Guinea Bissau: Holidays, national customs, climate
There are a number of public holidays that do not have a fixed date, but are based on the time of Easter. Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the beginning of spring. Lent, which lasts 46 days, begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Pentecost is 50 days after Easter. The Corpus Christi festival is celebrated on the 2nd Thursday after Pentecost. All Saints’ Day is celebrated for Orthodox Christians on the 1st Sunday after Pentecost, but for Catholic Christians the date is fixed on November 1st. On October 31, Protestants celebrate Reformation Day. The Halloween festival also takes place on this day.
|Amlcar Cabral dies
|Tabaski (Festival of Sacrifice)
|8th of March
|International Women’s Day
|1st of May
|Day in memory of the Pidjiguiti Martyrs.
|Korit (end of Ramadan)
The dates for the Islamic holidays are calculated according to the lunar calendar and therefore shift every year. During the fasting month of Ramadan, which precedes the Korit festival, Muslims do not eat during the day, but only after sunset. Many restaurants are therefore closed during the day. The Tabaski and Korit festivals last 2-10 days, depending on the region.
In February, multi-day carnival festivities with traditional dances, masks and parades are held across the country. The various ethnic groups, especially in the rural regions, also celebrate their own regional festivals. The most important traditional musical instrument is the kora, a hollowed-out pumpkin strung with cowhide and strung with 21 strings. Guitar music based on Portuguese and Spanish rhythms is also typical of the country.
For guests in a country like Guinea-Bissau, consideration for the local customs is required. Women in particular should pay attention to decent clothing. Beach clothing outside the bathing zone is taboo, and long pants are also recommended for men outside the hotel zones. In addition, tattoos are uncommon in Guinea and should be covered better. However, no foreign woman has to veil herself in Guinea.
Photographing locals without their permission must be avoided at all costs, as the image of people is traditionally a taboo in Islamic countries.
As in other West African countries, greeting is a polite tradition in Guinea-Bissau. In longer or shorter conversations, it is polite normality to inquire about the state of the family, health, work or study.
In Guinea-Bissau, things like food, greetings or handing over money are only done with the right hand, because the left hand is reserved for toilet matters and is considered unclean.
Do not be surprised if Guinese invites you to dinner at home. This is considered a great honor and shouldn’t be turned down. Those who absolutely do not want or cannot, kindly decline the invitation and refer to the next time. In general one can say that the people of Guinea are very hospitable, warm, helpful and friendly. You should definitely try out their hospitality.
In Guinea-Bissau there is a tropical climate and there are no four seasons as there are, only rainy and dry seasons.
The rainy season
lasts from May to November. The months of July and August are the rainiest. Before or after, strong thunderstorms can occur. In Bissau (capital on the coast) the average daytime temperatures are between 33-35 °C during this period. At night they drop to 20-22 °C. The humidity is around 70-90%. Around 1,950 mm of precipitation falls annually in Bissau, almost exclusively in the rainy season.
It lasts from late December to April. Dusty and hot desert winds often occur during the dry season, which in West Africa are called Harmattane. In some areas there can also be periods of drought. The daytime temperatures in Bissau are 34-38 °C, with April being the hottest. The further east you go inland, the warmer it gets. Sometimes up to over 40 °C. At night the temperatures fluctuate between 16-19 °C. January is the coldest here. The humidity remains around 50% even during the dry season.
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that PU stands for the nation of Guinea-Bissau as a two-letter acronym.
This pretty town is also the birthplace of the Bissau-Guinean national hero Amílcar Cabral, whose birthplace can be found near the old market. The city of 22,500 residents impresses with its interesting colonial center, which extends on the picturesque banks of the Rio Gêba. The capital of the Bafatá region is the seat of the Catholic diocese of the same name and is surrounded by a rich animal world, the most striking representatives of which are macaques and monkeys.
Of the approximately 1.5 million residents of Guinea-Bissau, 400,000 live in the quiet capital Bissau, the political, administrative and economic center of the small country. Almost all foreign trade runs through the city, which also has Guinea-Bissau’s only international airport. The economic center is the former Portuguese city center, the Praça. This is where the city’s ministries, banks and large hotels are located. The city, however, suffers from a deplorably weak infrastructure, which was fatally blown by the civil war of 1998/99. Electricity, water supply, roads – everything is in a dilapidated condition, and even the former presidential palace only rises up into the sky as a dreary ruin. As one of the last capitals in the world, Bissau is almost completely in the dark at night. Even the public buildings are falling into disrepair. If there were sights in the city, they are only a shadow of themselves. A small ray of hope is the Carneval, which is well worth seeing, which takes place in Bissau every year at the end of February/beginning of March.
On the island of the same name, about 65 square kilometers in size, lies Bolama, the port and capital of the administrative region Bolama. It was the capital of the Portuguese colony until 1941, as evidenced by numerous fascinating colonial buildings that have survived the ravages of time and the civil war. Unfortunately, Bolama is decaying more and more, so that streets and buildings are slowly overgrown by trees and bushes.
On the Rio Grande de Buba and near the Contanhez National Park is Buba, the largest city in southern Guinea-Bissau with just under 7,000 residents. The port and capital of the Quinara region had even been chosen as the capital of Guinea-Bissau by Kumba Yala, the country’s former president, a plan that was never implemented.
