Yaoundé is the capital of Cameroon. Yaoundé serves as the political capital of Cameroon, and it’s home to the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, and many foreign embassies.
The city is characterized by its hilly landscape, vibrant culture, and numerous green spaces. It features a mix of traditional, colonial, and modern architecture, reflecting its complex history and diverse influences.
Where is Yaounde?
Yaoundé is situated in the heart of Cameroon, a country located in Central Africa. The city is approximately located at coordinates 3.848 °N latitude and 11.5021 °E longitude. It’s set within the Dja River basin and is surrounded by tropical rainforest and hilly terrain.
The location of Yaoundé, being central, places it approximately midway between Douala — the largest city in the nation located along the southwest coast — and the regions of Cameroon to the north. This central position contributes to its role as the political and administrative hub of Cameroon.
History of Yaounde
Yaoundé has a rich history that has shaped its current form and status as the capital city of Cameroon.
The Ewondo people occupied the area that is now Yaoundé before the arrival of German explorers in the late 19th century. The Ewondo were Bantu-speaking tribes who settled in the region due to its favorable climate and fertile soil.
German colonial forces established Yaoundé as a station in 1888 during the so-called “Scramble for Africa.” It was initially used as a base for the ivory trade and then developed as a colonial administrative center due to its location. The Germans constructed several significant buildings and infrastructures, many still in use today.
After Germany’s defeat in World War I, the League of Nations mandated the territory of Cameroon to France in 1919. The French continued to develop Yaoundé as an administrative, service, and transportation center. They expanded the city’s infrastructure, building more roads, public buildings, and residential areas.
Yaoundé became the capital of French Cameroon in 1922, a position it retained when Cameroon gained independence on January 1, 1960.
During the turbulent period of decolonization and independence in the 1960s, Yaoundé was a significant center of anti-colonial activity.
Since independence, the city has grown rapidly, becoming a bustling metropolitan area and the nation’s political hub. It has seen a significant influx of people from various ethnic groups, significantly increasing its cultural diversity.
Since independence, Yaoundé has experienced several significant events, including political shifts and economic developments. Its universities and research institutions have grown, and the city has expanded physically as it adapts to its growing population.
Features of Yaounde
Yaoundé is a vibrant city notable for its unique mix of colonial, traditional, and modern architecture and its lush landscape.
Geography and Climate
Yaoundé is located in the southern part of Cameroon, in the center of the nation. The city is characterized by a hilly landscape and is surrounded by tropical rainforests, making it one of the greenest cities in Africa. It sits at an elevation of about 750 meters (2,500 feet) above sea level.
As for its climate, Yaoundé has a tropical wet and dry climate. The city experiences a relatively constant temperature throughout the year, with average highs usually around 29-30 °C (84-86 °F) and lows around 19-21 °C (66-70 °F). The city has a long rainy season spanning March to November, with a shorter dry season from December to February.
Yaoundé’s population is over 2.4 million, making it the second-largest city in Cameroon. The city is home to diverse ethnic groups, including the native Ewondo people and other groups from across Cameroon. French and English are the official languages of Cameroon, but Ewondo and other local languages are widely spoken in Yaoundé.
The city has seen significant growth and urbanization in recent decades, with many people moving from rural areas in search of economic opportunities. This growth has contributed to the cultural diversity of the city.
Yaoundé’s economy is primarily service-based, reflecting its role as the political and administrative hub of Cameroon. The city hosts a significant number of government and diplomatic services employees. Education and research are also key sectors, with several universities and research institutions based in the city, including the University of Yaoundé.
The city is less industrially developed than Douala, Cameroon’s economic capital. However, some manufacturing and processing industries in Yaoundé focus on food processing, tobacco, and brewing, among others.
Infrastructure development and construction have been significant areas of economic activity due to the city’s rapid growth and urbanization.
The city’s transportation sector is also critical, given Yaoundé’s role as a central hub for road networks and its international airport.
