The layers of the onion at the cloth market

Trip Start Feb 02, 2008
Trip End May 03, 2008

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Flag of Senegal  ,
Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sat 1 Mar
- to be filled later
I went to the famous HLM market - my third big market visit. Not nearly as gruesome as the other previous ones - this is a cloth and goods market.

Around the edges there are rows and rows of stalls set up in the dust in the open sunshine .... piled high with flip flops, or kitchen pots, or shoes, or some with bolts of cloth - but mostly cheap pre-manufactured clothes.
As you get further into the market you realise that you have enetered a warren of narrow alley ways and cramped little lanes .... still with uninterrupted stalls on both sides of you.
Foul smelling suspect drains contents overflowing under your feet and soaking away into the sandy walkways, and still the sun high in the sky beating down on you .... back in their recessed open fronted stalls spaces (perhaps the bigger ones are 10'x10' sq) with their three walls, back and sides, stacked floor to ceiling SOLIDLY with bols of colourful cloth .
The stalls on the exterior of the market have v cheap stuff, the net layer in seem to stock garishly bright indian looking imported sort of sari cloth .... this must be cheap and sometimes synthetic.
As you get in to the core of the "layers of the onion" layout of the market, you realise you've entered a building. This is cooler, covered and a huge layout, but even narrower spaces as the lanes or walkways.
There is really only speace for one-abreast and so tyou have to keep stepping sideways into the front of stalls to let someone pass. As soon as you step "into" (by a foot) someones stall space, you immediately provoke a vociferous and loud welcome ... "salaamaleekum, regardez-monsieur, many tissus, beautiful "wax" (wax dyed cloth), haut qualite".
At the heart of all this .... if you can work your way in there .... are the really good little stalls. The holies of holies .... probably the most expensive to rent, and with the best stuff.
I found one, with fabulous fabrics (more like 3 per metre, as opposed to my very cheap 1 per yard of a few weeks ago) - but often hand dyed and beautiful colours and designs. This is the traditional wonderful stuff for which West Africa is so rightly famous - classy, colourful, costly, stylish and unique - brash and bold, real fun.
This is what I really want for my next batch of shirts!
MUCH more daring.
MUCH more fun than my rather tame ones to date.
I settle down to bargain ... picking my way through the cloth, and feigning shock at the prices, and feeling the quality, and comparing the styles and colourways. It is SUCH a fun way to spend time - chatting & joshing with the stall holders .... admitting to knowing nothing about fabric, and inviting him to teach me about different qualities and prices ... its such a lot of fun.
He says at one point "Quel ville ?" I say "Oxford - ou il y a l'universite tres connu" .... "mmmmm" he says, looking non-plussed then quickly follows with "Manchester City ? Liverpool ? yes ?" .... "mmmmm" says me, non-plussed.
I spent about 40 minuts, came away with 4 fantastic pieces, and got about 25% off after a lot of haggling, and making as if to walk of and throw in the towel. He was a tough bargaineer ... but i'll go back if i can find him again one weekend...

In the evening i went out for a meal with some colleagues and their partners ... mix of senegalese, other africans and europeans.
After a fine meal we went to the PEN ART club ..... a musician called SULEYMANE FAYE and his band were due to play.
we waited and waited until late - v late - about 1130, (I suppose that way we buy more from the bar ! - good for business to keep the punters waiting). He comes on at midnight .. fantasic djembe drummers with him - which Alby would have loved - and the most brilliant acoustic guitarist - almost like a kind of african bluesman - which Ikeni would have loved.
It was fab. really fab. I left at about 0145 and wandered home through the safe quiet, cooler at that time of night , streets.
PEN ART is about a 20 min walk from the flat.
Must take Caroline there.

Sun 2 Mar - HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to Mothers Everywhere !
Phoned home to Mum and Dad ....
Did quite a lot of work ... managed to make it out to the first really BIG supermarket .... I did not know it was so close, nor so easy to get to, nor so huge and well stocked. I do prefer giving the business to me little street kiosk shops around here and supporting the little trader ... tho probably costly. Anyway, firt time I have managed to get to yet. Rather like a large French affair ... in fact it IS a French affair - part of the CASINO chain. There are apparently about 5 in Dakar ... but this one is big...
had to go .... have had no coat-hangers till now, and no decent pillows, and was running out of washing powder. All that, and more besides - incl some decent cheese ..... all by way of prep for CAROLINE's arrival on Wednesday.

all for now.
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