Market shopping is one of those things that seems integral to the African lifestyle. I don’t think I’ve visited any African city, north or south of the Sahara, that didn’t have its own vibrant market (or several for that matter). And Monrovia doesn’t disappoint in that respect.
Waterside Market is the largest market in downtown Monrovia and, as the name implies, it sprawls along the area of low land by the Mesurado River (but don’t expect any beautiful river views). It’s a chaotic jumble of crumbling shops, fly-blown street stalls, and roving hawkers, all overrun by dirt or mud (depending on the rains) and a throbbing mass of humanity.
The atmosphere is great – the place has an incredible energy, especially on a Saturday afternoon when it seems to operate at full throttle. I found walking around the market to be surprisingly hassle-free; people pretty much mind their own business and leave you alone. Unlike other markets I visited in Kenya or Morocco, I didn’t have to deal with any relentless calling, persistent following, painful negotiating, or occasional groping. It is very laid back.
As for the actual goods on sale, I don’t find most of them to be too appealing – there seems to be a sea of plastic goods, garish dresses, and cheap tack to wade through. But I know from friends that there are some goodies to be had in there, most notably African wax print cloths (which people here refer to as lappas, the unit by which they are sold). I’m sure to write future blog posts about any purchases I make…