I've flown into visit Lomé from Abidjan this morning and Guide Noah’s cousin is getting married today, so we gate-crash the wedding. She doesn’t seem to mind. She’s been living with the groom for some time and they have children, but it takes a long time to save up for the expected dowry.
The new husband is sporting a red Yoruba floppy-top hat and seems very nervous. Marquees are still being set up and chairs arranged. Food is arriving, but won’t be served until there are more guests. A few elegantly dressed family members are meandering. A band is singing under a blue canvas, though they’re having trouble with a screeching sound system. We're offered drinks. I'm hopeful of some gin, but it's beer or Cinzano Bianco. We all have Cinzano. I haven't drunk that for many years. Noah explains that everyone will be at least an hour late, African style, but his estimates turn to be overly optimistic and two hours later there's little sign of anyone else and absolutely no sign of food. So we leave, in search of lunch by the beach.
Lomé is the Brussels or Switzerland of West Africa. All the big bank headquarters are here and the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) administration buildings. It’s amazingly developed, first established as the German capital of Togoland in 1897, growing rapidly from 30,000 people in 1950, to roughly a million today. It's also squashed right in the south-west corner of Togo. You can see Ghana if you look down the main road. Compared to the rest of West Africa, Lomé has what appear to be some very prosperous areas and is more visitor orientated. There are also of course, large tracts of poor housing too.
As in most African capitals, there aren't that many tourist sights in town - a cathedral, a huge Independence Monument on a circular roundabout and the usual markets and museum (in the Congressional Palace). The main attractions in Lomé are the Akodésséwa Fetish Market and the Atlantic shore: very manicured stretches of lawn (mown by goats) running along beautiful golden (but eroding) beaches, with up-market open air restaurants, that serve steaks and shellfish.
For some reason my bags smell horribly of petrol. No-one is sure why, but the boot of our Landcruiser stinks. However, I have been upgraded to the most gorgeous boutique hotel. The mixed seafood grill, which includes lobster, served by the swimming pool, is very good value and absolutely delicious.
Tomorrow I'm off along the coast to see some Voodoo ceremonies.
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