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Togo - Culture

Togo Culture

Approximately 20% of Togolese are Christians, 10% are Muslims and the remainder are animists. Most of the Christians live in the south, and many of them are Ewé. An equal number of Ewé are animist, however, and put some faith in reincarnation, a hallmark of that religion.

With about 40 ethnic groups and around 4 million people, Togo has one of the more heterogeneous populations in Africa. The two largest groups are the Ewé, who are concentrated in the south and comprised of many smaller groups (Anlo, Adja, Peda, Plah, Guin, etc), and the Kabyé, who are concentrated in the north and central parts of Togo and are known as skillful terrace farmers. Though French is the country's official language, about half of its people speak or understand Ewé, and the second most widely spoken African language is Kabyé.

Culturally, the various ethnic groups are quite distinct on a number of issues. The Ewé consider the birth of twins a great blessing and offer kola nuts and water to figurines thought to embody the twin spirit - you may see these figurines for sale in marketplaces. The same reverence, however, is not universal; the Bassari consider the birth of twins to be a grave misfortune and used to kill one or both of them. The same contrast between groups is seen with eating habits: in the south the Ewé eat cat and consider anyone who eats dog a barbarian, while in the north the Kabyé eat dog but not cat.

The food in Togo is among the best in West Africa, and there are lots of places to try it, especially in Lomé. Nearly everything is served in a sauce called, handily enough, sauce, and most dishes are accompanied by a starchy substance such as rice, pâte (made with millet, corn, plantains, manioc or yams), ablo (made with corn and sugar), monplé (made with fermented corn) or foufou (don't ask). One of the more common meals is rice with peanut sauce, known as riz sauce arachide. Each district also has its culinary specialities. Along the coast, lamounou déssi or sauce de poisson (fresh fish sauce) is most popular, but other sauces include aglan (crab), gboma (spinach), tomate (tomato), aubergine (eggplant) and épinard (spinach). Other Togolese dishes include abobo (snails cooked like a brochette), egbo pinon (smoked goat), koklo mémé (grilled chicken with chilli sauce) and koliko (fried yams), which you'll see everywhere on the streets. Palm wine and tchakpallo (fermented millet) are the brews of choice in the south and north, respectively.

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