Lome

Overview

Introduction

The highlights of this capital city (pop. 865,000) are its lovely colonial buildings and its palm-fringed golden-sand beaches (though we wouldn't swim in the water—the ocean is literally the toilet of the poorer Togolese). The city is also one of the most exciting nightlife centers in West Africa. Radios of the street vendors fill the night air with African music.

Start a day in Lome by watching the fishermen on the beaches preparing to go out to sea—or end it with their return, as they unload their catches. In between, visit one of the two city markets. The three-story-high Grand Marche is the original—it's filled with brilliantly colored fabrics and other local items. The ground floor has food and spices, the second floor has various types of cloth, and the third floor offers bracelets, Togolese beads and goods imported for local residents. (Watch out for pickpockets.) There's also an interesting vodun-fetish market at Akodessewa, just 5 mi/8 km to the northeast of the center of Lome. This is where the Ewe "twin cult" figures are for sale. (Ask to see them, as they're not usually displayed, but don't begin the bargaining process unless you intend to buy.)

The German Cathedral, with its carved pews and wall paintings, offers a glimpse into Togo's colonial past, as do the Goethe Cultural Center and the Pasteur Library. Other sights include the mosque and the National Museum. (Allow at least two hours for the museum—it displays some interesting national and historic artifacts, including maps, paintings and photos.) Plan to stay three days and nights in Lome. About an hour northwest of town is Assahoun, a fabric center where colorful, striped Kente cloth is for sale. Mount Agou (3,000 ft/915 m), farther north, offers a spectacular view. Lome is 25 mi/45 km west of Aneho.

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