Things to do in Lagos: Balogun Market

market lagos nigeria

When I was little, my mother would take me to Balogun market to buy me a ‘Christmas dress’, ‘banger’ (I don’t know what non-Nigerians call ‘banger’ 🙂 ), sparklers and other Christmas-y things.  It was then that I learned to hate Balogun market.  I loved the things my mother bought and I loved the excitement of Christmas in the air but the whole expedition was a nightmare.  The market was always packed with people pushing and shoving.  Although my mother generally held my hand in the market, sometimes our hands would be forced apart by the people rushing about and I would squirm through the throng desperately to catch sight of my mother.  I feared that my mother wouldn’t be able to find me and I would have to stay in the market and live there forever.  Yes, children have active imaginations.

Recently, I needed to buy fabrics and my mother said the best place to get a wide variety at reasonable prices was at Balogun market.  My heart sank at the thought of going there but I’ve been working hard on thinking positively about everything so I told myself that after all these years (it must be at least 20 years since I went to that market last), Balogun would have changed.  It would be more organised, cleaner and a nicer place to be.  Maybe even a place I could encourage people to go to on my blog.  It turns out that either positive thinking doesn’t work or I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet because my experience of Balogun market was the worst ever.

Apparently, there doesn’t have to be a festive season around the corner for the market to be packed.  I wonder how many people pass through that market every day.  It must be hundreds of thousands.  There were more people selling on the streets there than ever before.  I remember commenting to my mother that I thought we were on a pedestrian-only side street until a bus blared its horn and traders reluctantly began moving their wares which they had placed directly on the road.  It was dry season when I went to the market yet there was water and mud everywhere.  Some male traders have a nasty habit of holding your hand to encourage you to stop at their shop.  That kind of behaviour was typical in the Tejuosho market of old but those traders must have moved to Balogun market because they tugged at me incessantly.  When I spoke sharply to one of them, my mother heard, turned around and almost got into a fight with him.  I practically had to drag her away.  Balogun feels very like a kill or be killed place.  To top it off, the traders aren’t even particularly polite.  I always wondered if they were confused about who the customer was.

My mother was right about Balogun market.   We did find a wide variety of fabrics there and at good, reasonable prices but the whole experience of trying to park in an already-full parking lot, scrambling through the market, haggling with traders and being sexually-harassed was so tiring that I wouldn’t advice anyone to go there unless they absolutely had to or just wanted to get a feel of the market.  I’ll work on my positive thinking some more and hope that the next time I go to Balogun (hopefully in another 20 years), the market would have changed for the better.


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