There is something wonderful about shopping in a local fruit and vegetable market, whether it it be at home or overseas. However, the chaos of an African market is a real eye-opener. Here are my experiences of the “Crazy Market” in Eswatini.
Adventure at the “Crazy Market”
Mahlanya Market in Eswatini is often called the “Crazy Market”, and for very good reason. Visiting Mahlanya is like being swept up by a enthusiastic human river, never really too sure where you’re going to end up. It can be quite daunting, but once you know the etiquette and how to deal with things it can be also a real adventure.
The smell is certainly something different – ripe juicy pineapples mingling with the rotting of cabbage leaves and fresh spinach battling with the smell of damp potatoes that have been kept in a brown paper bag for too long. There is the tempting aroma of slowly baking maize over a wood fire vying with overripe avocados, and beautifully fresh spring onions up against squidgy pawpaws. It is an assault on your senses.
And then there is the clamour of people as they approach you trying to gain your attention and persuade you to visit their stall.
“You want potato, sweet potato, butternut? Come to my stall.”
“Ma’am, I have ripe avocados or maybe you want tomatoes, onions, oranges….?”
“I give you very good price, give you very good price.”
“Buy my tomatoes, one packet or two?”
I often shop in Mahlanya Market, especially if I have a group with me. Not only does it give an extraordinary experience of being in an African market, the fruit and veg is also exceptionally fresh too. I love watching the surprise on people’s faces as they contended with this sensory overload, looking in awe at the beautifully stacked and carefully arranged vegetables. And also marvelling at how cheap everything is. The food is so healthy here.
The Benefits of Buying Local
But the best thing is getting to know the local people here, haggling and laughing with them at the same time. Learning about the weird and wonderfully different fruits and vegetables they have on sale is wonderful – there are some wacky fruits here. And whilst this is all happening you know you are supporting local livelihoods as well as buying fresh fruit and veg. You can seriously taste the difference. The enthusiasm about their local wares is extraordinary and before you know it you will also be an expert in every single item on sale in the vicinity.
I always come away with having bought too much but that’s a small price to pay for decent raw ingredients. There is the feel good factor, a smile and a wave as you depart the once-in-a-lifetime experience of an African Market.