|Currency||Guinean franc (GNF)|
|Area||total: 245,857 sq km |
water: 0 sq km
land: 245,857 sq km
|Population||7,775,065 (July 2002 est.)|
|Language||French (official), each ethnic group has its own language|
|Religion||Muslim 85%, Christian 8%, indigenous beliefs 7%|
A former French colony achieving independence in 1958, Guinea has suffered under a long military dictatorship, only ending in 1993 with the election of a former general to head a civilian government. Unrest in neighbouring Sierra Leone has spilled across the border, creating humanitarian emergencies and threatening the stablility of this country.
There are four major regions in Guinea - the coast is called Basse (low) or Maritime Guinea, the next section of the interior is called Moyenne (lesser) Guinea, the more mountainous area to the east is called Haute (high) Guinea, and the tail that drops down to the southeast is called Guinea Forestiere or Forest Guinea. These major division also provide broad cultural division as well - Basse Guinea is primarily Susu people and culture, Moyenne Guinea is more of the Pular people, who originate from nomadic tribes, Haute Guinea is primarily Malinke and Forest Guinea is home to the Toma, Kissi and similar groups who carry on strong traditional practices for medicine and religion.
Conakry - capital
Opening information is incorrect. General Lansana Conte has been the president of the Republic of Guinea since 1984. He was general to President Sekou Toure, who presided from 1958 to 1984, and General Conte took over the government when Sekou Toure died. It was not until the early 90s that General Conte began taking a more democratic position in government and allowing open elections.
Guinea is a remarkable country with very warm, genuine people but little infrastructure. While they have tremendous natural resources, they rate very poorly in the UN's quality of life index.
There are no buses (as a prior entry suggested). Almost all transport is via taxi. Usually, the taxis will pile in as many people as they can fit, but you can try to hail a taxi just for yourself - much more likely if you speak French! Taxis are very inexpensive, even if you want to rent one for a half or whole day. Expect to have to stop for gas almost immediately after you get in the car. Traffic can be very very heavy, especially near the airport. They are rebuilding the roads around the airport, and you have to detour through residential neighborhoods.
Taxis are also used for transport from city to city. Keep in mind that there is a curfew at night, and if you try to drive into Conakry you will have to wait outside the city until morning. It is also possible to fly from city to city, but get to the airport early and bring cash for your tickets.
The official language is French. There are numerous ethnic languages, and the three most prevalent are Susu, Pular and Malinke. Susu is spoken in the coastal region and in the capital city.
They do not sell a lot of trinkets in Guinea, but they have wonderful cloth that you can take home as is, or you can have a tailor whip up an outfit for you in a day or so.