Capital City Origins ~ Africa Part 1

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Introduction.

Here we are ! Africa! A new continent on our travels around the world's capital cities. A very diverse place from the deserts of the north to the jungles of the interior. 

I thought as I started typing this blog, that I needed a little inspiration to get into the mood, so in the background I have music from the Ladysmith Black Mambazo choir playing. For me, I think of my time in Southern Africa whenever I hear their music, anyway I digress.

This part of my blog series will be in 4 parts, with 14 capitals in each one, except one part that will have 15 because two countries decided for some bizarre reason to have more than one capital city. (South Africa and Eswatini, make your minds up, as bad as the European Union flitting around between cities all the while.....wait, I'm getting too political, I should maintain a neutral attitude, sorry)

After all that meandering I shall get on with the blog. Here we Go! AFRICA.......

Cairo. Egypt.

Sultan Hassan Mosque, Cairo

Whenever someone mentions Cairo, most people think of the Pyramids. These are, however, 13 km or 8 miles away in Giza. Not too far but not Cairo either. So no pictures of the Pyramids here, sorry!

Cairo is the westernised name for the city, translated from the Arabic al-Qahirah which means "Vanquisher" or "Conqueror". It was given this name because supposedly when the city was founded the planet Mars (known in Arabic as an Najm al Qahir , "The Conquering Star") was rising.


CAIRO = CONQUEROR

Tripoli. Libya.

Marcus Aurelius Arch, Tripoli

In the Arab world this city is known as "Tripoli of the West" to distinguish it from the Tripoli in Lebanon, which is known as "Levantine Tripoli".

Although there have been many names for Libya's capital Tripoli is the one we are concerned with in this blog.

Quite simply the word Tripoli can be traced to the Greek words for "Three Cities", Tri meaning "three" (think of the word "triple") and poli or sometimes polis meaning city (think of IndianaPOLIS or MetroPOLIS).


TRIPOLI = THREE CITIES

Tunis. Tunisia.

Avenue Mohammed V, Tunis

Originally a Berber settlement, Tunis lies on the route to Carthage (actually now a suburb that contains the archaeological site of the ancient city).

As well as theories that the name derives from the Phoenician goddess Tanith, the most likely hypothesis is that it comes from the Berber word for "camp" or "stop". There are similar old Berber town names in the area indicating places to stay overnight on the many pilgrimages to Carthage. Many are on the routes of Roman roads, as is Tunis.


TUNIS = PLACE TO CAMP

Algiers. Algeria.

Notre Dame de Afrique, Algiers

The city's name is derived from the French and Catalan word Alger which in turn is derived from the Arabic word al-Jazair meaning "The Islands".

This refers to the four former islands that were off the coast until they were built up as part of the mainland in the 16th century.


ALGIERS = FOUR ISLANDS

Rabat. Morocco.

Avenue Mohammed V, Rabat

Founded in the 12th century as a military town, Rabat takes it's name from the Arab word ar-ribat meaning an "Islamic Base or fortification"

It's full name was ribatu I-fath that translates as "Stronghold of Victory" a title given when the city was established by the Almohad Caliphate in 1170.


RABAT = STRONGHOLD OF VICTORY

Nouakchott. Mauritania.

Nouakchott from the air.

Originally expanded from a small fishing village in the 1950's to accomodate around 15000 people, Nouakchott is now home to just under a million people.

The name derives from the Berber name for the fishing village Nawaksut, this city's name means "Place of the Winds", and is the first in this list that I have to keep checking my spelling !


NOUAKCHOTT = PLACE OF THE WINDS

Praia. Cape Verde.

The seafront at Praia.

So to our first island nation of Africa. Located on the largest island of the Cape Verde archipelago, Santiago Island, Praia was named by the country's Portugese settlers.

Quite simply, Praia is the Portugese word for "beach".


PRAIA = BEACH

Dakar. Senegal.

Dakar

Probably best known for being the end point to the Trans Saharan Paris-Dakar Race, Dakar grew into a major port of the French colonial empire following the abolition of slavery.

Taking it's name from the coastal Lebu village that was in the same area, Dakhar, that is also the Wolof word for the tamarind tree.


DAKAR = TAMARIND TREE

Banjul. Gambia.

Arch 22, Banjul.

Situated on St. Mary's island where the Gambia river meets the Atlantic Ocean, Banjul takes it's name from the trade that was plied in the area.

Rope-making was undertaken by the Mandinka people, who collected specific fibres for this purpose. Bang Julo is the Mandinka word for "rope fibre".


BANJUL = ROPE FIBRE

Bissau. Guinea-Bissau.

Presidential Palace, Bissau.

The name Bissau is the latest in a long line of names for the city, each deriving from it's former.

The changes are Itchassu, N'nssassu, Bossassum, Bisao, Bissao and finally to Bissau.

This name means "brave as the jaguar", a reference to the inhabitants of the island of Bissau that imitated a jaguar (or Leopard) as their warrior profiles.


BISSAU = BRAVE AS A JAGUAR

Bamako. Mali.

Entrance to Bamako on the airport road.

Situated on both sides of the Niger river near to rapids that divide the Niger Valley, Bamako is Mali's largest city.

