By Staff Reporter
Propelled by exponential demographic growth, Yaounde epitomises an urbanising city. Every day, several hundred hopeful people venture here to try their luck. The sprawling city seems to symbolise the African Dream — it is the city where everything is possible. TRT Francais’ correspondent crisscrosses Cameroon for you, navigating from north to south and from east to west on a quest to discover the country. His journey begins today, with an exploration of Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, and its unique characteristics.
The visitor who arrives in Yaounde for the first time has the feeling of plunging into a chlorophyll bath. From the most dismal of shantytowns to luxurious districts where obscene wealth is on display, Yaounde, with its monstrous traffic jams and dynamic crowds in constant motion, welcomes newcomers with its metallic splendour. Cosmopolitan districts juxtaposed with verdant landscapes induce a special sense of well-being.
Located in the heart of Cameroon, the city welcomes visitors with the delightful pleasure of an Indian summer, when nature rejoices following the storms that characterise the hot season. The greatest shock for a newcomer is that of colour: In Yaounde, green is soft like orange groves — a more extreme green than that of banana plantations and cassava leaves — and the cobalt blue of the sky dominates the carnivorous red hues of the surrounding slopes.
We never get used to the dazzling violence of the landscape, but we end up accepting it. And how can we ignore the distant threat of the kingdom of buffaloes? This forest — which once surrounded the convention centre — is, today, a source of pride for Cameroon. Yaounde is a city of seven wonders: seven hills, seven tribes, seven beautiful women, seven town halls and seven languages.
The beauty of nature
The trees lining the perfectly smooth four-lane asphalt street are decorated like armed generals. Election posters remain on display.
Suddenly, when turning a bend, a valley appears where there is nothing, no sign of civilisation — there is only the black trail of asphalt winding through acacia trees as far as the eye can see.
The shock of the empty — an emptiness accessible without exerting any effort: this is the other phase of discovering Cameroon.
On November 30, 1889, the German botanist Georg August Zenker founded the city, giving it the name of ‘Yaunde’ in reference to the local peanut sowers. There is nothing in this Eden-like city — it was only a mere few months ago that the first shopping mall was built. And that’s not to mention the Olembe Stadium, a gigantic sports infrastructure — or the Nkoldongo district, a residential area built in an ‘American’ way that also bears part of the city’s history.
Yaounde was founded on an old quarry known for the exceptional quality of the clay extracted from it by inhabitants of the city. The city has seen dozens of expatriate workers pass through — from neighbouring countries, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic and in this case, Gabon.
Those who were familiar with the city in the past remember the building where the government delegation sat: It was the very first house built in Yaounde. The building had a roof whose tiles were made of clay from Yaounde’s quarries. It was the residence of the then-German governor, Hans Dominik, whom the natives called ‘Dominiki’ — in reference to the fact that he had instituted harsh methods to punish the recalcitrant: the “straffzager,” the correctional court, and the “disciplinarzague,” the disciplinary court.
With each day that passes, these historic tiles continue to tell the story of the city to visitors and tourists in their own way — a history that is, without a doubt, specific to Yaounde.