From waterfalls, beaches and lakes, to ancient castles, museums, art galleries, fetish markets and what have you, Togo is definitely one of the West African countries to visit. With Lome as its capital, Togo is bordered by Ghana to the east, Benin to the west and Burkina Faso to the north. It’s no wonder that Togo’s official language is French as it shares a very strong french heritage with its neighbour-countries that dates back to the colonial era.
As interesting and informative as the Togolese history as pertains to the colonial era might be, I do not intend to venture into that domain. This article will centre on the attractions of Togo and its cultural values and norms based mostly on the capital city Lome.
With an area of approximately 57,000 square kilometres (22,000 sq mi) and a population of approximately 6.7 million (which is over 3 times less than Lagos State’s population of 21 million), Togo is easily one of Africa’s smallest countries and this accounts for the fact that little is heard about it.
While it’s size and meagre population might be a disadvantage in certain circumstances, it makes it the perfect place to hang, spend a vacation, or just visit. My first (and last) trip to Togo was in 2012, and i loved it!! The sights, the people, the food, the air, everything was inviting. I was there a little over a year as a student, so i was able to sufficiently enjoy the ‘Togolese experience’.
One of my major attractions to this country was the serenity. Togo is the kind of place that you want to go to to escape the stress from work, family, etc. It’s peaceful demeanour just makes you want to lie back, soak in the breeze and listen to the birds in the trees…and it’s very pocket friendly too.
Despite the fact that its official language is French, foreigners have no problem adapting in Togo, this is hugely as a result of the fact that the percentage of foreigners resident in Togo (Nigerians especially), is very high. Most Togolese have a fair grasp of English language and try as often as possible to practice it.
Togo; with reference to its capital city- Lomé, is in my opinion, a mini France; and if you can’t afford a trip to France itself, I recommend Togo for an amazing French experience. It’s definitely the next best thing.
The major difference, in my opinion between the average Togolese man and the average Nigerian man is their priorities. The average Nigerian goes to work to make money, acquire property, and make a name for himself. The average Togolese goes to work to make enough money to be happy for that day.
Happiness to the average Togolese is good food, content family and a sufficient supply of ‘eku’ (a locally brewed alcoholic drink). In Togo, everyday is Friday, everyone lives for the night time when they can dance their worries away. The Togolese love the night life, they are extremely friendly and hospitable people who will find any excuse to throw a party. Many restaurants in Togo stay open till 3 am, and a few close by 12 am. The security situation encourages this lifestyle as it is such that one can decide to park his car and not worry about locking it or getting the keys out of the ignition. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Togo is completely crime free, but because of its size and population, you could call it a ‘naive’, ‘unexplored’ country that is yet to be ravaged by crime.
I fell in love with the Togolese perfumed rice. It’s absolutely delicious and very different from what we’re used to here in Nigeria.
The local foods like ‘Dekoudessi’, ‘Yebessessi’, ‘bankou’, and ‘kinké’ taste amazing (depending on the cook) and are quite peppery so they might take some time to get used to.
Most restaurants in Togo specialise in local and intercontinental dishes and the menus are usually written in french. For awesome local dishes, I would recommend ‘Campus Plage’, a beautiful waterside restaurant inside the University of Lomé; for inter continental dishes, I would recommend ‘La Terrace’, for great pizza and ice cream, I would recommend ‘Hotel Balcone’ or ‘Festival De Glace’ (which literally means ‘ice cream festival’) and ‘La Boulangérie San Marco’ for the best bread, cakes, doughnuts, rolls, scones, croissants, etc. There are also various restaurants that specialise in Nigerian dishes like ‘nkwobi’, ‘isiewu’, Nigerian soups, etc.
Togo can boast of various hotels in various locations at very cheap/affordable rates. The hotels vary from three star to five star and provide wonderful service. I recommend Hotel Palm Beach which has a beautiful Seaview, Hotel Napoleon Lagune, and Hotel Ibis, Lomé. Houses are also rented out at very affordable prices ranging from FCFA 15.000 (N 5,000) to FCFA 90.000 (N 30,000) per month.
One of my favourite things about Lomé, is the markets. Togo has two major markets, ‘Le Grand Marché’ aka Assigamé, Assiéyé aka Ibo market. Beautiful clothes can be purchased in Assiéyé for as little as FCFA 500 (less than #200). Many Nigerian traders buy cheap from Togo and then sell in boutiques in Nigeria at very expensive rates. A lot of shopping can be done with as little as #5,000 which is give/take FCFA 15,000.
Asides these two markets, there are various supermarkets and of course ‘Le Marché des Féticheurs’ (the fetish market).
WARNING!- Be careful not to make the mistake of converting every price tag to naira, because in the long run, you’ll end up over buying. Foreigners have the tendency to try to take too much advantage of the cheap prices, this will only eat deep into your funds. Try to shop with a Togolese mindset. Just buy what you need.
For people who love partying so much, the Togolese music industry is almost nonexistent. The music played in the clubs, at the restaurants, etc, are usually from Ghana, Nigeria or France. They can, however, boast of some really cool musicians like ‘Toofan’ (a group of two guys) whose songs are hits all over Africa and even in France.
Togolese music is usually of the ‘macosa’ genre, the kind that makes you want to dance and they have some really cool dance moves like the ‘kulucaché’, ‘alquaeda’ and ‘bourgeois’. Their music can light up any dance hall any day.
Although it’s a small country, Togo has a rich cultural heritage that is still very influential in this present day. This culture and the historical roots of the Togolese are most evident in their art work. The paintings, sculptings, pottery, etc all give a glimpse into the past and the hopes for the future. The Art Galleria in Maritime ‘Le Centre Artisanal’, holds various art works and trinkets made by thousands of artists and sells them at affordable prices.
Culture, Tradition, Religion
According to the CIA Factbook, approximately 29% of the Togolese population is Christian, 20% are Muslim, and 51% hold indigenous beliefs. Many Nigerian churches like ‘Winners’ Chapel’, ‘The Redeemed Christian Church of God’, ‘Christ Embassy’, various Catholic Churches and mosques are available in Togo along side shrines in different localities. Despite the fact that a great number of Togolese swear allegiance to the foreign religions, many still hold on to some simple traditional activities like libation (use of items to appease the gods), sporting of charms and trinkets for protection from evil eyes, etc.
Togo has lots of amazing sights, like Le Chateau Vialle, Kpalime (an ancient castle, presently uninhabited), the various beaches, the international museum of the gulf, art gallerias, the Keran national park, the markets, the French Cultural Centre, The Slave House in Agbodrafor, the hills and waterfalls in Kpalime, and lots more. You haven’t visited Togo until you have been to these incredible places. Be sure to take a scrap book and a camera with you, and i can guarantee that you will find a lot of amazing things to capture.
Welcome to Togo and enjoy your stay!!!