Have you ever experienced a market in Africa?
Join me on a journey to my favourite – Takoradi Market Circle
Here’s an extract from my African fusion cook book
I grew up in Takoradi, a beautiful city along the Atlantic coast and twinned with its neighbour, Sekondi. Daily food shopping at the open-air market in the middle of town – the Market Circle, is fascinating, a place where you can buy anything from fresh foods to a bow and arrow to bridal wear. An American friend once remarked that it was like a maze and wondered how anyone found their way out. This market, like most markets in Africa, is
a place where women rule.
As you walk through the Market Circle, you cannot miss the vibrant colours, the pungent aromas and sometimes deafening noises of what appears to be organised chaos. The heady scent of spices piled high in brightly coloured enamel basins, with an old cigarette tin for measuring, peeping out of the stack. Good smells and strange smells, high life and hip-life music blaring from competing systems, the hustle and bustle confusing occasional visitors.
Stacks of fresh fruit and vegetables, trolleys loaded with yams,
basins of delicious, bright red, knobbly tomatoes
…and then the fresh meat and fresh fish houses, the aroma of cooked foods, the obligatory haggling over price.
Mounds of colourful chillies and dried beans,
the coconut seller and his trolley laden with fresh green coconuts, passing through, looking for a spot and vying for your attention – mind the wheels don’t run over your toes,
the… rhythmic… pounding… of… fufu,
the stalls with essential household goods, brushes, buckets, mops, soap, baskets and grinding stones, hair dressers, seamstresses,
stalls with frighteningly high piles of beautiful African fabrics (don’t dare knock them over) and the shopkeeper sitting in the corner wearing an “I’m in charge” look on her face.
Chatter and laughter punctuated by honking taxis and trundling tro-tros. In the steady heat, cooling treats like ice-water, ice-kenkey and the familiar sight of the
Fan ice-cream man whizzing past on his white pedal cart ice-box.
Then there’s the live produce; chickens, goats, sheep.
The preacher-man with enormous loud speakers, shouting the word of God, even though he’s using a microphone
…then there’s the scent in the air of fritters frying, plantain and beans, rice and stew, scooped and wrapped in banana leaves…..I could go on forever.
The pace is frenetic, and in a corner, the medicine man and his stall, displaying a curious variety of bitters…resembling tree bark marinated in alcohol, talking nineteen to the dozen he will ‘enlighten you’ on his remedies, everything from ‘waist pains’ to your libido and more, make eye contact and there’s no polite way to escape…
in the midst of all this, the baby, strapped to her mother, soft cheek squashed against her mother’s back, safely and soundly asleep…..
Welcome to a typical day in the life of Takoradi’s Market Circle.