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This is the outdoor market in Mamoudzou. Pretty much a permanent fixture, currently augmented reality thanks to the Ramadan market which has appended itself on top of the original.

I'm quite pleased with these photos because photos of the market are hard to get, assuming you're being relatively polite and actually asking permission before getting the camera out... which is usually my case, but not this time.

Three markets are pictured above, all in a relatively small space about the size of half a football field. The first picture shows the fish market. Fishermen dock there a couple of times a day with fresh fish. The fish is transferred to cardboard sheets placed on the ground, carefully laid out, and marketed to the hordes of people who know perfectly well what time the fishermen come in and who time their arrival accordingly. Once the initial hordes have dissipated, there remains a load of fish which the sellers will proceed to fan with branches and palm leaves in order to stop some of the flies. By the time the fishermen come back with a fresh load, what remains of the first lot is smelling... well... fishy.

The second market is the clothes market. A lot of salouvas - local wrap dress - and headscarves, as well as a lot of clothes from China or Taiwan, often poor-quality one-size-fits-all polyester stretchy stuff. The idea of one size fitting all somehow loses its credibility when brought to somewhere like Mayotte. Here, girls fit one of two sizes: up to their first pregnancy included, and after their second pregnancy. Size number one would be the English equivalent of an 8, if not a 6. A lot of first pregnancies register the mother's weight at an average of 42 kilogrammes. However, after two or more babies, women here balloon to a size twenty-something and their weight shoots over 100kg. There is no middle ground: they are either tiny or huge. Thus, the Chinese stretchy material either hangs on them, sticking to the bones, or is stretched to its maximum and showing all the white elastic fibres, not to mention the lady's various fat rolls, bra straps or whatever. This is where the salouva comes in very handy: it's a tube of material that effortlessly covers everything below armpit level, and really is one-size-fits-all, because the skinny ones just tie it tighter.

The third market is the food market. Mostly fruit and vegetables, with a few sandwiches, hot fizzy drink cans or eggs that have practically cooked themselves after a day in the sun. There's also poutou, or hot chili sauce, that is always homemade and stored and sold in jam jars and Pepsi bottles. Strong stuff, but the Mahorese can't live without it and put it on all their food. Without the poutou, they say, the food has no taste. With the poutou, everything tastes of poutou. Fruit and vegetables are either sold by piles or by weight. A pile can be for example five onions, three garlic cloves, four lemons or three tomatoes. One pile usually costs one euro. There are also more elaborate piles, made of four small pineapples, for example, or two big ones. These piles cost five euros. By weight, the system is as pictured below. There is a scale loaded down with whatever fruit or vegetable it is, and heaps more in the wheelbarrow or on the floor. Say you want two kilos of onions. In England, you would start with an empty scale and load the onions on to it. Here, you start with a full scale, and the seller removes onions until two kilos have gone. As a customer, you never see the scale and therefore can't check, but they wouldn't think of trying to cheat you, it's not deliberately hidden, just more practical for the seller to see what he or she is doing.


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The brown vegetable is cassava, in case you were wondering.