Words by Karine Laudort (AKA Kay Flawless)
With a diverse terrain and beautiful culture my recent trip to Togo was an enlightening, amazing experience. Togo is a tropical, sub-Saharan nation, highly dependent on agriculture, with a climate that provides good growing seasons. I had such a wonderful experience exploring and attending The Woman’s Night in Togo, hosted by AEA Foundation(Agir Ensemble pour l’Afrique: Acting Together For Africa).
My journey began on Thursday 5th March by a very early 6.25am connecting flight from London to Paris, where I joined other journalists who were also on their way to Lomé, capital and largest city of Togo, in West Africa.
The flight journey was just over 6 hours and was a pleasant experience. Upon arrival in Togo, I was instantly kissed with the heat and breeze of my thoroughly missed Africa (as my last trip there was in Mali, over 5 years ago). For the duration of my entire trip, the international press team and I stayed at the luxurious presidential 5-star Hotel 2 Fevrier, in Lomé.
Ideally located in the heart of the capital, only 4 miles from the airport, the hotel was very close to the corporate district, embassies but also local amenities such as restaurants, night clubs (I recommend Aské Bar & the exclusive Oyo Bar, the very first Sky Bar in Lomé) and shops. The facilities were ultra modern, with a fitness center, marble interior as well as prints, amazing artwork, not to mention 2 stunning indoor (Niamélé) and outdoor (Akwaba Pool Bar & Grill) restaurants. Walking into my suite, I was stunned by a breathtaking view from the 11th floor overlooking the corporate district, a very spacious living space, a beautifully decorated bedroom, with a large desk, seating room area and a lush bathroom.
After an amazing rest, the next day waking up to an assortment of either cooked traditional dishes, continental breakfast with freshly baked pastries, fresh juices (including bissap and one the most delicious pineapple juice I have ever tasted), cheese selection and fresh fruits, at the breakfast buffet was a great start to the day. We then made our way to the eponymous, yet very well known boutique, Nadiaka. Named after its Togolese founder, fashion designer, Nadiaka (Nadia Karimu-Yessoufou), the store offers an amazing variety of ready-to-wear but also bespoke traditionally handmade evening and occasion wear for women mostly, men and children, accessories and shoes.
Nadiaka ever so kindly dressed me, the two ladies who were hosting The Woman’s Nightand my dear friend, Ayden, journalist, TV producer & fashion designer (who was interviewing all the V.I.P’s on red carpet and covering the overall evening, for her weekly lifestyle TV programme called BE FAB aired weekly on BET France). BET being the main international TV network and international media partner of the event.
Togo clothing varies from region to region, from ethnic group to ethnic group. Generally, the Togo traditional middle-class clothing includes a silky fabric that falls below the knees. Visiting the market was a wonderful cultural experience. Being immersed in the Togolese never ending fabric stalls and wholesalers, street tradesmen and women, and the general hectic hustle and bustle of the crowded streets was so exciting.
The culture as a whole is so vibrant and rich in beautiful history. We took local taxis to go from place to place and I even reluctantly once took a motorbike taxi (after being talked to) to go to the market, although thrilling, I was very happy to have made it in one piece. That same afternoon, just before heading back to the hotel, we went to Lome Beach, a golden sandy beach, by the city centre and on the coast of Togo. It is more of a local beach rather than for tourists, which was very quiet during the day and boasted of a long stretch of palm trees. Fishermen could be spotted resting in the shade, under their boats. I was told however it was getting very busy at night and during the weekend.
Back at the hotel for dinner time, which was always an amazing experience as it was usually is at the outdoor pool & bar-restaurant, I definitely sampled an array of traditional French West African dishes including fresh prawn & mango salad and other fresh fish and seafood options (as I am pescatarian) and now have made my mind up on my new favourite pizza in Togo: L’Africaine (specialty of the hotel). Togolese usually have two or three meals per day, each consisting largely of a starch product, such as cassava, rice, yams, or plantains. Traditional French staples, including baguettes, are mainstream in the cities.
One of my favourite dishes during my stay was these heavenly spaghetti and lobster. As pescatarian and avid lover of all things seafood, the lobster was cooked to perfection and the meal was nicely finished off with a rum and raisin ice-cream (reminding me of my Caribbean roots and home island, Guadeloupe).
The Woman’s Night was the perfect end to an amazing adventure in Togo. The evening was a celebration of women in general, and in particular women’s entrepreneurship, the education of young girls, maternal and child health, access to drinking water.
It was a delight to be in such a positive environment as well as meeting so many amazing people all there for a great cause. Lome definitely left me with amazing memories and definitely the wish to come back, as it felt like a home away from home.
Words by Karine Laudort (AKA Kay Flawless)