Sierra Leone: Holidays, national customs, climate
There are a number of public holidays that do not have a fixed date, but are based on the location of Easter. Easter takes place on the first Sunday that follows the first full moon after the beginning of spring. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, which ends on Holy Saturday, is 46 days before Holy Saturday. The date for Pentecost is then 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.
|January 1||New Year|
|February March||Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice)|
|1st of May||Labor Day|
|April 27||National Independence Day|
|April 29||Revolution day|
|August 9||National holiday|
|November December||Eid-al-Fitre (end of Ramadan)|
|December 25th and 26||Christmas|
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 festival day Eid-al-Fitre, Muslims do not eat during the day, but only after sunset. Many restaurants are therefore closed during the day. The festivals Eid al-Adha and Eid-al-Fitre last 2-10 days, depending on the region.
There are two different seasons in Sierra Leone, the rainy season and the dry season.
The rainy season
starts in May and lasts until the beginning of October. During this time there are often violent thunderstorms and storms. From August to September it sometimes rains continuously. Every year around 5,000mm of precipitation falls. The average temperatures are between 28-30 °C during the day and 22-23 ° C at night. The humidity varies between 81-89%.
The dry season
lasts from late October to April. The daytime temperatures are around 30-33 ° C. Sometimes they rise to 35 °C. At night they drop to 17-25 °C. The Harmattan, a dry, dusty wind from the Sahara, blows from December to April. Nevertheless, the humidity remains at 72-79%.
It is true that the police officers in Sierre Leone have a good will to help the people, but their training is very poor and the pay is even worse. Sometimes or actually it is always more advisable to contact your own embassy rather than the police. Corruption is very common. However, the police are also quite successful in combating corruption, so it is better not to get caught offering someone money or the like to turn a blind eye.
The religious harmony in which people have lived together in Sierra Leone for a long time is noteworthy. Christians and Muslims live and pray side by side, as do members of the different tribes. In particular, tribal harmony is not a matter of course in Africa.
Violence against women
In 2010, the human rights organization Amnesty International submitted a report for Sierra Leone, which stated that serious sexual crimes against women are still common in the country. This also happens in the event of violent clashes between individual political groups and parties. In addition to gender-specific acts of violence such as rape, female genital mutilation is also practiced in Sierra Leone, a tradition that is as contemptuous as it is dangerous. So far it has not helped or helped that many traditional leaders have spoken out against genital mutilation.
Childhood in Sierra Leone
Almost every third child in Sierra Leone dies before their fifth birthday, and almost 2% of all women do not survive pregnancy or the birth of their child. The children, many of whom are (chronically) malnourished, often die of infectious diseases such as malaria, to which they are very susceptible due to malnutrition. Child labor remains very widespread in Sierra Leone. It is assumed that almost half of the 5 to 14 year olds have to do (sometimes heavy) physical work.
In Sierra Leone, homosexuality can be punished with a prison sentence of up to 10 years. In addition, homosexuals and lesbians are persecuted and humiliated in the country. FannyAnn Eddy, a human rights activist who spoke out against such practices, was brutally raped and murdered in her office in September 2004.
Schooling and literacy
So far there is no compulsory schooling in Sierra Leone, even if it is aimed for. So far, due to the lack of teachers and school buildings nationwide, it is still impossible to build a functioning, meaningful school system. It is estimated that 64% of Sierra Leone’s people are illiterate.
Sierra Leone: Sightseeing
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Presents the way that SL stands for the nation of Sierra Leone as a two-letter acronym.
Bo, the second largest city in Sierra Leone after Freetown with around 200,000 residents, acts as the capital of the Southern Province and the Bo District. The city has a campus of the Njala University College (see below), where technical subjects in particular are taught. The city is also home to Christ the King College, one of the most prominent colleges in the country.
The main and largest city of the Republic of Sierra Leone with 820,000 residents was called Romarong, “City of Lamentations” before the arrival of the Europeans, and its dramatic name refers to the seafarers who died in the strong storms over the Atlantic. For their part, the Europeans called it Granville Town. Freetown is the seat of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and, with its large seaport, is the economic center of the country. The landscape that characterizes the north-western tip of the Freetown Peninsula consists of tropical rainforest, swamps, mangroves and covered hills.
With its fine sandy beaches, the city has probably the most beautiful beaches in Africa. Also to be emphasized are the many attractions of Freetown, which are not very well maintained or marketed, but are definitely to be visited. These include the De Ruyter stone and the 500 year old cotton tree.
