Today’s guest post comes from one of our favorite contributors, Angie in this. Check out Angie’s blog here.
Have you ever seen a super cute skirt on a friend, or an adorable dress on a little girl, and said to yourself, “I want one just like that in my size!” Well, ladies, that right there is one of the best reasons to shop at a fëgg jaay. The deals on used clothes are great, of course, but it’s also the best place to shop for “modèles” for your next outfit. And, since tailors always do best when they have in hand a sample of what you want to have made, why not browse around for pieces you’d like to have him/her use for your next outfit?
So, whether I’m looking for inspiration, doing some frugal Christmas shopping, or simply stocking up on “winter” clothes, I always find an excuse to make a run to the nearest fëgg jaay. I’ve heard it translated as “swap meet,” but I don’t know if that’s precise enough. Perhaps no term in the English language can fully capture the wonder of a chaotic, ambulant market that offers the best deals on clothes, shoes, belts, purses, bedding, and much, much more. I’m so enamored with said markets that I do all my shopping there before returning to N. America so I’ll have plenty of cute “new” clothes to wear for my trip. This, of course, is in contrast to most friends who can’t wait to hit the malls as soon as they arrive in the land of plenty! (I do, however, buy my underwear at the outlets back home. You gotta draw the line somewhere!)
Here’s the places you can find this moving market throughout the week:
Monday: Orange Stadium Parking Lot, off the airport road
Wednesday: the street along Casino Sahm
Saturday: rue Front de Terre
My personal favourite is the Monday Market, because it’s organized in a rectangular space (as opposed to the long, serpentine set up of most of the other markets). That means that if you see something you like and you want to keep shopping and think it over, you can easily find your way back to that vendor. When a market is spread out over block after block of urban madness, it can be pretty difficult to weave your way back to where you think you might have seen that perfect pair of pumps you had your eye on.
What to Wear
Wear a form fitting top in a neutral colour you wear often, so you can picture what your bottoms will look like with it. And also, so you can slip other tops on over what you’re wearing.
Wear a skirt with biker shorts on underneath, so you can try on pants with ease.
Wear flip flops so you can slip in and out of your shoes quickly to try on both shoes and pants.
If you have long hair, wear your hair up and out of your way, as you don’t want your lovely locks coming in unnecessary contact with some of the grittiness you’ll experience. 🙂
What to Bring
Basic Wolof. No one expects you to be fluent, but you’ll go far to win over those around you (vendors and fellow shoppers) if, at each stall you visit, you begin by greeting everyone with a simple, “Asalamualekum! Nan ngeen def?”
Bring a bag ‘o bags to contain all the goodies you buy. It helps if they’re not the kind that dig into your shoulders when weighed down with treasures.
Your cell phone to get a second opinion on purchases you’re unsure of. Keep your ringer set to LOUD, as you won’t hear it otherwise.
Optional: A working knowledge of European sizing isn’t necessary, but it is handy.
If shopping for bedding, make sure you know the measurements of your bed and are able to tell which sheets are the right size for your beds. Vendors have been known to get mixed up.
Water. All that haggling makes me so thirsty!
A list of what you want/need. It’s so easy to get distracted by all the wonderful options and end up coming home with five cute new tops and no pants, when that’s what you really needed!
Lots of small bills. I hoard my change in the days leading up to my visit to the market just for this purpose.
Time. As a general rule, I stay away from anything on a hanger. Those are the priciest items, hand picked by the vendor, and they often go for twice the price of anything on the ground. So, I tend to stick to the piles below. If you’ve got a few hours to spend, you may enjoy scouring through mountains of blouses/shirts to find the perfect collection of tops in a variety of colours and styles at 100-300 CFA ($0.20-$0.60) each. Sure, some won’t fit or look quite right once I get them home, but at that price, I can afford to buy a few duds, which can be set aside to be donated to the women’s prison or another worthy cause.
Sometimes, however, you may only have an hour or two. When that’s the case, by all means, pick from the clothes nicely displayed on hangers, or in the case of kids’ clothes, neatly arranged on a table, sorted by size and gender. You’ll pay twice as much, but it will still be a fraction of the price of anything in N. America (even at thrift stores!).
Finally, bring a sense of humour, as people tend to stare at the crazy toubab trying on other toubabs‘ discarded clothes in public, and then haggling for the best price. I consider the attention part of the experience. Flow with it and you’ll have a great experience and come home with lots of great deals and probably a story or two to share!