‘Côte d’Ivoire, eh?’ said the businessman in the seat next to me on the Air France flight from Paris to Abidjan, as he flicked through the wine list. ‘Perfect place to have an affair.’
Seriously? I’d had endless friends prior to my departure sniggering that I – middle-aged white female – was tragically going to West Africa as a sex tourist, to patrol the bars and beaches, barnet possibly culturally appropriated into dreadlocks, in the hope of snagging a ripped Rasta (will I get cancelled for writing all that?) or two. And Mr 7A was now indicating it was an ideal destination for a planned romantic getaway too. Crikey!
I pondered his words as he hesitated between the Chablis and the Pouilly-Fumé. My husband had initially been keen on joining me on the trip and then decided against on the grounds that he’d read about Cote d’Ivoire on Wikipedia and concluded ‘it looked dreary’. He also claimed there was no need to go as he went to Namibia during his gap yah between Eton and Cambridge and worked in Nairobi for a few months in 2001.
Well, I too had already been to Africa – Morocco, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa – but I’d never been to West Africa, and I’d never been to the Ivory Coast, which sounded remote and glamorous. I mean, ivory! And coast! Plus ‘perfect place to have an affair’ – what’s not to like?
I felt some response was required to my travelling companion’s claim. ‘Oh, is it?’ I asked, because that hadn’t been obvious from my initial googling into this fertile francophone land of virgin rainforest, 550km of coastline, nine national parks of infinite variety (there’s a parc animalier and a parc marin), the land of the coffee and cocoa bean and Premier League footballers.