuck me as slightly odd:

I thought that “God” was Christian, and that Islam would be blessed by “Allah”.

I guess this blurring of religious lines symbolises in some way the incredible religious tolerance in Salone. It’s often said that Salone is a model of peaceful co-existence, something backed up by a Gallup survey, for those of you with pointy-headed inclinations.

I was intrigued as to why this was the case, and have been asking the drivers and my Salone colleagues why this is the case. Intermarriage between religions is often mentioned. The last president, Ahmed Kabbah – no prizes for guessing his faith – was married to a devout catholic.
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Freetown traffic by mabrajeux
February 1, 2010, 5:02 pm
Filed under: photos, society, travels | Tags: , , ,

We started off the week end by a quick excursion to the centre of town, ditching the drivers and trying our luck with the local transport services…

Maybe a quick explanation is in order here. Not only is traffic in Freetown pretty hectic but you also have many different options to choose from:

• Foot: Walking around is quite nice if it’s in a quieter part of town, but the centre is pretty crazy. Also, Freetown is very spread out and walking from our place to the centre would probably take more than an hour. Also, some of the roads are pretty steep, most of the cars are in a questionable state and all the drivers seem to behave like London night bus drivers…

• Cycle: I have so far seen 3 bicycles in Freetown, and if the hills didn’t put me off cycling in the first place, the motorised competition certainly would!

• Poda-Podas: Our taxi driver yesterday described it as transport for ‘the common people’. Hundreds of those little minibuses with wooden benches cover a certain number of routes all across town. A bit like a bus, except it’s more often full and you quickly feel very intimate with your fellow passengers… Each seems to have a name or a motto, ranging from ‘Allah is great’ to ‘De Gunners’. Football might well be the number one religion here… (photos to follow, promise…)

• Taxis: regular taxis are shared and follow a certain route, so you can pile in as long as you’re going in the right direction. So far, taxis I’ve taken have been almost disappointingly civilised in terms of crowding but I have definitely seen up to three people in the front passenger seat! My taxi was also confidently hailed by a very young girl (maybe 7 or 8 years old) in a school uniform who announced she wanted to go to Hill Station before settling in the front seat on her own…

• Charter taxis: same taxis but you can hire it exclusively for yourself, so it’s a regular taxi, basically.

Add to this cohort of vehicles an astonishing number of 4*4s with more or less competent drivers and you might get an idea of Freetown traffic. Then take this idea and multiply it by the number of times a driver will beep his horn every 5 minutes (that’ll be about 10) and then you’ll have an accurate idea of how hectic it really is…

So after a quick tour of the city centre by means of taxi, foot and poda-poda, we eventually succumbed to the call of the beach and headed south to Sussex beach and Franco’s. But more on that later…