Facts & figures
Full name: The Gabonese Republic
Population: 1.5 million (UN, 2012)
Area: 267,667 sq km (103,347 sq miles)
Major languages: French, Bantu-group languages
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 62 years (men), 64 years (women) (UN)
Monetary unit: 1 CFA (Communaute Financiere Africaine) franc = 100 centimes
Main exports: Crude oil, timber, manganese, uranium
GNI per capita: US $8,080 (World Bank, 2011)
Internet domain: .ga
International dialling code: +241
Ali Ben Bongo was declared the winner of the presidential election on 3 September 2009. He had been widely tipped to succeed his father, Omar Bongo, who died in June after 42 years in power.
Visa & travel advice
Gabonese visa application form. For online orders, please download, print and sign Gabon visa application, prepared by our system under your account.
Original, signed United Kingdom passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity.
Passport-type photograph: 1
Itinerary. Copy of round trip tickets or confirmed itinerary.
Yellow Fever Vaccination. Copy of International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever.
Hotel Reservations. Copy of confirmed hotel reservations.
Personal Invitation. If staying with friends or family, a letter of invitation from the host in Gabon, NOTARIZED by the appropriate city hall in Gabon can be used instead of the hotel reservation.
- Best period
Gabon is hot year-round, but it has also has an extensive rainy season. If you are looking for heat and sun, then January.
The U.S. Department of State’s consular website has a great deal of information about safety and security in Gabon.
The earliest humans in Gabon were believed to be the Babinga, or Pygmies, dating back to 7000 B.C. , who were later followed by Bantu groups from southern and eastern Africa. Now there are many tribal groups in the country, the largest being the Fang peoples, who constitute 25% of the population.
Gabon was first explored by the Portuguese navigator Diego Cam in the 15th century. In 1472, the Portuguese explorers encountered the mouth of the Como River and named it “Rio de Gabao,” river of Gabon, which later became the name of the country. The Dutch began arriving in 1593, and the French in 1630. In 1839, the French founded their first settlement on the left bank of the Gabon estuary and gradually occupied the hinterland during the second half of the 19th century. The land became a French territory in 1888, an autonomous republic within the French Union after World War II, and an independent republic on Aug. 17, 1960.
Gabon's music includes several folk styles and pop. Gabonese pop artist Patience Dabany, who now lives in the US, produces albums recorded in Los Angeles with a distinctively Gabonese element; they are popular throughout Francophone Africa. Other musicians include guitarists Georges Oyendze, La Rose Mbadou and Sylvain Avara, and the singer Oliver N'Goma. Imported rock and hip hop from the US and UK are popular in Gabon, as are rumba, makossa and soukous.
The national anthem of Gabon is "La Concorde", written and composed by Georges Aleka Damas and adopted in 1960 upon independence.
Gabon's population, estimated at 1,640,286, of whom 42% are minors (July 2013 est.), include four major Bantu groupings; the Fang, the Punu, the Nzebi and the Obamba.
Gabon, to the French ethnographer Barabe, "is to Africa what Tibet is to Asia, the spiritual center of religious initiations",due to the sacred music of the Bwiti, the dominant religious doctrine of the country, variously ascribed to the Fang and the Mitsogho, which involves the use of iboga.
Gabonese folk instruments include the obala.
As was the case in the whole of Africa, a rich oral tradition dominated the cultural universe of Gabon until very recently. Written languages - and French in particular - were mainly used for missionary, colonial and economic purposes, and fostered the occupation of the country. It was therefore early American adventurers and missionaries (1842) and later the French, who produced the first texts about Gabon. Père Trilles belongs to the latter category with his publication in 1902 of a story entitled Mille lieues dans l'inconnu: de la côte aux rives du Djah [A Thousand Leagues Into the Unkown: From the Coast to the Banks of the Djah]. Others in this category are Dr Albert Schweitzer and Mgr André Rapona-Walker, an interesting character who was the son of an English merchant and a local Princess. He published an alphabet covering some forty languages spoken in Gabon (1932), as well as Tsogo-French and French-Mpongwé dictionaries.
