The Tamba market: a place of wonders and treasures. Of carrots and cabbages, of plastic shoes and plastic cups, of beans and beignets.
You really can find just about anything you need at the big central market. There are rows upon rows of vegetable vendors. Alleys stuffed with glitzy jewelry and sparkly shoes. Small shops piled high with rainbows of wax fabric. Buckets overflowing with mangoes and papayas.
Since Tamba is such a large city our market is open every day. Women come early in the morning to set up their tables with vegetables, fruit, or beads. Men unload baskets of fish, huge chunks of meat, or open their boutiques. And soon the market is teeming with people. Women come each day to buy the ingredients for lunch and dinner, filling up buckets or baskets with everything needed for that day’s ceb u jenn or yassa.
Youths coming from school wander through in clumps, buying snacks. Men with moto taxis or horse carts loiter at the entrances waiting to load up tired shoppers and their heavy baskets. Young boys make the rounds with trays of cubed meat or sachets of drinking water.
It is both an exciting and a stressful place. There is so much to see, smell, hear that I find myself blocking out a lot of it in order to streamline my shopping. I tend to go to the same several stands – the women are friendly, the produce is crisp, and the prices are reliable.
A good vegetable stand will sell: carrots, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, cassava, cabbage, bitter tomato, green onions, and squash. Some of these vegetables disappear and reappear from the tables with the seasons, but the staples are reliably found throughout the year.
Some of the women selling vegetables grow the produce themselves, but I think that is a minority. Most buy their wares from a farmer (or several farmers) and then sell it at the market. My counterpart sometimes sells lettuce or peppers to a friend selling in the market – whoever gives her the best price!
The market also houses breakfast stands, tucked away behind colorful curtains, selling the usual options – beans, potatoes, peas, eggs – all ready to be spooned into bread.
Away from the main drag made up primarily of vegetable sellers you can find kitchen supplies, baby clothes, brooms, fabric, jewelry, and much more. It is in these side alleys where you can easily get turned around.
The experience of shopping at the market is a big part of Senegalese culture – buying fresh everyday, maintaining and cultivating friendships, and bargaining. It is something that you need to learn and practice. But it is so much fun and sometimes you come across some real treasures, like green beans or avocados!
Thanks for reading,