Gabon is the country on the West coast of Africa that offers a lot of options for those who like to spend time close to nature. One of the most popular activities is a walk in one of the many rainforests, where you can see different, rare animals.
The first tribes and ethnic groups started living in the area approximately in the 12th or 13th century. Upon discovering the area in the 15th century, the Portuguese named it Gabon (which translates as “cloak”). Why? Because the shape of the Komo River’s estuary resembles a cloak.
The fact that the country served as one of the French colonies for a long time influenced the life of people living in it. One of the consequences that still exists is that French is the official language of the country.
Even though nowadays one can easily travel to the country and see everything it has to offer with his/her own eyes, many people don’t think that the faraway country is worth visiting. Today, we’ll try to change this assumption by sharing with our readers 8 interesting facts about Gabon. Here they are…
Gabon: 8 interesting facts about the country that lies on the Equator
1. Gabon was the center of slave-trading activity
The first traders from France arrived in Gabon in the 16th century, but a French settlement was established only in 1839. The rise of interest on the part of Columbia and Cuba led to the rapid development of slave-trading activities, that stopped after the abolition of slavery in France in 1826. However, slavery continued to exist in Gabon because it was one of the French colonies slavery in which was abolished only in 1848. Libreville (“free town”), the capital of Gabon, was founded by freed slaves, a fun fact about Gabon.
2. Gabonese cuisine is very delicious
Local cuisine includes meals, the basic ingredients of which are rice and cassava. Due to the variety of fish in rivers, meals with fish being the main ingredient are also common. Those looking for exotic foods can buy meals based on the meat of snakes and antelopes. Since Gabon is a tropical country, a high demand for fruits like bananas, pineapples and sugarcane is not surprising.
Truth be told, it’s not easy for tourists to find places in Gabon where they can eat exotic meals. Why? Because local cafes and restaurants offer meals of Senegal, Congo and Cameroon cuisines.
3. The Gabonese Republic keeps the traditions of mask making and face paint
By making masks, the Gabonese people show their respect for their ancestors, an interesting Gabon fact. Masks can be designed in various styles, with different geometric shapes added to create exaggerated features of faces. The ritual of face paint and masks are important parts of many important events that are carried out to promote fertility, signify transformation, express cultural identity or spiritual growth and protection. During some festivals, one can see male dancers wearing masks of female faces.
A big collection of masks is on display in the Museum of Art and Culture based in Libreville.
4. Gabon is the country where men have a higher status than women
Though the assumption can be doubted, the reality shows that the voice of men is really more important than that of women. Men are responsible for the wellbeing of the family, as well as for making decisions and tackling financial issues. While men take the majority of positions in government and schools, women are occupied with the tasks concentrating on family and house.
5. The Gabonese speak many languages
The country has only one official language that is French. However, the results of several surveys show that some of the natives also speak Fang and Gabonese languages. All in all, it’s common for people living in Gabon to speak more than one language.
In 2012, the government of Gabon decided to make English the second official language, an interesting fact about Gabon. Soon after that, the intention to introduce English as the first foreign language at schools was announced. Despite providing children with an opportunity to learn English from an early age, the government made it clear that French would be the only official language and the general language of instruction in schools and universities.
6. Gabonese population is young
The population of Gabon is rather young because people over the age of 65 constitute only 3.9% of the total population. Families often have to raise children in poverty due to serious financial problems and the fact that abortion is illegal in the country.
7. The Gabonese Republic is a real paradise for those who love nature parks
Some of our readers may be surprised to know that Gabon is the country of the largest nature parks in the world. The rainforest that covers about 80% of its land is home to as many as 777 different species of birds. Apart from birds, the climate makes the country’s nature parks ideal for big populations of Gorillas. The statistical data show that approximately 80% of the total population of Gorillas (in Africa) live in Gabon.
This is understandable because 12% of the rainforest area is used as national parks.
8. Gabon is the country where those who are reluctant to vote may be punished
Surprising as it is, but only those under the age of 21 are allowed to vote in Gabon. (In the majority of countries, the voting age is 18). Since voting is compulsory, those who dare to refrain from it may have to pay a huge fine later, an interesting fact about Gabon
Gabon certainly stands out as the country where one can see many things and places, he/she has never seen before. Culture and amazing nature waiting to be explored definitely make Gabon worth visiting. We hope that the information about Gabon facts will motivate you to learn more about Gabon and visit it one day. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!