1. Africa in Miniature
Cameroon is often referred to as Africa in Miniature, the Summary of Africa, a microcosm of Africa, and even the hinge of Africa and with reason. The name stems directly from its amazingly rich and diverse sociolinguistic, geographical, and biotic features. In effect, it can be said that one can find, distributed across the country, all the climates, landscapes, and even possibly people, fauna and flora found in the African continent and then some.
This does wonders for the tourism in the country. Visitors can experience tropical, equatorial, semiarid, or savannah temperatures. They can walk in the hard bitumes of the city, climb renowned mountain peaks, make their way through the wettest lands of rainforest,stroll the quiet plains and the wilderness of jungles. They can visit unspoilt and untouched areas as well as human-made wonders such as the Limbe Botanic Gardens, the second oldest botanical gardens in Africa. Even Prince Charles and Princess Diana fell under their charms in 1990. The gardens host 30,000 specimen of plants and medicinal herbs including the nicknamed “African viagra” tree (please don’t be literal without scientific proof).
If not the gardens, then you may be a little more tempted by one of Cameroon’s seven national parks, hosts of a rich fauna and flora. While Waza National Park is the most popular, the Lobeke, Campo Ma’an and the Dja Faunal Reserve World Heritage sites are worth the visit. The country is also host to several thermal springs, waterfalls and rivers that name the country or just power hydroelectric stations. Wherever they go in Cameroon, tourists can be sure to find most of every variety of climate, topography, flora and fauna present in Africa.
Portuguese explorer Fernão do Pó reached Cameroon via the Wouri estuary in 1472. The river was swarming with the Lepidophthalmus turneranus shrimp. So, he named it (Rio dos) Camaroes as in (River of) Shrimps (or River of Prawns). This name will later be used by subsequent incomers: the Spanish with Camerones, the Germans with Kamerun, the English, Cameroon and the French Cameroun. Eventually, these versions of the name will expand and refer to the whole country.
Cameroon was under German protectorate between 1884 and 1916. Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, Cameroon become a League of Nations mandate. Its control was transferred to France and Britain. The two countries shared Cameroon into two parts with France getting three quarters and Britain one quarter.
The French mandate of Cameroon ceased when the country gained its independence in 1 January 1960. A few months later, on September the 20th, it became a member of the United Nations (UN). Unlike most African countries though, Cameroon’s national day is not its independence day but the day of its reunification. May the 20th, 1972, the French and English Cameroons reunited after the Cameroonians voted for a unitary state. Cameroon became the United Republic of Cameroon which later in 1984 was changed to simply be the Republic of Cameroon. Its bordering countries, clockwise and from the north, are Chad, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria where Mount Cameroon separates it from northern Cameroon.
3. Mount Cameroon
The Tunisian explorer Hanno was the first reported non-local to see Mount Cameroon. This was in 500 BC.
The highest peak of Mount Cameroon stands at over 13,000 feet tall. This makes it the tallest mountain in West Africa. It is also an active volcano whose hot and high eruptions have awarded it the name “Monga Ma Loba” or “Seat of the Gods” or “Chariot of the Gods”.
Locally known as Mount Faka, the mountain and its national park are popular with tourists and climbers alike. Most typically, climbing is recommended during the dry season (as opposed to the raining season), for obvious reasons, which is between November and March. It also attracts crowds for the annual Mount Cameroon Race of Hope, a televised footrace that takes place in January/February. The climb takes about 3 days with a guide, starting in the city of Buea.
To the north of the volcanic line, Cameroon also hosts one of only 3 deadly lakes in the world, Lake Nyos. The lake’s water emits carbon dioxide due to magma occuring beneath it. The amount emitted may reach killing doses as nearly 2000 people and 4000 livestock of the nearby locals experienced in 1986. As a result the lake still represents a danger in spite of the measures put in place to mitigate its risks.
Cameroon is situated 414.56 mi (667.17 km) above the equator, in the northern hemisphere. This gives its directly affected regions an equatorial climate. This is characterised by a warmer temperature, a humid atmosphere and a high rainfall all year round. Cameroon also has tropical regions. These are hotter and wetter than the equatorial regions. In the north, the climate is semi-arid in the north. Oxford dictionary basically defines these are “dry but having slightly more rain than an arid region or climate.”. The extreme north of Cameroon is arid, as in hot and dry, with far fewer rainfalls.
5. Sociolinguistic Cameroon
Since the 1961 merger of French and British Cameroons, the country’s official languages are French and English. However, Cameroon counts between 260 and 680 indigenous languages and is considered one of the most socio-linguistically diverse countries in the world. In effect, SIL International, a Christian nonprofit aimed at studying, developing and documenting languages, rank Cameroon as the second most social linguistically diverse country in the world with a Linguistic diversity index (LDI) of 0.974 out of 1. This index shows the probability that two people selected at random from the population will have different mother tongues.
The Bakas (Pygmies) are believed to be the first inhabitants of Cameroon and can still be found in the Southern and Eastern forests where their rich culture thrives. Along with the other people of the Southern and Eastern Forests, they constitute the second biggest population in Cameroon. The Western highlands tribes are the largest tribes present in Cameroon, specifically the Bamileke and the Bamun. Their arts and craft are as renowned as tradition they come from is preponderant in their culture. The Sawa people or people of the Coastal forests are Bantu tribes. They are the third most common type of people in Cameroon. The Kirdi and the people of the Northern and Far Northern regions of the country represent the lowest share of the Cameroonian population.
Cameroon is home to many one-of-a-kind of fauna. Wikipedia records about 1549 species of which 23 are endemic. The most notable of these are the Papilio andronicus. The Cameroon Mountain Chameleon is another species endemic to the country. It is also known as the Cameroon Sailfin, or the Mountain Two-Horned Chameleon.