It's name derives from a Bambara word that translates as "crocodile river"

That one was easy !


BAMAKO = CROCODILE RIVER

Conakry. Guinea.

Conakry from the air.

This coastal city has had a turbulent past, being ruled by the French and British, and with a civil war or two to contend with, it is now in the hands of it's own people.

Taking it's name from the former fishing village on the same site (as so many places do) the name, according to legend comes from the fusion of two words from the Baga people's language.

Cona, a cheese and wine producer, and nakiri meaning "the other bank or side" possibly refering to a river.


CONAKRY = CHEESE AND WINE MAKER FROM THE OTHER BANK (Bizarre, huh)

Freetown. Sierra Leone.

Aerial view of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Freetown was established in 1792 by slavery abolitionist, Lieutenant John Clarkson of the British Royal Navy. It was founded as a city for freed slaves from Africa, America and elsewhere.

The name is pretty much as it says on the tin (to quote an advertisement for paint in the UK)


FREETOWN = TOWN OF THE FREE

Monrovia. Liberia.

Liberian Capitol Building, Monrovia

Like the previous entry, Freetown, this city was established for the emancipated slaves of America. In fact the whole country of Liberia (derived from Liberty) is the oldest independant African country.

Founded by the American Colonization Society with help from the US government, Monrovia was named in honour of President James Monroe, a significant supporter of the program.

Along with Washington DC it is one of only two capital cities to be named after US presidents. (Oooops, spoiler alert!)


MONROVIA = CITY OF MONROE

Summary.

One quarter of Africa's capital cities finished. Next time we continue our journey around the continent with another 14 cities. Starting at yamous, Yamoo, Yamoussoooo, that place in Cote d'Ivoire and heading down into Central Africa on our way to the East side. Many more to come.

I have quite enjoyed making this blog so far, and now that we are in Africa where my knowledge could be better, I'm learning many things just by being sidetracked into reading about places I have heard of, never visited, and knew next to nothing about.

I'm glad I started this series now, and some of your kind comments have made it even easier to continue. For that I thank all of you that have taken time to read these blogs and even more so if you have commented.

So in the words of Bill Haley..."See you later Alligator" ....

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Level 65
Nov 19, 2021
Interesting! Would love to visit some of these.
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Level 75
Nov 19, 2021
Thanks
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Level 64
Nov 19, 2021
Amazing! It seems like all of these cities actually have a very interesting backstory behind them so it was nice learning about it :)
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Level 75
Nov 19, 2021
Thank you
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Level 38
Nov 19, 2021
Is it now that Cyprus appear?
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Level 75
Nov 19, 2021
Oceania I think.
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Level 38
Nov 19, 2021
Maybe South America 🤔
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Level 75
Nov 19, 2021
Have patience I'll get to it eventually. They're all on my list plus a few others
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Level 56
Nov 19, 2021
Good job!
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Level 75
Nov 19, 2021
Thank you !
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Level 64
Nov 19, 2021
Great blog, just like the Europe series! It seems like these capitals aren't named after bodies of water nearly as often as the European ones did... I wonder if that's because of the Sahara Desert, or some other reason?
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Level 75
Nov 20, 2021
I could be that African countries are relatively young, after the colonialism manychanged their cities and town names to reflect their African roots. Or it could be just that there are many countries that are landlocked, or that some were designed as capital cities rather than evolving.

It would be interesting after I,ve done the remaining continents to see if there is a pattern. (I can see a summary blog coming on!)

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Level 57
Nov 19, 2021
Another interesting blog to read! Keep it up.

Oh and it's Yammousoukro

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Level 57
Nov 19, 2021
Im looking forward to Ouagadougou. Apparently it's pronounced Yugga Dugga. Weird right?
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Level 65
Nov 20, 2021
It's pronounced Wah Gah Doo Goo.

Other fashionable Burkinabe place names include,

Bobo Dioulasso, Ouahigouya (Wahee Gooyah), Koudougou, and Tenkodogo.

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Level 38
Nov 20, 2021
Bobo Dioulasso reminded me of Bobo Dinossauro (Silly/Fool Dinassour), although the subject goes before the adjective lol
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Level 75
Nov 20, 2021
@ McKenzieFam - Yamoussoukro.....one M two S, and yes I will keep it up, I'm enjoying making these blogs.

Yugga Dugga ? or Wah Gah Doo Goo ? either way it's very Flintstonesesque

@TheNatureThread loving some of those other town names.

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Level 57
Nov 22, 2021
Oops my bad spelling....

Muprhys Law again huh?

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Level 75
Nov 22, 2021
I find that rather than Murphy's law it's actually my brain thinking I can type faster than my hands .
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Level 65
Nov 22, 2021
Muphry's, not Muprhys or Murphy's lol
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Level 75
Nov 23, 2021
LMAO, just seen what you did there !
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Level 65
Nov 21, 2021
Incredible, I love this series. Especially this part, and probably the rest of Africa have some very interesting names. This could be a quiz if it isn't all ready. I also love the images, people often don't think of how African cities look. Who knew there were so many trees in Nouakchott? The etymology of Cairo is also really cool. This series is keeping the RUB alive!
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Level 75
Nov 21, 2021
Wow thank you very much. I was also surprised at the cityscapes .