Perhaps I’m feeling inspired answering questions from my replacement who is about to move to Abidjan, but this is something I’ve been asked about a few times. I saw something on Facebook that is quite useful, which I’ll translate for you:
“Advice for tourists coming to Beautiful Babi: Cocody = Beverly Hills (the bourgeois), Plateau = Manhattan (skyscrapers), Marcory = Las Vegas (the place that never sleeps), Treichville = Kingston (drugs in the streets), Kousmassi = Bogota (gangland), Port Bouet = Hawaii (coconuts and palms), Adjame = Texas (urban jungle), Attecoube = Bronx (the strongest make the law), Yopougon = Rio de Janeiro (alcohol, sex, party, beautiful girls), Abobo = Baghdad (danger everywhere).”
As a joke-y summary, it’s not a bad for giving you a flavour of all Abidjan’s communes. It makes the place sound a lot more dangerous or glamorous that it really is, but it’s a good rule of thumb for beginners.
Writing as I am in English, I assume I’m addressing an international crowd, in this case arriving for a new posting in Abidjan. With that in mind, there are probably only three districts (quartiers) for you – Cocody, Plateau and Marcory. I’ve blogged earlier about my thoughts about Marcory, or more precisely the Zone 4/Bietry area where many French people choose to live. It has lots of good quality restaurants, bars and nightclubs but there’s not much else and it’s not a particularly pleasant environment unless you need to be close to the airport, or the beach resorts to the east.
Plateau is in the very centre of the city and as the commercial area is very quiet outside of office hours, though it has a range of good old-school restaurants and places to hang out if you know where to look. Good for expat apartments and being central – many UN folk at the peacekeeping mission live here.
Finally, most internationals will probably go for Cocody, so I want to spend most of my time talking about this area. The commune includes a large number of areas and often ‘Cocody’ is more particularly applied to the original Cocody zone centred on the St Jean roundabout, the university campus and the diplomatic quarter. II Plateau is slightly to the north with a lot of evening life focused on Rue des Jardins. Further north is 7eme tranche which has some decent and slightly cheaper options (than II Plateaux) and finally at the end of the Boulevard Latrille you get Angre which has decent Middle class homes but is rather far from the rest of the city.
The other way you can travel in Cocody is east towards Bingerville. After the campus you get Riviera which has many parts – Riviera Golf/Jardins being the first part you come to, which is a pleasant area to live. Riviera III is a bit further out, and Palmarie again some. Riviera III, particularly around the French Lycée Blaise Pascal school, has Abidjan’s best accommodation, though you need to think about where you’ll travel to each day for work – there are only two options for getting to the rest of the city – the wide Bingerville road and the narrow road that goes by the diplomatic zone to old Cocody. Once the third bridge and associated roadworks are finished, circulation should be considerably improved.
I sometimes wonder about my dream area; probably II Plateaux or Riviera III. The latter if you want to be in the most luxurious area, the former if you want to be at the centre of Ivorian bourgeois cultural life, but which can be a bit too close to Abobo for comfort.
I have friends and family who live in all corners of the city and all have their charms and are worth a visit. Abobo and Yopougon are stimulating places that are really cities within the city and the sense of life at all times of day, especially night, is a spectacle.
For alternative living options, special mention needs to be made for Blockoss, an urban ‘village’ which backs on to the St Jean and diplomatic areas. It is basically in Cocody (though I don’t think technically), and has cheaper accommodation in a small but vibrant community beside the lagoon. I have several friends who left upperclass Abidjan for the atmosphere here, so it does come recommended. I have a Canadian friend who got a very interesting place in Adjame that helped him get a real insight into local culture, and some friends who used to live in Treichville. I have a secret dream of keeping a studio in these places and splitting my time between two homes – with the studio just to breathe in the vivacity of these districts.