The flight arrived on time, but Egyptair left my friend’s luggage in Cairo, so they had to manage for the next 3 days with whatever clothes they were wearing. Mental note: never, ever check-in any luggage if you had planned to change hotels every day. We met Sam, our driver and guide who proved very patient and helpful over the luggage delivery negotiations.
We left Accra in a rather bad mood. My friends were tired – they didn’t manage to get any sleep in Cairo – without luggage and I was in a very bad mood because of the business. It took over one hour to clear the heavy city traffic and get on our way to the Togolese border. Crossing borders in Africa can be a spooky experience, especially at dark. After you hand your passport to the border policemen, you get this weird feeling that you might not receive it back and get stuck in the no man’s land indefinitely.
Lomé metropolitan spreads right up to the Ghanaian border, about one hour drive to the city center. We stopped for dinner to Cote Jardin, a good restaurant with a pleasant ambiance and a nice garden, serving french food. After dinner, we drove through the industrial harbor area to Hotel Pure Plage, at the beach. The rooms were pretty nice and comfortable, if you decide to ignore the heavy humidity odor that is omnipresent on the west african coast.
Breakfast was merely decent and this was the best we would get for the next ten days.
Our first stop was at the Akodessawa Fetish Market (Marché des Féticheurs), the world’s largest voodoo market, featuring a variety of dead animals like monkeys, birds and snakes. It is the size of a small football field and not overly busy on Sundays.
Apart from us, there was only a couple of tourists. So we got the full attention of a voodoo man that was trying to sell his fetish props, notably a 10 cm wooden statue that was supposedly a wireless room monitor. With one twist: you had to light a cigarette and stick it to the little guy’s mouth.
The offer was too good to pass, so we had to negotiate the price. Now, negotiating with the local voodoo man is a process that challenges any Monty Python performance. It went like this:
– How much?
– Twenty thousand.
– This is too much, thanks
– How much do you give?
– Three thousand.
– Hmm, we have to roll the shells.
– Excuse me? The shells?
He grabs 5-6 shells, shakes it like dice and spreads them on the floor.
– See, it is fifteen thousand.
– You mean that the shells show fifteen thousand?
– Yes, it is obvious.
– Right. Well this is too much. I can only offer four thousand.
– We have to roll again.
And so on for the next fifteen minutes. We finally got it at 7 thousand, but the whole experience was life changing.
Next stop at the Grand Marché, the largest street market in Lomé. On Sundays it is rather quiet. We spent more than an hour, walking around and did some shopping from the heirs of the famous Nana Benz women. These ladies revolutionized local trade after Togo gained independence and managed to gain their own financial independence. Their plan, although difficult to pull in the 60s and 70s, looks simple today. They were printing cloth with traditional west-african designs in the west and selling as cloth or ready to wear clothes in Togo. They named themselves Nana Benz, because they could afford to buy Mercedes Benz limos. Today, their daughters trade virtually everything.
Next: South Benin