Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 41° 23' N – Barcelona, Spain

Balogun Fabric Market


There were two things Dannica was looking most forward to experiencing in Nigeria, the local fabric, and an open market place. She was disappointed that the streets outside the compound aren’t swarming with peddlers and stalls. I shared with her my previous experience shopping in African markets 16 years ago. I was in Zimbabwe, it was the last market stop of the trip as I was flying home the next day. I had spent all of my money and had even bartered away all of my clothes except one dress. I didn’t even have tooth paste left. It was worth it though as I had fallen in love with three unmounted oil paintings. If you have been in my bedroom you know which paintings I am writing of. The vendor had carefully rolled up the canvases with paper in between in preparation for travel. When I got back to the hotel room with 20 minutes to spare before we left for the airport I decided to repack my bag. To my dismay my favorite painting and one that I had haggled with for a huge amount of time had been swapped out for a different painting that was covered in mildew. A friend I had made that was traveling with me saw how dismayed I was and grabbed my hand and marched me back to the market. He had to get physical with the vendor but I ended up with the painting I paid for and I still made my flight on time.

Today Dannica got to experience an open market and an abundance of fabric when she, Ben, and I visited the Balogun market. It was a trip planed by the Consulate. Two vans full of friends and associates plus drivers and two MoPol Officers (Nigerian Motorized Police) set off down the wet roads to our destination. We were lucky enough to have a local woman who works at the Consulate as our guide and negotiator extraordinaire.

The market place was packed, as was to be expected on a Saturday morning. We were lucky and the rain stopped right as we were stepping out of the vans. I was so glad to have worn rain boots. I promise you can’t imagine what the streets were like. As we were preparing to leave this morning I discovered a huge slice in the bottom of my rain boots. I was trying to scavenge a piece of duct tape from one of the boys art creations to patch it when Dannica reminded me that Harrison and I now wear the same shoe size. 12 year old boy giant feet to the rescue!


I knew I wanted some Nigerian style fabric to have a dress made for myself, a few Nigerian style suits made for Ben to wear to work on casual Fridays, and fabric for decorating making pillows, table cloths etc. Dannica was on the search for a very specific fabric for her Halloween costume. We had plenty of lovely options to choose from.


I love all the bright colors.


These tiny shopping spaces are about $2,000 USD per month to rent. No surprise people often live in them as well


It is amazing they are able to keep the fabric this white.


You can see our lovely MoPol Officer keeping an eye on Dannica and I as we browse. They would stop traffic so we could cross the street and made sure we were safe and hassling was kept to a minimum. Those wood planks cover the open gutter and sewage system.


They hang the fabric up high as well as going far back into the building. When the power is out, which is almost always, they lead you into the cave with a flashlight. Fabric spelunking!


So many cute babies and I managed to not squeeze a single pair of cheeks.


Vegetable vendor. I spared you the pictures of the crawfish carcasses, tripe, cow hoves etc. I am practicing carrying things on my head every day. I am not improving much.


I love the yellow 3 wheel taxis. I would love some fabric with these on them.


There was something for everyone. I did pass on this lovely bow tie pasta piece though.

This was our lovely haul for today. The yellow and red flowered one will be my dress. The fish and purple batik will be suits for Ben.


These two are locally hand dyed. The purple will be a suit for Ben and the White, red and blue a table cloth. So beautiful.

We had a great time but after three hours, and walking for probably 1-2 miles of very narrow, absolutely packed, labyrinthine alleys lined with thousands of micro-shops, were very ready to come home. These photos don’t even begin to portray how tightly packed it was, but we didn’t feel like we could take photos as we were trying to squeeze  single-file between the vendors crammed on one side and another single-file line of shoppers trying to go the other direction. We left right as it started to rain again. Great luck! They plan these events a few times a year and we are eager to go again. We have a man coming to the compound to make/sell table cloths this evening. I have a phone number for a tailor. Once the kids are settled into school next week I am excited to dive into some projects. Ben is excited to join his colleagues for Nigerian dress Fridays.  This world of ours is pretty amazing.







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