Every great journey, begins with the first step!

The Markets

The Markets

Shopping in Nigeria can be quite the experience, maybe even an adventure, but above all it is great fun. However first of all you have to acclimatised to the place and the ways of the place. I am sure Nigeria is not overly different to most African countries with regard to this, but here you have a few certain elements that make Nigeria stand out. When you go into a Nigerian market there are a few things that you really notice, but the main one is that you have entered a woman’s world. Women dominate the markets and they are fun, but really tough business people.

It is funny that in a country that has so many failings and so many challenges, that when you go into a market and you see hard core business being done that it really does demonstrate that if you really want something done, and done correctly, it is always best to get a woman to do it. As an overall nation Nigeria is male controlled, women are indeed second class citizens, there are very few in politics, and if you ask a Nigerian about the possibility of a woman becoming President, they don’t laugh, they just look at you like to are a real mad man. But come into a market and you get a very different picture and perception of both Nigeria and Nigerians. Women rule, and never be in any doubt.

Of course for me I have always loved markets, far more than some posh shop of mall, Calabar market for me would always be more fun than Harrods, it would always be some I would prefer to spend time than Tesco’s, and so while this is not like any market back home, it is still just so interesting, and wonderful, colourful, vibrant and smelly !!!

Yes the smell of the market is another thing you notice. It is a mixture of heat and open food, the smoked fish, raw meat, and Afang all laid out bare on the slabs of wood that make the traders stalls. The herbs, spices and various other wonders all add into the overall aroma. These are basic markets, where people fight to sell their goods, work really hard and somehow make a living. I do think it does not take long to get past the smells, to get used to them, but they are there and a fresh one awaits around most corners.

More so than in a town like Calabar, the “local” markets are exceptionally basic, a weird mix of  “Farmers” market meets “Car Boot”. Small wooden structures provide shade for most of the stalls, and as well as the food, all manner of things are bought and sold. You can never really go to a market with a shopping list, or even wish list, but somehow you can buy almost anything, and buy so much you never knew you wanted or needed. It is certainly not anything close to consistent retailing, it is just a place where people who have managed to get anything of a perceived value gather to sell it.

When you visit the country of contradiction, you have to find the time, energy and just a tiny bit of bravery, and walk into the core of this amazing world, it really will take your breath away and even if you don’t buy a thing, you will leave with life’s most valuable gifts, experiences and priceless memories.


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© 2008 Paul Kavanagh. All rights reserved.