Things to Do and Places to See in Yaounde
There are numerous activities and attractions that await visitors in Yaoundé. Let’s explore some of the top destinations and points of interest in the city:
1. Parc de la Méfou (Ape Action Africa)
This primate sanctuary, run by the charity Ape Action Africa, is just outside Yaoundé. It is home to many of Cameroon’s rescued primates, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys. Visitors can take guided tours to learn about these fascinating creatures and the conservation efforts in place to protect them.
2. National Museum Yaoundé
Housed in the former presidential palace, this museum showcases the history and cultural diversity of Cameroon. Its exhibits feature various artifacts, from archaeological finds to tribal masks and historical photographs. The museum offers a comprehensive introduction to Cameroon’s rich cultural heritage.
3. Museu Etnográfico dos Povos da Floresta
This ethnographic museum, whose name translates to “Ethnographic Museum of the Forest People,” offers visitors an insight into the cultures, traditions, and ways of life of the indigenous forest-dwelling communities of Cameroon. The museum hosts a collection of artifacts, tools, musical instruments, and art pieces from these communities.
4. Basilica of Mary Queen of Apostles
Also known as the Basilique Marie-Reine-des-Apôtres, this is a significant Catholic church in Yaoundé. The basilica is notable for its beautiful stained glass and its statue of the Virgin Mary, which is said to have miraculous properties.
The church is an important place of worship and pilgrimage in Cameroon and continues to serve a vibrant congregation, and holds regular religious services, making it a living part of the city’s religious life.
5. Cameroon Reunification Monument
This monument commemorates the reunification of British Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon in 1961. It consists of a large sculpture and a small museum that tells the story of the country’s path to reunification. The monument is an iconic landmark in Yaoundé and a symbol of national unity.
The on-site museum offers insights into the country’s path to reunification, featuring exhibits that trace the historical events leading up to this pivotal moment.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best time to visit Yaoundé, Cameroon?
The best time to visit Yaoundé is typically in the dry season, which runs from December to February. During this time, the weather is more conducive to outdoor activities and exploring the city without the disruptions of heavy rainfalls.
What is traditional food like in Yaoundé?
Traditional Cameroonian cuisine is diverse and flavorful. Staple dishes often include plantains, yams, cassava, and rice, and proteins such as chicken, goat, and fish. Notable dishes include:
• Ndolé: often considered the national dish of Cameroon. It’s a rich and hearty stew with a unique blend of flavors. The main ingredients are ndolé (bitter leaves that have been boiled and crushed), peanuts, and various proteins, including shrimp, beef, goat, or fish.
• Eru: a type of soup made from eru or okok (a type of spinach or wild vegetable) and waterleaf (a local vegetable used as a softener). These are cooked with palm oil, crayfish, and various meats or fish.
• Koki: a traditional Cameroonian steamed pudding or cake made from red cowpeas (also known as kidney beans), palm oil, and spices. The mixture is wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed until it solidifies into a cake-like consistency.
What currency is used in Yaoundé?
The official currency of Cameroon, and thus in Yaoundé, is the Central African CFA franc (XAF).
Is it safe to visit Yaoundé?
In the past, instances of mugging and armed robbery have been reported in certain parts of Yaoundé. It’s recommended to steer clear of isolated or less affluent neighborhoods. In Yaoundé, this includes areas like Briqueterie and the Mokolo market. Similarly, in Douala, one should exercise caution in Nkololun, New Bell, Akwa, Bonaberi, and Village.
How can I get around in Yaoundé?
Yaoundé has several options for getting around the city. Public transportation includes buses and shared taxis, the most common and affordable travel methods. Private taxis are also available, though they can be more expensive.
Renting a car is another option, though navigating the city’s traffic and finding parking can be challenging. Some parts of the city are walkable, but the hilly terrain and hot weather can make long distances uncomfortable to traverse on foot.
Yaoundé offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Its diverse architectural styles, vibrant markets, educational institutions, and political significance make it a city worth exploring.
Its diverse cuisine provides a culinary adventure for food enthusiasts. Despite the need for caution in certain areas, as with any large city, Yaoundé’s intriguing mix of attractions makes it a destination that could indeed be worth visiting.