In the Lome area, never put your finger at the root of your nose, it is a big insult for a lot of people.
In fact, the tribe of the president was wearing a bone in the nose some dozens of years ago. When they want to insult someone like being real bush and illetrate, they put the finger on the nose at the same place than the bone was inserted before.
Some of them can fight you for this insult, even if you are just on your way to scratch your nose!
It's very common in Africa to see women dressed in brightly-coloured outfits, often in two pieces, with perhaps an extra strip of material that's used to carry a child. Wildly colourful men's shirts are also quite a feature. In Togo, however, what is really striking is the number of men wearing what look like pajamas to a Western visitor - that is, a shirt and pants made from a patterned fabric, which looks almost comical on a tall man, but which locally is very fashionable. The market cloth-sellers are mostly women, but there were plenty of men purchasing fabric for their next outfits, in colours I would never dare to wear, but they carried it off with aplomb!
Shea butter has a sizeable quantity of unsaponifiable fats, several vitamins and other active elements, as well as soothing, moisturising and protecting properties. Shea butter also helps cell regeneration and capillary circulation which in turn speeds up the healing of small wounds, skin cracks and crevices, and skin ulcers. It is also believed to aid in the fight against ageing. Shea butter is produced by extracting fat from the fruit of the shea tree by crushing and boiling. As well as being used as a body moisturiser, shea butter is also used for cooking and sometimes in the production of chocolate in place of cocoa butter.
Before you think the flag of Togo is just another flag with the Pan African theme – think again. Although it does use the 3 colors originally set out by Ethiopia, there is a lot of thought and care that has been woven into the design. It was designed by a very talented artist named Paul Ahyi (1930 – 2010). It has five equal horizontal stripes – in the order of green, yellow, green, yellow, green. In the top left corner there is a red square with a white 5 point white star.
The flag was adopted on April 27, 1960 – the formal day of independence from France.
The colors represent:
Green - agricultural wealth
Yellow – mineral resources
Red – the blood of patriots fighting for independence
The 5 horizontal stripes - the five regions of Togo
The whites star - hope
Behind the palace is a courtyard surrounded by the houses of the king’s wives amongst other sacred buildings. The late king is buried in this courtyard. He chose the burial spot himself before he died. The mound has a small hole in it to allow air in so that the king’s spirit can breathe and so that he can look out and check how his kingdom is doing.
This style of burial tombs is unique to the Bassar tribe.
The second picture shows the tomb of a previous king, where a sacrifice has recently taken place. The tombs are treated like shrines.
The third picture shows the skulls of sacrificed animals hanging from the eves of a hut in the courtyard.
The fourth picture shows yet another tomb with evidence of a recent sacrifice: feathers on the top and blood on the ground.
Stools are central to the Togolese culture. The stool which is supported by an elephant, symbolises power, and only the king can sit on that. The other stool, the one on the left with the people supporting the seat, symbolises the people showing respect to the king.
In Togo, blacksmith is not just any old trade; it is a very special trade. Blacksmiths are special, different, extraordinary people, as if they are from a totally different society, and are almost revered like semi-gods. You cannot just set yourself up as a blacksmith, you have to belong to the secret society where everyone knows everyone else.
Only post-menopausal women were allowed to collect the raw materials from the nearby mountains. The reason for choosing post-menopausal women was that they are considered pure, as they no longer engage in sexual activities.
Many people would come to the furnaces (picture 2) from nearby villages to buy the iron to make into farming implements.
The process would involve a layer of firewood inside the cone, then the raw iron materials, grain wood on top of that, topped with fire. The iron ore would then be collected at some later stage from the holes at the bottom of the cone once it had melted.
Forming the iron into a useful object is a two-man job. The smiths work inside a well ventilated hut, where a piece of iron is heated in the fire and held down on a stone where the second person hammers it heavily with a large rock. Very rudimentary, but it works (see picture 1.
Can you imagine how hot it is in the blacksmiths’ hut? It is 30°C outside in the sunshine and in this hut they have a ferocious fire burning as well as the fact that they are doing heavy manual work! No thanks! Obviously, regular breaks are a necessity. See picture 3.
Most of the items they make a hoes, spades and other father implements. In picture 4 you can see Noah holding up a hoe they have recently completed. They made tools for themselves as well as to sell in the market. We were offered a how, but declined.
Africans could show us westerners a thing or two about sustainability – here it is ingrained in them and has been for centuries. Waste not, want not. If there is a fire going, hang a pot full of dinner over it to utilise the heat! Simple, effect and energy saving. See picture 5.
Hot Chocolate is huge in Togo (Lome). It's their coffee or tea. Pick a local spot and enjoy. The guys running this outdoor (make shift by our standards) were jovial, happy to oblige; all for less than $1 U.S. dollar. They also have food prepared as you wait/watch. Local breakfast is spaghetti with a fried egg on top.
Many families in rural villages have their own gris-gris in the corner of the house to protect them from evil. Gris-gris is basically a talisman used in animist religions such as voodoo, and in this case it is a collection of stones, herbs, oils, bones, hair, nails, and feathers. It can be other personal items relating to the family or any of the family members. The gris-gris will protect the inhabitants against evil and bring them luck.
This is the equivalent of the ubiquitous handbag in England or purse as it is known in the States. No self-respecting Togolese would be seen without one! Everything and anything is carried in these shallow metal bowls: shopping, sales goods, laundry, water, food…….the list is endless!
This is probably a lot healthier than the western counterpart, as these natural toothbrushes are disposable and biodegradable. I didn’t actually try them, but did try some similar ones in Mali some years ago and they worked a treat! It just shows that you can still have impeccable personal hygiene without the modern trappings.
In West Africa you never see mothers pushing their babies in pushchairs or prams like you do in Europe, they are carried on their mother’s back in a piece of cloth draped tightly around her waist, with just the baby’s head sticking out.
Noah told us the name of this medicinal bush was ESRON - but I have been unable to find any details about it on the net since returning home. He told us it has antibiotic qualities and is used by the locals to treat all manner of diseases.
The so called calabash container is named after the calabash tree. It is the fruit or gourd which is used to make the containers so widely used throughout Africa (and other parts of the world), and is one of the earliest cultivated trees in the world grown not for food but for utilities. The fruit is hollowed out and dried and it is used for cleaning rice, carrying water and also just as a food container. Small gourds are used as bowls to drink palm-wine (see Off the Beaten Path tips for more details). It is also used to make certain musical instruments.
The calabash is considered sacred, and will not be thrown away, even if damaged.
There are a few rules I have learned in Africa:
1. In Africa, you musn't be in hurry and under stress because of the unponctualiaty. It is useless. The perception of the time is totaly different from the perception in Europe.
2. Do not plan to much. Prepare yourself for the fact that you cannot follow any exact schedule. Be open and flexible, let the things happen and be ready for adjusting your plans.
3. African people sing and dance almost all the time. Late in the night, very early (if it is Sunday in the town - day of the mass), during your visite in the village... The best thing is to start dancing with them.
4. If you are white, it means you are rich (= you have a lot of money). Do not try to contradict it.
It’s a long story. I made a reservation with this hotel, then forgot and didn’t stay here. I wish I...more
I have stayed in this hotel for a week in 2005 Sep on my way to accra from cotonou. I must say that...more
A very nice, comfortable/upper class hotel with amazing swimming pool. Staff very helpful....more
More Regions in Togo