July 12, 2011

Weekly(ish) Photo Essay: Le Grand Marche

About ten days ago we finally made it to the Grand Marche, a clusterfuck of Malian culture and mayhem in the center of Bamako.

We went to the market in a Sotrama, one of hundreds of beat up green van "buses" that shuttle you around the city for about twenty-five cents. It was hot, packed, filled with flies, and the passengers were not amused that we were taking photos of how uncomfortable it was.

It must take up--at least according to my visual estimates--about one hundred square city blocks, probably more. Apparently it's the biggest market in West Africa.

From the moment we walked in we were accosted by vendors, including a couple of teenagers who must have secretly tagged us with a GPS tracking device because they literally show up everywhere we go in the city, every time trying to sell us sometimes different (pretty leather boxes, necklaces, fabric).

Luckily we had Patrick (our Bamako-veteran Canadian diplomat neighbor) and Olivier (the French ex-GAIA intern, also familiar with the city) to fend off the predatory shop people.

I was on the hunt mostly for fabric, and anything else that caught my fancy, and I ended up coming home with a number of small items, but no fabric.

They had quoted me an exorbitant price, telling me that it cost per meter what it was supposed to cost for a six meter piece (which means he wanted me to pay 27,000 CFA, or about $60, instead of 4,500 CFA, or $10).

So even though the fabric was beautiful, I abandoned my search and planned to come back with a Malian lady who knows the bartering deal in tow.

But I did end my day with a cute bronze statue, a little mask,

and a pair of jellies (not at all Malian, but something I've been on the lookout for).

 Shahla bought some masks, Olivier bought a CD and a pair of jeans, and Patrick satisfied himself with negotiating better prices for all of us (bringing my bronze statue down to 7,000 CFA from 12,000 CFA).

By the end of the afternoon--we'd been there for over three hours--I was exhausted.

The only way to get vendors to back down was by telling them I had no more money, but even that didn't deter them! I told a guy trying to sell me a painting that I only had 3,000 CFA left and another guy behind me came out of nowhere telling me he had plenty of wares for only 3,000 CFA.

We hightailed it out of there, making a bee-line for the first empty taxi we saw, and took ourselves home, exhausted. But I'll be back for the fabric.

No comments: