Monday, November 3, 2008

Salon International de l'Artisanat de Ouagadougou (SIAO)

The biannual, weeklong International Arts and Crafts Exposition of Ouagadougou (SIAO) opened this past weekend. The event is in its 11th year. It draws exhibitors and craftsmen from all over Africa, and visitors and buyers from all over the world.

Kathy & I have thought of going, but question whether it’s worth the effort. We attended once back when we first came to Burkina. There are lots of beautiful and creative (and expensive!) things on display and for sale. On the last days of the event, there are even some good deals to be had as exhibitors are anxious to unload as many of their wares as possible before traveling home again. However, what we remember most is the intense heat, the immense crowds of people (in which our young teenage daughter was groped), and the looooong, dusty walk back to where our vehicle was parked.

From all reports, things have not improved in those areas. Our replacement guard runs a small clothes washing and ironing business near the SIAO, about 6-7 kms along the main road from our place. He says the site is an absolute zoo. The traffic jam is never-ending and the dust is constant and thick enough to choke you. Since nothing except the main road is paved, people looking for a parking spot or trying to find a way through or around the congestion are forced to take the dirt sideroads, inevitably raising huge clouds of fine dust that are then further swept along by the wind.

There really are no parking lots as we know them, just a few empty spaces near the exhibition centre for the attendees privileged or lucky enough to get them. Everyone else must find parking somewhere on the neighbourhood streets. Our guard says that unless you know the area well, chances are you’ll never be able to find your vehicle again!

I think we’ll do our arts and crafts buying in the local boutiques. We may not find the really creative stuff that characterizes the SIAO, but it’s less hassle (though not less haggling :) , definitely cheaper, and supports the local economy. And that sounds good to us!

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