Makeni, Sierra Leone

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Makeni, Sierra Leone

Region: Northern

Geographic Coordinates: 8.881700, -12.044200
Temperature Range: 20.0°C to 35.0°C (68°F to 95°F)
Climate: Data not available.
Population: 87679
Language: English

Makeni, Located in the Bombali District of Sierra Leone, Is a vibrant city that serves as the administrative center of the Northern Province. Nestled amidst rolling hills and lush green landscapes, Makeni offers a captivating blend of natural beauty, Cultural heritage, And historical significance. The city’s name, Meaning place of rest in the local Temne language, Perfectly captures its serene atmosphere. Makeni is renowned for its warm and welcoming community that embraces visitors with open arms. The locals are known for their hospitality and often engage in lively conversations about their rich culture and traditions.

One of Makeni’s prominent landmarks is the majestic Sankore Mosque. This grand mosque stands as a testament to Sierra Leone’s Islamic heritage and serves as a significant place of worship for Muslims in the region. Its intricate architecture showcases stunning craftsmanship that reflects both modern influences and traditional Islamic design elements. For history enthusiasts, Makeni offers an opportunity to delve into Sierra Leone’s past through various museums and historical sites. The Mabanta Boy’s Memorial School Museum pays tribute to those who lost their lives during Sierra Leone’s civil war by showcasing artifacts from that period.

Additionally, Visitors can explore Bunce Island—a former slave trading post—and learn about its dark history while contemplating the resilience shown by those who endured such hardships. Nature lovers will find solace in Makeni’s surrounding countryside brimming with breathtaking landscapes ripe for exploration. The Outamba-Kilimi National Park lies just outside the city limits—a haven for wildlife enthusiasts offering sightings of elephants, Chimpanzees, Hippos, Crocodiles, And an array of bird species within its diverse ecosystems. Makeni also hosts several annual events that showcase local culture at its finest.

The most notable among these is the famous Paddle Parade where participants paddle traditional canoes along Rokel River while dressed in vibrant costumes representing different ethnic groups from across Sierra Leone. This event not only celebrates the country’s cultural diversity but also promotes unity and harmony among its people. In terms of cuisine, Makeni offers a delightful array of local dishes that tantalize the taste buds. Visitors can savor traditional delicacies such as cassava leaves with rice, Groundnut soup, Or the popular fufu made from pounded yam or cassava served with an assortment of stews.

Makeni is a captivating city in Sierra Leone that seamlessly blends natural beauty, Historical significance, And vibrant culture. With its warm and friendly community, Fascinating landmarks like Sankore Mosque and Bunce Island, Breathtaking landscapes in Outamba-Kilimi National Park, And annual events celebrating local traditions—the city offers a truly immersive experience for visitors seeking to explore this enchanting corner of West Africa.

Important Landmarks

  1. Makeni Central Mosque: This grand mosque is one of the largest in West Africa and serves as a prominent landmark in Makeni.
  2. Loma Mountains: Located near Makeni, the Loma Mountains offer beautiful landscapes, hiking trails, and stunning views. The mountains are also home to unique wildlife species.
  3. Wusum Hotel: This iconic hotel is known for its distinctive architecture and serves as a popular accommodation option for tourists visiting Makeni.
  4. St. Joseph’s Cathedral: As one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in Sierra Leone, this impressive structure showcases beautiful stained glass windows and intricate architectural details.
  5. Mabanta Village: Just outside of Makeni lies the traditional village of Mabanta, which offers visitors an opportunity to experience local culture, traditional dances, crafts, and hospitality.
  6. Kabala Hills Waterfall: Located near Kabala town (about 60 km from Makeni), this picturesque waterfall attracts tourists with its natural beauty and tranquil surroundings.
  7. Magburaka Market: Approximately 30 km from Makeni lies Magburaka town with its vibrant market where visitors can immerse themselves in local culture while exploring various stalls selling food items, crafts, clothing, and more.
  8. Wara Wara Mountain Range: Situated on the outskirts of Makeni city is this scenic mountain range that provides opportunities for hiking enthusiasts to explore nature trails while enjoying breathtaking views.
  9. Songo Town Beach Resort: Although not directly located in Makeni but nearby along the Rokel River (around 15 km away), Songo Town Beach Resort offers a peaceful retreat with sandy beaches ideal for relaxation or water activities such as swimming or boating.
  10. Bureh Beach National Park (BBNP): While BBNP is not in Makeni itself (located on the coast, about 180 km away), it is a popular tourist destination known for its pristine beaches, wildlife, and opportunities for surfing and fishing.

