Tucked just next to Benin Republic in between Ghana and Nigeria, Togo is a small West Africa country you’ll hate to miss. Once labelled the “pearl of West Africa”, Togo attracts people to itself via its beaches, colourful markets, friendly people and the scenery in its north—the hills, plateaus and mud-brick houses that dot the landscape near Kara.
Lome, the capital and largest city in the country, is where most visitors go. The city is located in a pretty safe area on the Gulf of Guinea; it has friendly ambiance and a strong sense of local culture, especially with the maintenance of the original voodoo practice. It is also in Lome that one finds nice collections of African and international bars, clubs, restaurants and all that you need for your holiday. A big plus is the city’s vibrant nightlife.
On one of my trips to Accra from Lagos recently, I had to stop at Lome when our car developed a fault. After fixing it, my friend and I were too tired to continue the journey so we decided to spend the rest of the day in the city and continue our journey the next day.
For a start, we got a room in a nice hotel for as low as $20. After resting for a while, we decided to step out to experience the city. Actually, we didn’t expect to see skyscrapers and much bling in Lome so we were not really surprised that the city does not exude much of the charms that defined it as the “pearl of West Africa” many years ago, but it is still worth the walk.
From what we saw, Lome typifies Africa; its landscape combines red earth, with grand boulevards and large squares, green gardens and colourful houses. The city’s main road runs directly from Ghana to Benin along the country’s 56km coastline, it is a lovely palm-fringed boulevard.
The main attractions in Lome during the day, in my opinion, are its market. The Grande Marche is indeed a standout among them, true to its name, this general goods market occupies an entire block in the city centre and you’ll find just about anything you need there.
What makes Grand Marche even more interesting to visit is the array of entertainment that goes on there. On a good day, you will find artists performing live music at the market. Other usual entertainers there include dancers and magicians.
Quite grotesque, intriguing and incredibly incredulous scene can be experienced at the Akodessewa Fetish Market. It is the popular voodoo market where voodoo faithfuls buy all their ritual needs. Here, you will find huge stacks of animal skulls, herbs, statues and an array of charms and talismans that many people in Togo use in solving their daily problems. This is the biggest of such voodoo market in the world and, no doubt, a reference and meeting point for voodoo practitioners in West Africa and beyond.
One of the things to look forward to in Lome is its nightlife. If you are not so fearful (and you really have no reasons to be afraid), you will have a good time at night in Togo if you step out into some of its main areas. I read somewhere that if you lodge in some of the big hotels; they might organize beach parties and general entertainment—including performances by traditional dancers, magicians and artists, for you. Anyway, we didn’t lodge in such hotel, but we took the initiatives by ourselves—with the help of a local guide.
At night, the local guide took us to an area called Rue de la Gare in Lome where we had some good time at a club. The guide had initially suggested a posh club around the Boulevard du 13 Janvier, we chose this one at Rue de la Gare because of our budget and I think it was a fair deal.
After a dish of gboma dessi (sauce) and akoumé, and a few bottles to drink, and plenty of music and dance, we returned to our hotel and slept as soon as we go to our room. We later completed our journey to Accra that day.
Feature Image Credit by Peace Dove Statue in Lome by Jeff Attaway