Often confused with Papua New Guinea located in Oceania, Guinea is a country located in the continent of Africa. This predominantly Islamic country is known for its bounty of mineral resources like diamonds and gold. It’s also famed for its diverse wildlife and the many different kinds of habitats present in the country. Interested to learn more about this small country from West Africa? Here are 10 fascinating facts about Guinea.
1. The official language of Guinea is French
Guinea was colonized by the French from the mid-19th century until 1958. Nowadays, it still uses French as its official language, an interesting fact about Guinea. Schools, businesses, and government offices in the country most often use French. However, there are also many indigenous languages spoken within the country, owing to Guinea’s African roots. The most common of these languages are Fulani, Mandinka, and Susu.
2. When it claimed independence from France, the French took back their lightbulbs
In 1985, Guinea was the only colony under France at the time to reject the constitution proposed by France. France quickly pulled out of the country as a result, but not without taking back many of their contributions to the African nation. Over a period of two months, the French took back everything they could from their time in Guinea, an interesting Guinea fact. They wanted to use Guinea as an example for other colonies that might try to reject the French constitution. Medicines were burned, sewage pipe plans were canceled, and lightbulbs were even unscrewed.
3. Guineans eat their mangoes boiled with a spicy fish sauce.
Mango is a common fruit in many warm countries. In Guinea, they have a unique way of enjoying this sweet snack. The simple recipe requires peeling mangoes and boiling them in a pot filled with water. Once the mangoes have cooked long enough to become very soft, they can then be eaten with a fork or with hands. For a more savory option, a sauce made with smoked fish, onions, dried shrimp, and chili peppers can also be added to the cooked mangoes to make Mangoé Rafalari.
4. More than 50% of women ages 15-49 in Guinea are in a polygamous marriage
Polygamy is the practice of being married to more than one person at a time. In many places, including Guinea, this is generally against the law. But there are sometimes exceptions, particularly when it comes to religion. Polygamy for men is allowed in Islam, so many Muslim women in Guinea are involved in polygamous marriages. Recent statistics of the country have shown that as much as 53.4% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 are in this kind of marriage. In 2019, Guinea passed a law allowing the first wife in a polygamous relationship to approve or reject their husband’s next marriage. This way, it would be a little fairer for women in the country.
5. It has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world
The literacy rate in Guinea has been fluctuating since the early 2000s, sometimes becoming significantly higher or lower. The most recent survey found that only 32% of Guineans above the age of 15 could read and write, a sad fact about Guinea. This is because not everyone in Guinea goes to school. Although affordable options for schooling are available in the country, many parents choose to keep their children out of school to work or help with chores.
6. Marché Madina in Conakry, Guinea is one of the biggest markets in West Africa
The capital of Guinea, the city of Conakry, is home to one of the largest markets in West Africa. Marché Madina is an open-air market that sells a wide variety of goods from fruits and vegetables to vintage magazines to metalwork and porcelain. This notable market was also the setting for a women’s revolt in 1977.
7. Guinea pigs don’t come from Guinea
It would be easy to assume that the common household pet is native to the country of Guinea because of its name. But Guinea pigs don’t actually come from Guinea. Some historians believe the name came from a gold coin called a guinea. In the 16th century, the price for the domesticated rodent was 1 guinea each. The coin has the same name as the country because the gold used to make it came from Guinea.
8. Men and women sometimes eat from separate communal bowls
Eating as a group is common in Guinea. Foods such as rice, millet, cassava, fish, and different sauces are the usual components of a Guinean meal. Traditionally, large communal bowls are used for serving the food with everyone eating from the bowl using spoons. For very religious families, men and women might eat from separate communal bowls. An interesting fact about Guinea that this is because gender segregation in social settings is sometimes practiced by devout Muslims.
9. There is a secret women’s society in Guinea
The Sande Society is an all-female group that focuses on female initiations into adulthood and women’s issues in their communities. It has branches throughout Africa such as in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast. Sande has a unique set of rules, rituals, and rankings related to womanhood, some of which are very controversial. They work alongside the men’s secret society called the Poro on social, political, and economic issues in their villages.
10. It’s common for Guinean men to hold hands
Though there is some segregation between men and women, it’s common in Guinea for people of the same gender to hold hands. Guinean men holding hands or draping their arms around one other during conversation is as common as it is for Guinean women, a fun Guinea fact. However, interactions between men and women are usually much less physical.
Though Guinea is rich in resources and wildlife, problems with economic instability and corruption in politics make it difficult for this African nation to truly prosper. Life in Guinea is slowly improving as the country continues to work on its diverse natural resources and the development of its cities. But for now, the nation still has a long way to go.
I hope that this article on Guinea facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!