Primary Industries

  1. Agriculture: Makeni is located in the heartland of Sierra Leone’s agricultural region. The city is known for its production of crops such as rice, cassava, palm oil, cocoa, coffee, and various fruits and vegetables.
  2. Mining: While not directly located in Makeni itself, the city serves as a hub for mining activities in the surrounding areas. There are several mining companies operating nearby that extract minerals like diamonds and gold.
  3. Trade and Commerce: Makeni has a vibrant commercial sector with numerous markets and trading activities taking place within the city. Local traders engage in buying and selling various goods including food products, textiles, household items, electronics, etc.
  4. Manufacturing: Some small-scale manufacturing enterprises can be found in Makeni producing items such as processed food products (e.g., palm oil derivatives), beverages (e.g., locally brewed drinks), textiles (e.g., clothing), construction materials (e.g., bricks), etc.
  5. Education: As a regional center for education, Makeni hosts several primary schools, secondary schools vocational training centers colleges/universities along with associated businesses like bookstores or stationery shops catering to students’ needs.
  6. Healthcare Services: The city houses hospitals/clinics providing medical services to residents of both urban areas as well as surrounding rural communities.
  7. Transportation Services: Given its central location within Sierra Leone’s Northern Province along with its road network connections to other regions of the country; transportation services such as taxis or motorbikes play an essential role for both local commuting needs and intercity travel from/to Makeni.

It’s important to note that while these industries/businesses are prominent in Makeni today; economic activities may evolve over time due to changing circumstances or government policies.

Noteable History

  1. Founding of Makeni: Makeni was founded in 1820 as a small village by Muslim traders from Futa Jallon in present-day Guinea.
  2. British Colonial Rule: During the late 19th century, Makeni fell under British colonial rule as part of Sierra Leone’s protectorate. The British established administrative structures and introduced Western education to the region.
  3. Bai Bureh Rebellion: Bai Bureh was a prominent local leader who led an uprising against British colonial rule in 1898 known as the Hut Tax War or Bai Bureh Rebellion. Although he was eventually captured, his resistance remains an important symbol of Sierra Leonean nationalism.
  4. Catholic Missionaries: In the early 20th century, Catholic missionaries arrived in Makeni and established educational institutions such as St Joseph’s Secondary School and Fatima Secondary School.
  5. Diamond Mining: The discovery of diamonds near Makeni in the early 1950s brought significant economic growth to the region but also led to social unrest due to issues related to land ownership and labor rights.
  6. Rebel Control during Civil War: During Sierra Leone’s civil war (1991-2002), rebel forces known as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) gained control over Makeni for several years before being pushed out by government troops with support from international peacekeeping forces.
  7. Ernest Bai Koroma: Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of Sierra Leone (2007-2018), hails from Makeni. He played a crucial role in rebuilding infrastructure after the civil war and promoting economic development during his tenure.
  8. University Town: Today, Makeni is home to one of Sierra Leone’s leading universities, Njala University, which has a campus in the city. The university plays a vital role in providing higher education opportunities to students from across the country.

These events and individuals have shaped Makeni’s history and contributed to its cultural and political significance within Sierra Leone.

Museums and Things To See

  1. Makeni Central Mosque: This beautiful mosque is a prominent landmark in Makeni and represents the city’s Islamic heritage.
  2. Makeni Clock Tower: Located in the heart of the city, this iconic clock tower is a symbol of Makeni’s history and serves as a meeting point for locals.
  3. Sierra Leone Peace Museum: This museum showcases Sierra Leone’s journey towards peace after years of civil war. It offers insights into the country’s history, culture, and efforts for reconciliation.
  4. Bai Bureh Memorial Statue: Dedicated to Bai Bureh, a famous Sierra Leonean warrior who fought against British colonial rule, this statue commemorates his bravery and contribution to the nation.
  5. Wusum Hotel Art Gallery: Located within Wusum Hotel, this art gallery exhibits works by local artists, showcasing their talent and creativity.
  6. Lunsar Iron Ore Mines: A short distance from Makeni lies Lunsar town known for its iron ore mines. Visitors can explore these mines and learn about their historical significance to the region.
  7. Magburaka Market: Just outside of Makeni lies Magburaka town with its vibrant market where visitors can experience local life firsthand while browsing through various goods such as textiles, crafts, food items etc.
  8. Gbendembu Rock Shelter Archaeological Site: Situated near Makeni is Gbendembu village which houses an archaeological site featuring rock shelters with ancient cave paintings dating back thousands of years.
  9. Mount Loma National Park – Although located further away from Makeni (around 3 hours drive), Mount Loma National Park offers breathtaking scenery with lush forests diverse wildlife species including chimpanzees and unique flora making it worth considering for nature enthusiasts visiting or passing through the area.
  10. Wara Wara Mountain Range – For those interested in hiking or trekking adventures Wara Wara Mountain Range offers stunning landscapes and panoramic views of the surrounding areas.

