I’ve wandered many markets of the world – strolled through the souks of Morocco, roamed the rickety stalls of Phnom Penh’s Russian Market and shopped for talismans at the Witches’ Market in Bolivia’s La Paz. Each one has its own personality, its style and charisma, its particular way of being. Each reflects the living culture and gives the sense of place better than any city tour ever could, in more depth than the destination’s best museum.
So when I visited Tunga N’go market on my first morning in Luanda, I knew I had really arrived to Angola. Located near where I was staying, in the run-down but real-life neighborhood of Rangel, the market offered a glimpse into another world.
I have had funge, Angola’s typical dish, many times in Portugal yet I had never seen how this manioc pudding is actually made. To see the women at the market grinding the manioc into the flour was fascinating, as was learning about the process of creating the staple that accompanies every traditional meal in Angola.
From a secretively smiling medicine woman below, I learned about the different herbs used for a variety of healing purposes, and as charms.
I had a couple of ladies running after me to pose for photos and learned not to disrespect the African sun – that hour-long walk in midday sun had me suffering from a sunburned neck the rest of my stay in Angola.
And then there was the outing to the legendary Roque Santeiro, an experience I will always hold in a special compartment of my travel memories. Claimed to be Africa’s largest open-air market, even if the superlative doesn’t stand, this giant is undoubtedly among the continent’s largest. Sprawling endlessly amidst Luanda’s slums, this city within a city is a sight to behold. I consider myself a pretty intrepid traveler yet the wander around Roque Santeiro, with three Angolan men, one of them a police escort in uniform – don’t ask me why and how but, in short, I’ve got connections 🙂 – put me on definite edge.
Even though I was given permission by the local police to take photos and shoot some video, I got into trouble with a group of hefty-looking guys the minute I took out my video camera. After what could have led to an incident and a confiscated camera, were it not for my diplomatic partner in crime, I was very careful with recording anything. I so wish I could have. This bewildering market is a mini-universe where just about anything can be found and bought – from bizarre-looking roots and vegetables to pirate CDs, high-tech TVs, stereos, clothing, and hair extensions. Just think of anything at all, Angolans say, and you can find it at this mammoth market, at best prices. The only thing is, you must be brave enough to get in there and look for it.