Merkato is Africa’s biggest market
A chaotic place at first sight, Merkato Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is the biggest open air market in Africa employing 13,000 people. The market is organized in sections for spices, coffee, metal scraping, recycling, textiles, second-hand clothes, pots, baskets and many more – dotted with tailors and shoe-shiners.
There is a constant flow of people, cars, trucks and donkeys, carrying merchandise on narrow alleys. It is quite overwhelming. Heavy weights, such as a stack of three or four mattresses, are carried on the head by merchants while keeping the balance and navigating through the busy alleys.
Same as in the Serekunda Market in Banjul, the Gambia, people don’t like to be photographed, even from a distance, and they can be quite angry. For close-ups it is always polite to ask first for permission. The answer is always “no” unless you pay or buy something.
“Keep your camera in your hand at all times” – the policeman at the entrance of the market told me.
I always carry a backpack, which is an attraction for potential thieves. Suspicious young men will follow me waiting for an opportunity. Once spotted, they will go away.
Having a local tour guide and a small camera, Ricoh GR II, I became more confident in taking photos in this truly wild and amazing market.
What impressed me is the creativity of the people and finding something to do, even if that means taking the copper wires out of their insulation or polishing sneakers. “There’s even a ‘recycling market’, where sandals (made out of old tyres), coffee pots (from old Italian olive tins) and other interesting paraphernalia can be found.” (Lonely Planet)