It was during the 19th century that the first people from Gabon began to explore European cultures (Jean-Rémy Rapontchombo obtained his "Baccalauréat" in France in 1894). Later, newspapers such as L'Echo gabonais [The Gabon Echo] (1904), the Voie coloniale [Colonial Path] (1924) and the Liaison (1950) gave a small number of people in Gabon the opportunity to express their opinions. However, it was only during the 1950s that original literature in French from Gabon flourished. The genre of poetry was the first to make its appearance with authors such as Ndouna Depenaud, Wisi Magangue-Ma-Mbuju, Georges Rawiri and others. In the 1960s Vincent de Paul Nyonda embarked on a theatrical career, and at the beginning of the 1970s the novel appeared on the scene, with Roger Zotoumbat's Histoire d'un enfant [A Child's Story], as well as the first novels by Quentin Ben Mongaryas. During the 1980s, Okoumba-Nkoghé published several novels but it was probably Laurent Owondo who came to be the best known novelist of Gabon of that era. More recently, new talents such as Ludovic Obiang and Jean-Mathieu Angoué-Ondo have emerged in spite of very difficult conditions.
Female Gabonese writing began with the publication of Josette Lima's poetry in Dakar in 1966. In the 1980s, the first novels by Angèle Ntyugwetondo Rawiri were published, followed by Justine Mintsa's in the 1990s. At the turn of the millenium, new writers are making their mark such as Chantal Magalie Mbazoo Kassa, Edna Merey-Apinda, Douka Zita Alida, Sylvie Ntsame, Lucie Mba and Bessora (whose novels 53 cm and Petroleum were very well received).
- Film industry
Gabon gained independence from France in 1960. As with many other african countries the leadership was for from prepared to start a democratic process. The second freely elected president, Albert Bernard Bongo, rapidly took over full control, in a one party system. He turned the local radio and Tv network in one of the most advanced in the region, all to be able to glorify his political system. Bongo influence, the power to replace every candidate in a major public role had an impact on the CENACI (Cinematic Centrre)
- Famous places
Gabon's former president, Omar Bongo, ruled Gabon for almost 42 years, longer than any other country in the world without a monarchy. Famous for his lavish lifestyle and alleged corruption, Bongo built the Presidential Palace, Palais Presidentiel, in Libreville during the 1970s.The $800 million palace is so large it can be seen from the outer edges of Libreville. Even though visitors are not permitted inside the palace, you are able to view its spectacular design and take pictures from the outside.
The Boulevard Triomphal is the main diplomatic artery of Libreville. Although Gabon's longtime ruler, Omar Bongo, was accused of squeezing money out of the economy, he spent some of Gabon's oil riches to develop Libreville into a modern city with a strong infrastructure, including building the Boulevard Triomphal. The Boulevard Triomphal is home to numerous landmark buildings and cultural points of interests in Libreville. Visitors can see the colorful Ministry of Forestry and Environment, the futuristic Ministry of Mines and Petrol, the Economic Ministry, the Senate and the Central Bank of Gabon.
Cirque de Léconi is Gabon's most famous physical landmark. Cirque de Léconi is a deep circular red rock canyon filled with loose sand. Cirque de Léconi is located in the far southeastern corner of Gabon near the Congolese border, a little less than 70 miles from Franceville. Although occasional taxis travel to Cirque de Léconi from Franceville, you will find it easier to rent a 4WD vehicle for your visit, because the area is undeveloped without trails.
- Architecture history
As a building material, cement is seen as a sign of wealth. The cities are rife with it, and all of the government buildings are constructed in cement. In the capital, it is easy to differentiate between buildings that were styled by Gabonese and those done by outside architects. In the villages, the architecture is different. The structures are impermanent. The most economical houses are made from mud and covered in palm fronds. There are houses built from wood, bark, and brick. The brick houses are often plastered with a thin layer of cement with roofs made from corrugated tin. A wealthy family might build with cinder blocks. In addition to the houses, both men and women have distinctive gathering places. The women each have a cuisine, a kitchen hut filled with pots and pans, wood for fire, and bamboo beds set against the walls for sitting and resting. The men have open structures called corps de guards, or gatherings of men. The walls are waist high and open to the roof. They are lined in benches with a central fire.