One of the “must see” sites in Cotonou is a giant open air market called Dantokpa. It seems like the sort of place I’d love — huge, overwhelmingly crowded, packed full neat things like African cloths but also strange stuff like hippo heads — but I can’t tell you for sure because I haven’t been. Not for lack of trying. I set out to go last weekend, but after an unfortunate hour circling the market area trying to find a parking lot we saw on a map, and then me snapping at Andy for not better helping me navigate the crazy traffic (see here), and Andy snapping back at me for snapping at him, and then Flynn screaming at us both, well, we decided a market visit wasn’t in the cards for the day.

Sometimes simple things here, like trying to get to a market, can be inordinately stressful. Which is why we are ever so grateful to have one shopping option that is largely stress-free: Erevan.

Walking distance from our house, Erevan is a European- or American-style mega store, like Target or Wal-mart. It feels so out of place here.

There is even an orderly, sensical parking lot! No circling for hours in traffic! No parking in medians or on sidewalks!

And shopping carts too! No carrying anything on your head, here.

Erevan is giant. And it has just about everything you could ever want, from lox to frozen pizzas to baby carriers to electric grills. The problem is the prices. While some things are reasonable (a few bucks for a giant thing of flour, sure), most things aren’t. $160 for an Oral B toothbrush? Um, I can live without. But still, it’s good to know that things you can’t live without can probably be found at Erevan.

The only reason I say Erevan is largely stress-free — and not entirely stress-free — is that we still have to use our French to get by. Once at the meat section I saw something that looked like bacon and had the word pig in it. Seemed like a sure bet. Well, not so much. I’m not sure what it was, but it turned out not to be bacon and to have big thick hairs in it. For the most part, though, it’s the pound to kilogram conversation that gives us trouble. Let’s just say it’s not entirely on purpose that we have tons of ground beef in the freezer.

Within the Erevan complex there’s also a Samsung store, a home decor store, a bookstore and a Mango clothing store. A number of other stores are also in a strip mall sort of thing outside: a bakery, a salon, a cafe, etc.

Yep, Erevan is kind of a big deal. It could just be in my head, but I feel like people even dress up to shop there because it’s such a big deal. But then again, that could be just because everyone’s always more dressed up than me, as it’s hard to be less dressed up than the person wearing cut-off jean shorts and a baby spit-up stained t-shirt.

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4 Responses to shopping

  1. Camille says:

    $160 for a toothbrush!!!! Yikes. No, thanks.

    I think you DO need to buy a Hippo Head and hang it in your living room. For sure.

  2. Anne H. says:

    You have a strip mall and a faux Target? Lucky! I would kill for that here!!

    So sorry about the “bacon.” Expecting one thing and getting quite another is the worst!

  3. Amanda says:

    I have a blog stalker for a few months now…sorry to just now come out of hiding. 🙂 My husband and I are moving to Dakar next year, so I’ve been trying to absorb as much African info as possible…doesn’t matter which country! When I saw this post about Erevan, I was so excited and immediately started searching for one in our area. Alas, it does not exist, so I went to handy google maps to see how far apart Cotonou and Dakar might be. I excitedly told my husband that should we need any sort of Target like stuff, there was a great store just 1300 kilometers away…you know, a 1 day drive or so. He, who has lived in Africa before, laughed hysterically at me and my judgement of distance on African roads. Apparently we would not be driving as it would take more like 5 days on the washboard roads. I’m not sure if he knows what a typical haul from Target looks like, but the thought of trying to cart it back to Dakar on a plane does not sound feasible or fun. Unfortunately it sounds like I will just have to be jealous of your mega-store with its $160 toothbrushes.

    I’m excited to keep checking back for new info and adventures, especially with Abbie. We have 2 dogs that will be coming with us as well, so reading how each family handles the transition is very helpful.

    Thanks for the great stories and pics! ~Amanda

  4. Alex says:

    Amanda — Too funny! I haven’t been to Dakar myself, but I hear it’s more developed than anywhere else in West Africa, so I suspect you’ll be able to find some Western-style stores too. I look forward to hearing more about it!

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