Cameroon also hosts seven (7) endemic bird species. Two of them are directly named after Mount Cameroon, These are the Mount Cameroon speirops and the Mount Cameroon spurfowl.
The Goliath Frog is the world’s largest species of frogs. This endangered species can only survive in the equatorial rainforests of Western Africa. They are endemic to an only found in Cameroon Equatorial Guinea. As we have seen before, the now so-called Cameroon Ghost Shrimp is named after the country. Although it could be argued here that it is probably a matter of chicken and egg. The country Cameroon indeed itself owes its name to the presence of the Shrimp in one of its main rivers, the Wouri, or Rio does Camaroes! The Wouri estuary itself is recognised as “global marine biodiversity ecosystem”. It is home not only to the endemic Ghost Shrimp, but to the leatherback turtle and West African manatee, among many others.
Another popular Cameroonian animal is the African pygmy goat. The African or Cameroon pygmy goats are also known as Dwarf goats. They originate in Cameroon. They are prized for the large amount of quality milk they produce and their meat.
The varied climate of Cameroon, from savanna to tropical forest, its high wetness have contributed to the country’s formidable diversity. Just as for its fauna, Cameroon hosts plants that exist nowhere else in the world. It so far records around 8,000 plant species, including 156 endemic species.
The country is known to have the highest diversity in tropical Africa, due to its floristic richness and particularly its “diversity per degree square”. A lot of these can be discovered in the nation’s gardens, reserves and national parks.
The forest, including tropical forest, occupies nearly half of the country which is why timber is such a major export. Ebony, Mahogany and Rose Wood are only a few of the many species involved. The Red Stinkwood, also known as African cherry, is the national flower. It was “discovered to botany in 1861” in the Cameroon volcanic line.
However, the flora is not just for visual stimulation or to contribute to the GDP. It is of course used locally and beyond for the arts, construction, but also particularly for medicinal purposes. Several benefits have been found in the use of plant from traditional treatments to more pharmaceutical and medical uses.
8. Cameroon Cuisine
Its sociolinguistic and topographic variety and wealth enrich Cameroon and, as a consequence, Cameroon cuisine and its ingredients. Although wheat is a staple carbohydrate as it is in many countries, there is a lot more starch choice in the various regions: manioc or cassava, plantains both the ripe or non ripe varieties, taro, maize, millet, to mention but a few. Fruits are aplenty, fro m the prized “prune” or safou, to mango and banana. Meat also vary, from the “normal” chicken or lamb to the more exotic animals such as snakes. Of course, cocoa and coffee are found aplenty.
Popular Cameroon dishes include:
- Ndole a bitterleaf-based meal originating from the Duala region,
- Soya, a street meat barbecue aka as brochette originating from the nomadic Hausa
- and Mbongo’o tjobi a catfish black stew originating from the Bassa people.
These are only some of the thousands of meals that Cameroon has to offer. Find out more foods they eat in Cameroon by clicking here.
Cameroon is home to the Lions indomptables (Indomitable Lions), one of the most reputed African football teams. The most notable players of this national football team include Roger Milla (sometimes somehow written as Roger Miller!), who is famous for his goals, particularly against Argentina, and his celebratory dance during the Italy 1990 World Cup. The man was brought out of retirement in order to play! Thanks to him, the Cameroon national football team were the first African team to reach the quarter-final of the FIFA World Cup 1990, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaAq2LcbKPY
The next generations followed in his footsteps. They include the likes of forward Samuel Eto’o, forward François Omam-Biyik, forward Patrick M’Boma, defender Rigobert Song, and many more. The team has qualified seven times thus far for the FIFA World Cup (1982, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014). This is, reportedly, more than any other African team. The team has also won five Africa Cup of Nations titles to date.
Maybe as a consequence, football is the nation’s favourite sport. However, other sports are also practiced. Handball and netball, table tennis, boxing, and cycling are among the western-imported activities. Traditional sports remain preponderant, as part of rituals such as the Sawa people’s Ngondo Festival. These ceremonial events will typically have wrestling, canoe racing, swimming, tug of war and other ceremonies of ethnic groups such as the Bakweri and the Duala.
Cameroon is the birthplace of Makossa, a music genre made popular by late international musician Manu Dibango. Cameroon’s music heritage is vast, from traditional to modern, and firmly tied to its dances. Beside Makossa, it includes Baka music, Bikutsi, Assiko, Ambassibé, Mvet, to name a very few. Fusion blent in new sounds and brought its music into modern times. Some prominent musicians along the years have been Ekambi Brillant, Ebanda Manfred, Anne-Marie Nzié, San Fan Thomas, Dina Bell, Les Têtes Brulées. Find out more about Cameroon Music here.
Cameroon literature is rich. It includes publications compromised by the pressure of assimilation, reactive publications against colonialism, comedy, fantasy, often all subtle but engaged pokes at the political situations or the societal behaviours. Notable writers include Mongo Beti, Calixthe Beyala and Francis Bebey who is also a popular musician.
Cameroonian Art is directly connected to its life and culture and varies from one tribe to the other. It has been particularly cited for its masks and its rock art. The village of Bidzar, situated in the North of Cameroon, is an archaeological site. Its rock engravings featuring petroglyphs between 3000 and 300 years old are included in the World Heritage List for the authenticity and integrity. French researcher Buisson discovered these in 1933. His research was soon furthered by more colleagues along the decades.
Cameroon still has kingdoms as the two following examples showcase. The Bamoun Sultan reigns from his Foumban Royal Palace and the Deido King from his Douala quarters.
- The top 10 wettest places on earth https://www.zmescience.com/science/wettest-rainiest-places-earth/