Geographically, Guinea lies on the west coast of Africa bordered by Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Senegal in the north, Cote d’Ivoire in the east, and Liberia and Sierra Leone in the south. Both the Niger and Senegal River run through Guinea.
There are essentially four distinct regions in Guinea. The first region is the low-lying coastal plains, which are tropical and rainy throughout the year. This area is inhabited by the Susu and the Lauduman. The second region is the Fouta Djallon in the central region. It consists of plateaus and cliffs that are cut by many rivers and valleys. The Fouta Djallon is mostly inhabited by the Fulani people. The third region is Upper Guinea, which lies south of Fouta Djallon. This region is drier than both the coastal plains and the Fouta Djallon and is home to the Fulani and Malinke. The fourth region is the Guinea highlands in the south. Forests dominate this region which is inhabited by numerous small ethnic groups, including the Kouranke, Kissi, Toma, and Guerzi.
Guinea has some stunning natural features. Probably the most popular tourist destination is the Iles de Los just off the Kaloum Peninsula and southwest of Conakry (the capital) some six miles. It has some good beaches. Other popular sandy spots include Ile de Kassa and Ile de Roume; both islands are accessible by public boat service.
Conakry itself encompasses the suburban village of Ratoma where the Kakimbon Caves are found. Some interesting legends and religious stories told by the local Baga focus on these caves.
Outside of Conakry, you’ll find Le Voile de la Mariee nestled at the bottom of a high rock. The deep pond is where the Sabende River plunges into amid lush scenery. Another picturesque display of cascading waters can be found at the Kinkon Falls in Pita, which is located between Labe and Dalaba.
The Fouta Djalon highlands provide more spectacular scenery. Its scenic hills are great for hiking. In the foothills of the Fouta Djalon in the southeast, wildlife can be seen inhabiting the savannahs between the Mali border and the Tinkisso River.
Historic sites in Guinea include the old towns in the eastern regions that echo the legacy of medieval empires. The road in the Nimba Range that stretches from Guinea to Cote d’Ivoire is nestled with round houses that are part of traditional African villages. In the southern highlands is Guinee Forestiere, a rainforest inhabited by old pre-Islamic tribes. In the town of Katikan, explore the old architecture seen in the Great Mosque and Presidential Palace. In Conakry, you’ll find the National Museum, which traces the history and heritage of the people of Guinea.
African kingdoms once ruled and flourished in Guinea’s upper regions just south of the Sahara. These kingdoms included Ghana, Gao, and Mali. Around 1000 AD, Arabs began moving in from North Africa.
In the 14th century, the Portuguese “discovered” Guinea but did not establish any settlements. Instead, it was the French who first set up trading posts along the Atlantic coast. They developed their commercial interests in Guinea particularly in the 1850s. As they moved inland, they came into conflict with Samory Toure’s kingdom, which stretched from the Guinea highlands to present-day Mali and the Cote d’Ivoire. Samory Toure led a brilliant campaign in defense of his territory against the French, but he was simply outnumbered and forced to retreat. By 1896, Toure’s kingdom had dwindled substantially and he was eventually captured by the French in 1898 and deported.
In 1958, Guinea gained full independence from France. Sekou Toure became the first president under a one-party system. He ruled until he died in 1984. His death led to a military coup by General Conte of the Military Committee for National Regeneration. Conte, however, was forced to hold a multiparty election in 1993, which he won. Conte has ruled ever since and has employed a heavy handed approach to political opposition. While violence has been largely avoided under his rule thus far, political tensions have remained high throughout.