Sierra, Leone

Sierra Leone is a small republic in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea, which surrounds it on the northern and eastern side, and Liberia to the southeast. Sierra Leone has a coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean to the southwest. It covers 71,740 sq km (27,699 sq mi) and has a population of 6.2 million (2011 estimate). Its capital and largest city is Freetown.

Sierra Leone is on the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+0). English is the official language in Sierra Leone, although the locals also speak Krio, a local English-based Creole and other local languages such as Mende in the south and Temne in the north. Traffic is driven on the right here. The electricity is 220V/50Hz using UK plug. The phone IDD code is +232. The majority of Sierra Leoneans are Muslims, with a significant Christian minority.

Kamabai Rock Shelter, Sierra Leone
Kamabai Rock Shelter, Sierra Leone
Author: John Atherton (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Sierra Leone is a poor country. In 2009, it had a nominal GDP of $1.877 billion, equivalent to a per capita nominal GDP of only $311. Its per capita GDP at purchasing power parity stood at only $759.

The land of Sierra Leone has been inhabited for at least 2,500 years. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive here. They mapped the area and gave the name Serra de Leão, meaning “mountain of lions” to the hills above present-day Freetown. That is written in Italian as Sierra Leone, and is used today as the name of the country.

Freetown, Sierra Leone
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Author: Annabel Symington (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

In 1792, the Sierra Leone Company was established to resettle black American slaves who had run away from enslavement into the protection of the British Army. This led to the founding of Freetown. The liberation of enslaved African began in 1808.

Sierra Leone was ruled by the British until its independence on 27 April 1961. The early years of independence were prosperous, but over time, the country slid toward authoritarian rule marked with sporadic periods of political violence. The country became a republic in 1971. Between 1991 and 2002, it went through a period of civil war in which over 50,000 people died.

Today Sierra Leone is yet another shaky African economy. It has been regarded as one of the states used in the shipping of narcotics from South America to Europe.

Traditional structure near Kamabai, Sierra Leone
Traditional structure near Kamabai, Sierra Leone
Author: John Atherton (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

Planning your visit to Sierra Leone

Visitors to Sierra Leone are required to have a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate in order to obtain a visa. Visitors who are not citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need a visa.

The Freetown-Lungi International Airport (FNA) is the main gateway to Sierra Leone. Located across the estuary of the Sierra Leone River from the capital, the airport gets flights by BMI from

London Heathrow, Air France from Paris-Charles de Gaulle, and Brussels Airlines from Brussels.

Major Cities in Sierra Leone

  1. Freetown – capital
  2. Bo
  3. Bonthe
  4. Kenema
  5. Makeni
  6. Koidu
  7. Kabala

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