The capital of the region of the same name, Cacheu, is located in the northwest of Guinea-Bissau and has a population of almost 10,000. The once important ferry port in the country has some interesting structures that are worth seeing. In addition to the colonial fortress, the Tarafes de Cacheu mangrove nature park extends near the city.
In the north of Guinea-Bissau and on the northern bank of the Rio Cacheu, Farim is spreading, a city with about 6,500 residents that was once an attractive trading center, but suffered greatly from the independence and civil war.
Gabú, the largest city in East Guinea-Bissau, acts as the capital of the region of the same name. About 37,500 residents currently live in the market and trading town, which is dominated by the Muslim Fulbe.
Fortress of Cacheu
The fortress in Cacheu, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, is well worth seeing. It still refers to the time when the city was a center of the slave trade.
Fortaleza de São José da Amura in Bissau
The Fortaleza de São José da Amura, an old Portuguese fortress from the 18th century, contains the mausoleum for the independence fighter and national hero Amílcar Cabral and other revolutionaries. In the interior there is also Cabral’s car. It will be difficult to get into the fortress unless you make friends with the soldiers and get permission to enter.
Cathedral of Bissau
The beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral of Bissau rises on the Avenida Amílcar Cabral. It is a wonderful sacred colonial building, which is dominated by two small twin towers.
Colonial buildings in Bafatá
Bafatá attracts with a wonderfully quiet center, in which old colonial buildings erected by the Portuguese line up along a picturesque river bank.
Bolama Colonial Buildings
In Bolama, the former capital of Guinea-Bissau, some fascinating examples of Portuguese colonial rule have survived and are well worth a look.
Monument and birthplace of Amílcar Cabral in Bafatá
The Bissau-Guinean independence fighter and national hero Amílcar Cabral was born in the capital of the Bafatá region. In addition to a monument erected in his honor, you can also visit the house where he was born, which is located near the old market.
Presidential Palace in Bissau
The former Presidential Palace of Guinea-Bissau also documents the state of the capital and the country in an architecturally almost sarcastic way, because it only exists as a pitiful ruin.
Museums and cultural centers
French Culture Center in Bissau
The French Culture Center in Bissau shows concerts, films, classical dance and offers French courses.
Museu Etnográfico Nacional in Bissau
The National Ethnography Museum in Bissau is located on the university campus. It is only open in the morning and displays a small collection of Bissau-Guinean masks, baskets, items of clothing and statues. The staff is very helpful and can help you understand the meaning of the various exhibits.
Portuguese cultural center in Bissau
The Portuguese cultural center, right next to the Portuguese embassy, is in a rather less beautiful area, but attracts with numerous cultural offers such as concerts and the like.
Bissau Velho in Bissau
In the old colonial center of the capital Bissau established by the Portuguese there is hardly any life these days. Still, it has remained a fairly pleasant place to wander around. One of the most interesting structures not to be missed is the prison (near the Portuguese fort), which can be recognized by the pink flowers painted there.
Porto Pidjiguiti in Bissau
The small port in Bissau documents the life of the fishermen and also offers the animal opportunity to watch pelicans. The port of Pidjiguiti gained notoriety in connection with the massacre of August 3, 1959, when police officers shot 50 striking dock workers. But this event also marked the beginning of active resistance against Portuguese colonial rule. A monument at the harbor commemorates the events of 1959.
Praia Suro in Prabis
The “going out area” for the Bissau-Guiners is Praia Suro, whose quite dirty beach should not put anyone off. The atmosphere is good and characterized by music, people dancing, barbecue and football. You can reach Praia Suro by leaving Bissau on the Estrada de Bor and driving two hours by car.
The Bijagós Archipelago, registered as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1996, is an archipelago made up of 88 larger and smaller tropical islands off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. Due to the numerous sandbanks, it had been impassable for ships for a long time. The largest island in the archipelago with 98.1 km² is Bolama. It is so worth seeing because of the fine sandy beaches and the former governor’s palace. Only 19 of the larger islands are populated. Mainly the Bijago live there, an ethnic group that still enjoys great independence from the central government of the country. On the island of Orango you can see hippos with a little luck, while other islands are good nesting places for turtles. Caravela, the northernmost island of the archipelago, is almost completely overgrown by mangrove forests,
Cantanhez Forest near Jemberem
Twenty kilometers east of Catio the Cantanhez Forest spreads out near Jemberem, a forest that is particularly suitable for ornithologists. In addition to the birds, elephants and chimpanzees also live in the forest area. It is very advisable to organize a guide in the village of Jemberem who can help you track down the animals.
Joao Vieira – Poilao National Marine Park
The Poilao National Marine Park is located in the southeast of the Bijagos Archipelago and consists of four islands, which are mainly used as breeding grounds for three species of sea turtles that are threatened with extinction. Before visiting the park, however, you must register with the park officials. The island of Ilha Joao Vieira offers overnight accommodation.
Orango Islands National Park
This Bissau-Guinean national park is one of the few places in Africa where crocodiles and hippos can still be found in salt water. The park is also culturally significant, as it houses the last burial places of the Bijagos kings.
The wonderfully picturesque Saltinho Waterfall pours under the bridge under which the main road to southern Guinea-Bissau crosses the Rio Corubal. You can reach the waterfall by car, but you should plan a good three hours for the way from Bissau. You can stay overnight at the Hotel Pousada do Saltinho, from whose pretty rooms you have a good view of the waterfall.