Abidjan, while not the official capital of Ivory Coast, is the largest city in the country. The most developed as well. This is where the bulk of the expatriates are resided, as it is Abidjan which has the buzzing port and hence, a lot of offices. When it comes to making purchases, a lot of expats depend on huge supermarkets like Cap Sud, Carrefour, Sococe etc where one can pick up all sorts of groceries, fruits and cosmetics. For household items and decor, Orca, GiFi and Galeries Peyrissac more than suffice.
I too, could have made do with these convenient stores where one just needs to pick up a large trolley and survey the multiple racks and shelves. However, for someone like me, saving some precious pennies by visiting the local market is an appealing option. So I decided to explore the not-so-developed local areas and discovered two: Marcory and Treichville.
Marcory is a Lebanese haunt. This is where a lot of folks from Lebanon, who arrive in Abidjan, reside as well as run their own shops and boutiques. Marcory is lined with shops on either side, with residential areas visible upstairs and around. One can find bakeries, butcheries, hair salons, Indian bazaars as well as a lot of local Ivorians trying to sell fruits and veggies along the road.
A weekly visit here allows me to pick up onions, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, coriander, mint, lemon, cabbage, cauliflower etc for the kitchen, while my hubby likes to delve into the stock of watermelons, bananas, mangoes, apples, oranges, sweet lime and papayas. While the shops and boutiques are manned mostly by Lebanese, these road-side shacks with fresh produce are run by big Ivorian ladies. Haggling in French with them is no doubt a little intimidating at first, but I have come to see a couple of benefits from my visits here. For one, I get fresh fruits and veggies, unlike the cold-storage ones available in supermarkets, I save a reasonable amount of money and I get to practice bantering in French.
I landed up in the other big local market, Treichville, for entirely different reasons. One can pick up curtains, bed sheets, plastics, fans, cutlery and kitchen-ware at almost half price as compared to the fancy stores in Zone Quatre (Zone 4 is the posh area of Abidjan). Treichville, unlike Marcory, has shops run by Ivorians as well as Lebanese.
As I walked along the corridors of the ‘Tissue Market’ in Treichville, I picked up cloth for bed-sheets and blanket covers from thaans, which were promptly stitched and readied within two hours. I then proceeded to ‘Foire de Chine’, a multi-story shop, overflowing with tid-bits. You can pick up almost anything in a shop like this. My spoils included a salt and pepper shaker, serving spoons, buckets, table mats, brooms and a chopping board. There is a whole ‘decor’ section, which I plan to explore subsequently.
My visits to these two markets, Marcory and Treichville, bring me much closer to reality. Dirt lines the roads. Narrow lanes are clogged with vehicles. Shoppers and traders bargain to the hilt. Beggars vie for your attention. An eight year old girl follows you, trying to sell kitchen cloths.
Away from the sparkling broad roads and well-lit bridges, far from the picture-perfect, convenient super-markets, this is the real Abidjan.
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Piyushi Dhir is the author of 'In Search of Love', 'I'm Yours, The Next Time', 'Silent Promises' and 'Enmeshed Evermore'. She is a contributor in 'Nineteen Tales of COVID-19', a collection of short stories. A voracious reader, a keen traveler, a businesswoman and a mom, Piyushi currently resides in Canada. A nomad at heart, she loves to discover new places and capture the hues of life with her pen.