Balogun Market in Lagos Island

Living in the same compound where you work can be limiting at times. I was starting to feel sorry for myself, that except for a day at the beach I never really had a chance to experience the local culture. That is until an opportunity came to shop for fabrics in Balogun market came up this weekend.

It’s Nigerian Culture Day at the end of the month, and everyone in school is expected to wear native outfits. Our driver brought his tailor to measure us, but the only fabrics he brought were too expensive. So we hopped in the car and drove to Lagos Island, where Balogun market is.

What an interesting place it was. Besides clothes and fabrics there were vendors selling ginormous snails the size of grapefruit, kitchen wares, meat, movies on DVD, car accessories, handbags, beads, and vegetables. The air reeked of smoked fish and dried shrimps. One woman selling catfish was scraping mudwater from a pothole to fill up her basin.

But it wasn’t as fun as Southeast Asian markets. The vendors, like their counterparts in shopping malls and groceries, were a humorless bunch. I couldn’t even haggle. Taking pictures was also a problem. Even when I got one person’s permission to photograph their wares another one would block my view and demanded money. But others were okay with it, and even asked people to step aside. Our tailor told us that not too long ago he wouldn’t have let us go there because it wasn’t safe for foreigners, but the new administration did a good job of cleaning up the streets. We even saw some policemen hanging around.

I won’t mind going back there, that’s for sure.

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