Togo - Attractions
Before the country's political troubles of the 1990s, Lomé was the pearl of West Africa. Nearly everyone who swept through the region stopped in Lomé for a few days at the beach. French and German tourists, especially, would flock in during the winter, living it up in the city's five-star hotels and fine restaurants. But travellers are fairly scarce these days, and many businesses are just getting by. Though a few hotels still do a brisk business, most tourist facilities now bide their time in a semi-deserted ambience. There are a few Internet cafés opening up in Lomé with cheap and reliable connections. It's the only place in Togo you'll find public access to the Internet.
On the Place de l'Independence stands a gilded bronze statue of the man behind the muscle, President Eyadéma, and another of his mother; both were removed during the civil disturbances of 1991. The Palais des Congrès was previously the headquarters of Eyadéma's party. Behind the Palais, the National Museum houses a collection of historical artefacts, pottery and woodcarvings.
For a livelier tour, the Grand Marché in the town centre is a three-storey hive of buying and selling. Inside, you'll find everything from modern manufactured goods to traditional African foods, arts and textiles. For batiks, wooden sculptures and leather work, the best place to look is the quiet Village Artisanal, where you can ogle the artists at work. There are also artisan stalls near the Hôtel du Golfe, but be prepared to fend off the touts if you drop by.
The Marché des Féticheurs, 8km (5mi) west of the centre, has a somewhat spookier collection, including potions, dried animal organs and other items used in traditional medicine. It's become something of a tourist trap, but it's still worth a look.
A 45-minute ride east of Lomé brings you to Aného, the colonial capital of Togo until 1920. Although today's town looks a little worse for wear, it can be interesting to pick your way through those buildings that remain standing and to watch the daily activities of the fisher-folk deftly navigating their boats and hauling in their nets in the late afternoon.
At night, Aného is at its best, with a variety of food vendors and musicians filling the air with scents and sounds. It makes for great beer-sipping and people-watching.
Aného, lies 2km (1.25mi) west of the Benin border. Four kilometres (2.5mi) north of Aného, the village of Glidji is the site of one of the country's major oddities, the Guin Festival, held the second week of September.
On the northern banks of Lake Togo, Togoville's chief drawcard is its history. It was from here that voodoo practitioners were taken as slaves to Haiti, now a major centre for the practice. It was also in Togoville that chief Mlapa III signed a peace treaty with the German explorer Nachtigal, which gave the Germans rights over all of Togo.
Today, the only attractions are the chief's house, the church and the Artisanal, an art co-operative consisting of several buildings with artisans working in each. Most of the men are wood carvers, whose pieces are neither cheap nor of high quality, so you'll probably be let down. The nearby church has some beautiful stained-glass windows and pictures of the gruesome deaths of famous African martyrs.
The last point of interest is the Maison Royal, where the local chief lives, holds court and parks his shiny gold Mercedes. Mlapa V Moyennant will show you around his compound, including a 'museum' of photos of his grandfather and his throne, though a gift in return will be expected.
The bilharzia-free waters of Lake Togo are good for sailing, sailboarding and water-skiing, and you might be able to talk some local fishermen into taking you along on their daily fishing excursion.