Tiny, verdant and fractured by waterways, Guinea-Bissau is a gem for those prepared to seek it out. Sleepy towns, quiet beaches and sacred rainforests dot the mainland, while offshore the Arquipelago dos Bijagos has a unique culture and fantastic marine and animal life. Guinea-Bissau is not a well-developed nation-even by African standards it’s gut-wrenchingly poor-and it’s been badly served by its recent leaders. However, it remains peaceful and its people are some of the most unconditionally hospitable in west Africa.
Late November to February, when it’s dry and cool
Viewing the flora and fauna of the Arquipelago dos Bijagos Dancing at Bissau’s February Carnival-music, papier-mache masks and parades Hiking and observing wildlife in the south’s sacred forests Checking out the Portuguese colonial architecture throughout the country Relaxing on the archipelago’s pristine beaches
Read Susan Lowerre’s Under the Neem Tree, which tells a vivid story of a Peace Corps volunteer’s experiencees in the region
Listen to Super Mama Djombo and popular singers Dulce Maria Neves, N’ Kassa Cobra and Patcheco
Watch Flora Gomes’s The Blue Eyes of Yonta, a film about dreams revolution
Eat riz gras (rice with a greasy sauce) at rice bars, or grilled fish and salad at barracas (makeshift bar/restaurants)
Drink cana de cajes (cashew rum)-made from the cashew fruit that surrounds the nuts
Bom-dia (good morning)
Monkeys; groundnuts; Portugese colonialism; the Arquipelago dos Bijagos
Guinea-Bissau is the world’s sixth-largest producer of cashew nuts; the Orango lsland National Park is home to a rare species of saltwater hippopotamus
While mainland Guinea-Bissau is not noted for the ues of sculpted figures and masks, the Bijago people, due to their isolation, continue to maintain these traditions. Statues representing lran, the great spirit, are used in connection with agricultural and initiation rituals. These are carved as seated figures, sometimes wearing a top hat. lnitiation masks are also carved, the best known being the Dugn;be, a ferocious bull with real horns.