Sunday Spotlight – Lome, Togo
Let’s be honest, Lome is probably NOT at the top of your list of places you want to see in your lifetime. Togo is a small, and very thin country in West Africa, between Ghana and Benin, and although it’s pleasant enough, there just isn’t a lot of reasons to head there. BUT, if you are in the region, I do recommend stopping by for a few days. It’s really not a bad place to chill, and although there are no major landmarks, brilliant museums or exciting things to see, it’s a nice place to walk about and suck up a bit of African life. Here’s some things worth seeing –
Beaches. Although the guide books tell you to be very careful on the beaches, I think if you’re sensible and only visit in daylight you’ve nothing really to worry about. The sand is actually quite attractive and the size of Lome means that beach is rarely particularly far away. You’ll also see fishermen out in the ocean coming in to land, or out to go catch a few fish. Buildings. Lome apparently experienced something of a boom in the 1970s, and the buildings built in that time were certainly very distinctive and interesting. Their use of glass, shape and colour makes them stand out quite a bit, and despite not being built so recently, they sure look like the most modern part of the city. The Market. The market in Lome was really a great place to walk about. You can see life going on as it always does there, people buying and selling, the amazing colours that the women wear. And the amazing things they can carry on their heads! It’s amazing! Lome has a wonderfully chilled, relaxed vibe about it, especially compared to Accra in Ghana and Cotonou in Benin, both around 3-4 hours away (actually Cotonou is a bit closer).
People. You’ll see plenty in the market, but all around the city people are going about their lives, and I hate to say it, but travellers – let’s be honest. One of the joys of travel can be people watching, regardless of where you are on the planet. Be careful for those photos, always ask in Africa if you can take a snap of a person. In a sandy square kids were playing football – the Togolese team, considering their population is around 6.5 million, do very well. They make it a long way in the African Cup of Nations and I think made the World Cup once.
If football’s not your game, the most popular board game in Togo (and indeed Ghana) is Ludo. Do you remember that game? I often passed people playing it in the street, it seemed quite competitive. I played a couple of games and got absolutely thrashed. I can’t remember the rules, I must admit, but I was amazed at how many people were enthusiastic about Ludo in West Africa. Finally – Le Galion. This sleepy guesthouse in the leafy suburbs of Lome is an institution, with so many ex-pats coming through, cheap rooms and good food. Coming from Ghana, I really appreciated the French cooking at Le Galion, and the people I met. I met a number of travellers at this place, and heard some pretty wild stories. Then, most nights I was there, they had a band playing jazz.
Find the website here – Auberge Le Galion Lome, it was only 3 days a few years back now, I didn’t do or see all that much, but I will always remember you fondly. Have you visited a place like Lome, a place where there wasn’t so much to see or do, but it keeps a special place in your heart? Tell me about it in the comments section! For more of my writing about Togo and Lome, there’s the Togo & Benin Chapter from Dhaka to Dakar HERE. That’s part of the book Dhaka to Dakar Book 3: Across Africa which also includes Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali & Senegal.