Mounds of luminous trotters, pinker than a pig has ever been. Huge sheets of sea sponge being chopped into strips. Barbequed rats, piles of beans and spices, mops, live crabs, kente fabrics, washing machines, cheap plastic toys, chillies … the crowded lanes of Makola market contain everything and anything you might need, plus plenty you never will. Forget Accra Mall; this is where the city comes to shop.
The smells are less varied; the vast mounds of cooked fish win that battle fins down. They are smoked to within an inch of becoming charcoal, then stacked up and sold to flavour soups and stews. Their pungency fills the covered food section of the market.
Makola market sprawls over what roughly counts as the city centre, covering a huge area. Traders spill from its concrete hub into mazes of wooden sheds and even into the road in places, where irritable taxi drivers weave past women selling washing powder from huge metal bowls balanced on their heads. It’s as much a cash and carry, as most people are here to buy in bulk, taking advantage of the cheap prices to sell goods on at a profit elsewhere in Accra.
Ruth, Sarah and I wandered around the stalls, trying to avoid treading on the gangs of small children chasing each other beneath their mothers’ stalls (almost all sellers are women). The girls bought onions and spices, while I tried to take photos. Not so easy; people are reluctant even to have their stalls snapped, and I was often shooed away.
Pausing for a drink in the market café, I asked the man who shared our table why this was. “It is their place of work, not a tourist attractions. Would you like us to photograph you at work?” came the reply. It’s a fair point; people are too busy working to mess about with obronis trying to photograph their tomatoes because they like the shade of red.
The fabric quarter was quiet compared to the food market, and we browsed the stalls at a leisurely pace. Sarah, a kente addict, bought cloth to be made into dresses and I brought some trouser material that I was sure Hannah would veto later (she did). Satisfied with both our purchases and for surviving the chaos, we hailed taxis and sped away from Makola, our driver nearly colliding with a stack of watermelons piled up in the road as we went.