Freetown, Sierra Leone
Freetown is the capital and the largest city of Sierra Leone. It is a bustling port, the seat of the government, the economic, cultural, educational and political center of the country. It is also probably the only capital in the world where when you step outside the airport, you almost step on to the port. Beautiful beaches of white sand, hilly terrain and friendly people are the hallmark of Freetown.
In 1787, the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor helped 400 slaves freed from Nova Scotia, Britain, and USA to return and settle in the area now known as Freetown which they named “province of freedom”. The settlement occurred around the famed cotton tree which was once a slave market, but this first group of settlers was almost wiped out by disputes with the locals and disease. More slaves settles here and in 1792 it became a colony of the British. Since then the city has expanded rapidly, mostly as liberated slaves came to settle here. This group is known as the creoles. In the 1990s, the city saw bitter conflict as civil war broke out.
The city of Freetown is located at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River which forms an estuary. It is the leading port of the country. The region is rocky, which has helped in the development of the natural deep harbor. It is ringed by long stretches of white sands which form excellent beaches.
The city has a tropical savanna climate. The rainy season which starts off with thunderstorms, lasts from May to October while the rest of the year is dry. The Harmattan wind blows from the Sahara desert from November to February and cools the temperature. During this period, the city experiences high humidity but bearable. On the other hand, for the rest of the months, high humidity imparts an uncomfortable experience.
How to reach (transport)
Most visitors arrive at Freetown by the Freetown international airport which is located in Lungi on the other side of the estuary. From there, it is quite an adventure to reach the city. You can hire a boat or get a ride on a hovercraft. Besides, there are also buses that run to and fro. Finally, helicopters operate charter services to take you to Freetown.
Bus service connects the city with other areas of Sierra Leone though the condition of the roads is not very good. You can hire a taxi or get a ride on the local poda poda (minibuses) to travel within the city or to other parts of the country.
When to visit
The best time to visit Freetown is from January to March when the weather is cool, dry and pleasant. The rest of the year is either too hot or too humid.
Fairs and Festivals
- Freetown is also the cultural capital of Sierra Leone. The Creole influence can be felt very strongly in the city. It is a modern business city, but the local color is amply represented in the markets where traders shout to attract the attention of the customers. Entertainment spots are plentiful and Freetown has a happening nightlife as well.
- The Ministry of tourism and cultural affairs organize the cultural festival in Freetown. The aim is to help the people of the area regain the pride in their cultural heritage. It is slated to become an annual affair. It will be a platform where different cultural groups will be able to display their skills.
- The Sierra Leone international film festival is celebrated sometimes in April. It is in initial stage and is slowly growing through local and international efforts. Workshops, documentaries and trainings are held.
- The Ballanta Academy of music organizes the Ballanta music festival over two days in the middle of March. Local musicians give performances and lectures covering several musical genres.
- Independence Day is celebrated on 27th April. It is a public holiday.
- The Tangains festival in December is celebrated in many parts of the country including Freetown. It is celebrated with traditional food, music, dance and dress.
Points of interest (places to visit)
There are quite a few sights to take in at Freetown. These are as follows:
Sierra Leone has recently closed down its railways, but the National Rail museum preserves the relict of this transport. You can see several important exhibits including the carriage used by Queen Elizabeth II during her state visit.
The 500 year old cotton tree that marks the site of the first settlement is probably the most famous landmark of the city. Hundreds of bats fly out of the tree at evening. The Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary, located just outside Freetown is not a sight to be missed.
The Sierra Leone national museum has a small but rich collection of historical artifacts and juju trinkets.
Walk down the west of Krio hills to get a view of colonial houses on stilts. Most are in disrepair, but provide an interesting glimpse of the history of the city.
You can also get a bird’s eye view of the city from the tower hill.
If you are staying in Freetown, you must drive down to one of the beautiful beaches that surround it. Lumley and Lukka are most popular.
The number and variety of hotels in Freetown has been increasing recently and you will have no trouble finding suitable accommodation. The Radisson Mamy Yoko, the Hilton Cape Sierra, Taia resort, Barmoi, Country Lodge, Mamba point etc are high end hotels. If you are looking for budget accommodation, check out Ohio 99, Hope center or Freetown Inn hotel.
|Facts About Freetown|
|State||Western Area Urban District|
|Lat Long Coordinates||8°29′4″N 13°14′4″W|
|Area Code||+232 - 22|
|Point of interest||Bunce Island, Banana Islands, Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Sierra Leone National Museum, Yawri Bay, Sierra Leone National Railway, Museum, Bonthe Fishing Camp|