Sports Teams

  1. Wusum Stars FC: Wusum Stars FC is a football (soccer) team based in Makeni. They have participated in local leagues and tournaments within Sierra Leone.
  2. Kamboi Eagles FC: Kamboi Eagles FC is another football team from Makeni that has competed at various levels of Sierra Leonean football.
  3. Diamond Stars FC: Diamond Stars FC, although not based directly in Makeni, represents Kono District which is relatively close to Makeni. They have had success in national competitions such as the Sierra Leone National Premier League.

It’s important to note that due to limited information available online about specific teams from Makeni, there may be other local or amateur teams that are not widely known outside their immediate community.

Cultural Events

  1. Tegloma Festival: This is a popular festival celebrated by the Temne people of Makeni. It involves traditional dances, music performances, masquerade displays, and various cultural activities.
  2. Independence Day Celebrations: Sierra Leone’s Independence Day on April 27th is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Makeni. The city comes alive with parades, music concerts, sports competitions, and fireworks.
  3. Christmas Festivities: Christmas is a significant event in Makeni with various religious ceremonies held at churches across the city. There are also street parties, carol singing contests, and special feasts during this time.
  4. Eid al-Fitr: As a predominantly Muslim country, Makeni celebrates the end of Ramadan with Eid al-Fitr festivities. Muslims gather for prayers at mosques and engage in communal feasting while exchanging gifts.
  5. New Yam Festival: The New Yam Festival is an important agricultural celebration observed by the local tribes in Makeni such as the Temne and Limba peoples. It involves offering thanks to deities for a successful harvest through rituals, dancing, drumming, and sharing yam-based dishes.
  6. Cultural Week Celebrations: Schools often organize Cultural Week celebrations where students showcase their talents through traditional dances or drama performances depicting local customs or historical events of Sierra Leone.
  7. Street Carnivals: Occasionally organized by community groups or youth organizations during public holidays or special occasions like Easter or Boxing Day (December 26th), street carnivals feature colorful parades with participants dressed in vibrant costumes while showcasing traditional music and dance forms.

Please note that specific dates for these events may vary each year; it’s advisable to check local sources for updated information before planning your visit to attend any specific festival or event in Makeni.


  1. Cassava Leaves: A traditional Sierra Leonean dish made from cassava leaves cooked with meat (usually smoked fish or chicken) and palm oil.
  2. Groundnut Soup: A rich soup made from groundnuts (peanuts), usually served with rice or fufu (a starchy staple food).
  3. Jollof Rice: A flavorful one-pot rice dish cooked with tomatoes, onions, spices, and often accompanied by chicken or fish.
  4. Roast Fish: Freshly caught fish grilled over an open fire, often seasoned with local herbs and spices.
  5. Poyo Barbecue Spot: This popular outdoor barbecue spot serves delicious grilled meats such as beef, chicken, goat skewers along with side dishes like plantains and salads.
  6. Palm Tree Restaurant: Known for its authentic Sierra Leonean cuisine, this restaurant offers a variety of local dishes including cassava leaves, groundnut soup, jollof rice as well as international options.
  7. Wusum Hotel Restaurant: Located within the Wusum Hotel in Makeni, this restaurant serves a range of cuisines including Sierra Leonean specialties like cassava leaf stew alongside continental dishes.
  8. Mama T’s Kitchen: A small family-run eatery that specializes in traditional Sierra Leonean food such as groundnut soup served with fufu or rice balls.
  9. Kona Lodge Restaurant & Bar: Situated on the outskirts of Makeni near the Gbense River Waterfalls area, this establishment offers a serene setting to enjoy both local delicacies like roast fish as well as international favorites.

These are just some examples of the popular local cuisine and restaurants you can find in Makeni; there are many more options to explore and enjoy while visiting the city.

Parks and Recreation

Activities in Makeni

  • Wusum Field: This is a popular public park in Makeni where people gather for picnics, sports activities, and socializing.
  • Kabala Junction Park: Located at the junction of Makeni-Kabala Road, this park offers green spaces for relaxation and outdoor activities.
  • Lunsar Mini Stadium: This stadium hosts various sporting events such as football matches and athletics competitions.
  • Gbendembu Recreation Ground: Situated in the nearby town of Gbendembu, this recreational ground is used for sports activities like football matches and community gatherings.
  • Mount Bintumani Hiking: Although not directly in Makeni, Mount Bintumani is located nearby and offers opportunities for hiking enthusiasts to explore the highest peak in Sierra Leone.
  • Canoeing on Rokel River: The Rokel River flows near Makeni, providing an opportunity for canoeing or boat rides along its picturesque waters.
  • Community Football Matches: Football (soccer) is a popular sport in Sierra Leone, including Makeni, where you can often witness community-level matches taking place on various fields throughout the city.
  • Cultural Festivals: Throughout the year, different cultural festivals are celebrated in Makeni with traditional music performances, dancing displays, parades, and food fairs.

Note that some of these activities may be subject to seasonal availability or specific event schedules; it’s always recommended to check local sources or inquire locally for up-to-date information during your visit to Makeni.


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