About 155,000 people currently live in the capital of the district of the same name and the Eastern Province, making Kenema the third largest city in Sierra Leone. Diamond fields have been developed in the greater Kenema area since 1931. They represent an important economic factor in the region.
Koidu-Sefadu (also New Sembehun)
Koidu-Sefadu, formerly also known as Kono, belongs to the Eastern Province, which extends in the east of the country on the border with Guinea and is determined in its center by the main mosque. Around 88,000 people now live in the twin cities, which almost degenerated into a ghost town at the time of the civil war. Like Kenema, Koidu-Sefadu also lives from the exploitation of the diamond mines.
Makeni, the capital of the Northern Province and the Bombali District, served as a power base for the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) during the civil war. Today, an estimated 94,000 people live in Makeni, a city known for its mosque and large market.
Special buildings and structures
Cape Sierra Leone Lighthouse in Aberdeen (Freetown)
At the end of the peninsula on which Freewtown is located, the Aberdeen lighthouse rises near the Hotel Burmoi and offers breathtaking views over the Atlantic Ocean.
Foulah Town Mosque in Freetown
The Foulah Town Mosque in the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown is the main Islamic sacred building in the city. It was built in the 1830s.
King’s Gate in Freetown
The King’s Gate in Freetown impresses with an inscription which, in translation, promises freedom to every slave who passes through the gate. Indeed, it was the gate through which liberated Africans passed.
Colonial buildings in Hill Station in Freetown
Not only the Hill Station Club, the club for gentlemen dating back to colonial times, is reminiscent of the times of the former European gentlemen. Everywhere in Hill Station one encounters architecturally fine witnesses of the old days. The buildings, which are unfortunately mostly in a very bad condition, offer an excellent inside impression of how people lived in the past.
Supreme Court in Freetown
The Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in Sierra Leone, is housed in an architecturally wonderful building in Freetown.
St. George’s Cathedral in Freetown
The historically significant Anglican St. George’s Cathedral was once one of the largest in the city.
St. John’s Maroon Church in Freetown
The historic St. John’s Maroon Church, built in 1820 in the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown, was designed in the colonial style and in 1956 was declared a national shrine.
Njala University in Freetown
Sierra Leone’s second university was known as Njala University College until 2009. It was founded in 1964 and belonged to the University of Sierra Leone between 1972 and 2005. Since 2009 Njala University has been an independent and full-fledged university, which in addition to Freetown also maintains campuses in Bo and Njala.
University of Sierra Leone in Freetown
The University of Sierra Leone, the oldest university in Black Africa, rises on the hill of Mount Aureol in Freetown. It was founded in 1827 as an Anglican missionary school. At that time it was still called Fourah Bay College. The soon-to-be-known, very renowned educational institution expressed Freetown’s reputation as the Athens of Africa. Today, Fourah Bay College is just one of many facilities and institutions at the university. After suffering numerous destruction during the civil war, it is now back on a very good level.
Big Market in Freetown
The Big Market of the capital Freetown spreads out on Wallace Johnson Street. It is a collector’s item and showroom for local artists and craftsmen who offer their work and works of art here.
The small Brunce Island, about 30 kilometers from Freetown, is famous for the slave fortress, which was built in 1670 by an English slave trading company and was still one of the largest British slave fortresses in West Africa in the 18th century. Bunce Island has been a protected historical site in the country since 1948 and is dominated by numerous construction ruins. You can see the remains of the fortress.
Cotton Tree in Freetown The
undisputed landmark of Freetown is the Cotton Tree, a kapok tree (lat. Ceiba pentandra), which has been growing in its current location since at least 1792 and towers majestically from the cityscape. It once served as a place of pilgrimage for believing Sierra Leoneans. Today it is depicted on the 10,000 Leonen banknote and is seen as a symbol of peace and wealth.
There are two ports in Freetown. One is Queen Elizabeth II Quay, which is incorrectly referred to as the third largest natural harbor on earth, which is also called QE II Quay or Deep Water Quay. It is to be used (again) by large cruise ships from 2012. There is also Government Wharf, also known as Freetown Port or simply The Harbor, in the Sierra Leonean capital. Although it is smaller than the QE II Quay, it is also more centrally located.
National Museum of Sierra Leone
The National Museum of the Sierra Leone capital exhibits interesting historical works of art and finds that document the culture of the West African country.
National Rail Museum in Freetown
The National Rail Museum in Cline Town (Freetwoen) exhibits numerous steam and diesel locomotives, including the largest and heaviest narrow-gauge locomotive in the world. In the unfortunately little-visited museum there is also the wagon, which was specially made for Queen Elizabeth II, who paid a state visit to Sierra Leone in 1961. A guide will bring guests closer to the most important exhibits.
