Destination Today

After the long-delayed presidential elections, Alassane Ouattara took power in 2010. His predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, had to be forcibly removed from office after refusing to accept defeat. The ensuing violence left 3000 people dead and 500,000 displaced. In November 2011 Gbagbo was extradited to The Hague and charged with war crimes.

Ouattara won a second five-year term in 2015. Economically, Côte d'Ivoire has been one of the best-performing African countries since Ouattara was elected: its GDP grew at an average rate of 8.5% per year between 2012 and 2015.

But while the economy booms, politics remain shaky. Côte d'Ivoire suffered a terrorist attack in March 2016, when an armed group, allegedly Islamist fundamentalists, killed 16 people – both local and foreign – in a beachside resort in Grand Bassam. This has affected tourism, with many hotel owners in Grand Bassam complaining of a dramatic drop in revenue.

January 2017 saw more political instability in the form of military mutiny. Soldiers seized Bouaké and kidnapped the country’s defence minister for a short time; there was mild unrest in Abidjan, too. Since the mutiny was reported to be about soldiers' pay, President Ouattara promised salary increases and fired the army and police chiefs, leading the soldiers to withdraw to their barracks.

It is said that many of the soldiers who took part in the mutiny are former rebels who were integrated into the army when Ouattara took power, and that this episode reflects the wider dissatisfaction of the chunk of the population – among them teachers and civil servants – who feel left out of the country's economic boom.

Arts & Crafts

The definitive Ivoirian craft is Korhogo cloth, a coarse cotton painted with geometrical designs and fantastical animals. Also prized are Dan masks from the Man region, and Senoufo wooden statues, masks and traditional musical instruments from the northeast. A fantastic range of contemporary arts can be explored in Abidjan's Galerie Cécile Fakhoury.

Books

There is a wealth of books in French about the country's trials and tribulations. Guillaume Soro's autobiography, Pourquoi Je Suis Devenu Rebelle (Why I Became a Rebel; 2005), is a page-turner. Le Peuple n'Aime pas le Peuple (The People Don't Like the People; 2006), by Kouakou-Gbahi Kouakou, describes the Ivoirian conflict (which took place 2002 to 2004) well.

Culture

None of Côte d'Ivoire's conflicts have killed the population's joie de vivre; even in Abidjan, nightclubs remained open at the height of the fighting. Education and professional life are taken seriously in Abidjan and other large urban areas, and literature, art and creativity are valued; even in refugee camps on the Liberian border, you might come across book-club meetings and philosophical salons. In rural areas, family ties are deeply treasured and you'll meet many Ivoirians who are supporting as many as 20 relatives on their pay cheques.

Environment

Côte d'Ivoire used to be covered in dense rainforest, but most of it was cleared during the agricultural boom, and what remains today is under attack from outlawed logging and farming practices.

The country is the world’s largest cocoa producer, though much of the production takes place illegally – inside the rainforests, where land is cleared and eventually becomes barren. It is estimated that about 80 percent of the country’s forests have disappeared since the 1970s.

Several peaks in the west rise more than 1000m, and a coastal lagoon with a unique ecosystem stretches 300km west from the Ghanaian border. The north is dry scrubland.