Life is tough in the Arid Sahel region of West Africa, south of the desert, but to the north of the Rain Forest. The bushlands of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are some of the poorest areas of the world. Yet hope shines among the people.
You can hear it in their music, you can see it in their colourful dress and you can witness it in the ingenuity of their handicrafts, and the bravery of the craftspeople. You may see the traditional Batik Greeting Cards and Wood Coasters created by a co-operative of the physically dis-advantaged on our African shopping page.
Ouagadougou (WAH-GAH-doo-goo) is the evocative-sounding capital of Burkina Faso. It is the country's largest city, with a population of 960,116 (2000) and is the communications, cultural and economic centre as well as the administrative centre. Its name is often shortened to Ouaga.
The odd-looking spelling uses the French orthography common in former French African colonies. If English orthography were used (as in Ghana or Nigeria), the spelling would be Wagadugu.
The city is roughly in the centre of the country. Its primary industries are food processing and textiles. Ougadougou is served by an international airport, rail links to Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire and to Kaya in the north of Burkina, and a highway to Niamey, Niger.
The University of Ouagadougou, founded in 1974, was the country's first institution of higher education.
The city has few major modern buildings, excepting the headquarters of the West African Central Bank, and the old Ouagadougou Central Mosque remains one of the tallest and most significant buildings.
Ouagadougou is the site of Ouagadougou Grand Market, one of the largest markets in West Africa. Other attractions include the National Museum of Burkina Faso, the Moro-Naba Palace (site of the Moro-Naba Ceremony) and several craft markets. Other major buildings include Ouagadougou Cathedral and the Maison du Peuple.
Every two years the city hosts the renowned FESPACO (Le Festival Panafrican du Cinema et de la Television de Ouagadougou) film festival, the largest such festival in Africa. In part as a result, there are many cinemas, alongside nightclubs and French, American and Zaka cultural centres. There is also the biennial SIAO craft festival, which claims to be the largest in Africa.