Admission to the museum is free, but donations are always welcome. The National Rail Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Stone slave stairs in Freetown
Below at Naval Wharf in Freetown there are the so-called slave stairs carved into the stone. They mark the place where Portuguese slave traders bought and sold countless Africans and from where these sold and slavery people were to set foot on African soil for the last time.
In addition to the nature reserves and game reserves presented in the next section, there are two national parks in Sierra Leone.
Outamba-Kilimi National Park
The Outamba-Kilimi National Park, which was founded in 1986 and covers 1,109 km², is located in the northwest of the country near the Guinea border. It is divided into the two parts Outamba with an area of 741 km² and Kilimi with an area of 368 km², which are a few kilometers apart. The Outamba area is the more attractive part for visitors.
The vegetation of the park is characterized by the wet savannah and beautiful green hills and many small rivers delight the visitors. But the wildlife of the Outamba-Kilimi National Park is also impressive. Many animals were killed in the civil war, but the populations have largely recovered. In addition to elephants, hippos, giraffes and leopards, you can also observe various species of monkeys here, for example the park is home to the largest chimpanzee population in West Africa. With over 200 different bird species, the park is also a bird lover’s paradise.
However, there are no permanent accommodations in the park, only campsites with communal sanitary facilities. You also have to take care of your own food. However, a few kilometers outside the park you will find two guest houses with a little more comfort. You can only get there with an off-road vehicle via the villages of Makeni and Kamakwie.
Gola Forest National Park Established in 2011 as the Gola Forest National Park, it is still relatively unknown. The approximately 710 km² large park is located in the southeast of the country on the border with Liberia. Of particular note are its large primary forests, the largest in Sierra Leone. They provide an important refuge for numerous animal species, including 50 larger mammal species – including 11 different species of monkeys. These include chimpanzees, Diana cats, and sooty specimens from the vervet family.
Other mammals that are worth mentioning include: Brooke duiker, Jentink duiker, Maxwell duiker, forest elephant, black duiker, zebra duiker or pygmy hippopotamus. For bird lovers, it should be noted that there are over 275 species of birds, some of which are threatened with extinction. The park can be reached in a normal car via the provincial capital Kenema, which is about 40 km away. From there a sand road leads via Joru to Lalehun.
Nature reserves, natural beauties
Sakanbiarwa nature reserve near Freetown
Wonderful orchids are just one part of the colorful flower and blossom paradise that the Sakanbiarwa nature reserve offers its visitors. It is not for nothing that it is also one of the most popular tourist attractions of Sierra Leone.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary near Freetown
The largest chimpanzee population in the world lives in this internationally supported sanctuary. The aim of Tacugama is to reintroduce former chimpanzees that were kept as pets, because since 2007 the possession and trade of chimpanzees has been banned in Sierra Leone, so that every monkey has to be returned to the sanctuary. The sanctuary can be reached by leaving Freetown for a few kilometers and heading into the Western Area Forest Reserve to the village of Barthurst. For this route you hardly need more than 30 minutes by car. A visitor center provides visitors with information; In addition, the employees of the Tacugama reserve accompany you on tours. Since 2007 it has been possible to spend the night in the small Tacugama Guest Lodge, a hodgepodge of bungalows in typical nature.
The wonderful Banana Islands, islands off the southern tip of the Freetown Peninsula, are made up of the two main islands of Dublin and Ricketts Island alongside a few smaller ones. These are connected to each other thanks to a dam. The Banana Islands are famous and popular for their wonderful, fine sandy beaches and excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Mount Bintumani (also Bintimani and Loma Mansa)
The highest mountain in Sierra Leone at 1,945 meters belongs to the Loma Mountains and, with its rainforest growing on the slopes, is an important habitat for numerous animal species. These include pygmy hippos, primates, crocodiles and red-backed fish owls.
The beaches of the Sierra Leonean capital Freetown are beautiful and in very good condition. The city’s main beach is the fine sandy Lumley Beach, which is exactly connected to Freetown. It is littered with shops, restaurants, golf courses, hotels and clubs. Goderich Beach is also pretty, but for most people it is just one stop on their way to more beautiful beaches. Probably the best beaches are Lakka Beach with bars like Palm Beach (formerly Cotton Club) and the Hard Rock Cafe as well as No. 2 River Beach. The latter can only be reached with a very good car, because the road conditions there are more than bad. For this you will be rewarded by what is said to be the most beautiful beach in Africa. Its fine sand is bathed in turquoise blue water – a scene that takes place in front of a picturesque green hilly landscape.