The pouring rain and the early hour have done nothing to stop the bustle in what is called the Marché Congo. I am here to buy some curtain rings and as usual I am struck by the other worldliness of the place. I walk down one of the myriad alleys (mercifully protected from the weather) where the most astonishing variety of haberdashery goods is sold – here ribbons and tape, there buttons and thread, lace and beads. My port of call is empty so while I wait for the vendor, I have a chance to soak up the atmosphere. Next door the lady selling lace has such a compelling face I wonder what her story is; the goods at the forefront of her shop look a little soiled but as I reach in to touch she gently brings forth much finer specimens covered in protective plastic. The selling protocol here is discreet, mannered and leisurely giving one plenty of time to browse with no obligation to buy. Closer to the street there is a man with a hand operated machine that looks like it has been salvaged from the Victorian age; he is making covered buttons in an exquisite fabric that the buyer has brought along with her – the work is done in minutes. As I watch, I cannot recall anywhere in my own “developed” country where such a service can be so readily accessed and not for the first time think about what we have lost with the march of progress. I catch the smile of the returning curtain man and make my purchase. Threading my way back to the car I sense the uplift in my mood – it is impossible not to be affected by the optimism in this fascinating market place.
For safety reasons it is wise to go in the company of friends or with your driver when you visit the Marché Congo.
(This article by Debbie first appeared in the first issue of My Douala, the newsletter of DWIG.)