Better Know an African City – Loveable Cities is part of an ongoing series of posts on African cities on Cherchez la Curl. The series aims to collate information on and expose the quirks, infrastructure and beauty of Africa’s cities so as to facilitate discussion that will help their leaders make them better and more livable.
Morocco, and all of North Africa really, hold a sort of mystical charm in my imagination. Scenes from Hitchcock’s 1956 film The Man Who Knew Too Much form the foundation of that mysticism; real-life events reinforce the cliche: after finishing up a meeting in the only North African city I’ve ever visited (Tunis), I decided to take a stroll around the area and magically bumped into an old school friend I hadn’t seen in years who happened to be working in the city (unbeknownst to me!). Magic! Having never actually visited Casablanca, my go-to reference for the city is the 1942 film Casablanca and Humphrey Boghart’s fog-laced “Here’s looking at you kid.”
Of course these cliches supported by popular culture and anecdote reveal only a tiny fragment of the true nature of a city. They may neglect a wider array of charms and guile the city may possess (nothing magical about poor transportation, public waste disposal, crime, etc.). While those cliches may weigh against the city, sometimes they encapsulate the very charm that helps the city defy all her other, perhaps poorer, attributes.
Every year, the magazine Monocle, puts out a list ranking cities according to their quality of life. When looking at the bare-bones facts, I really cannot argue with high rankings given cities like Zurich and Copenhagen, or the absence of cities like New York or London. When taking a passioned view of the matter, and weighing those intangible qualities that make many unliveable cities loveable, I can’t help but think cities like London (where a stroll around any of her many parks can, on a sunny day, quelch almost any source of anxiety) deserve their own special recognition. The same is true for many African cities, who are in many ways fractured but no less loveable: for me, the drive up to the top of Premier Hill in Ibadan and the ensuing views, or the majesty of Mapo Hall and her aging colonial architecture, or the lovely, varied architecture of homes in Bodija and the various GRAs, lends the city a certain charm that counterbalances all of Ibadan’s other failings.
Monocle recently compiled a list of loveable cities, which, even if they fall short on certain broader categories, possess that certain something that keeps their residents happy and visitors coming back for more. What African city do you find most loveable, despite her flaws?