People Spotting at Tourou Market, Cameroon

Shopping Essentials

Where: Tourou, Mandaran Mountains, Northern Cameroon, Central-West Africa
When: Market day is every Thursday
What’s in store: Magical concoctions, strange foods and knick-nacks – but it’s best for people sporting the Kirdi women with elaborate headpieces and football crazy youngsters

Getting to Tourou

The off-the-beaten-track town of Tourou is situated on the Nigerian border deep in theMandaran Mountains, accessible via Mokolo. It takes a great deal of effort to get here by public transport as you’ll have to share a battered pick-up with the locals and drive for hours on a very poor dirt track under a parching hot sun. But when you arrive you will discover an authentic and ancient animist culture.

What’s in Store in Tourou Market

Market day in Tourou, every Thursday, is a great time to visit. Traders come to buy and sell from remote mountain villages all across the surrounding area, usually having walked for hours to get here. All sorts of things are on sale from magic concoctions to plastic cutlery and strange foods like peanut paste, tamaring drink and millet beer.

People Of Tourou

Kirdi Women

In Tourou the Kirdi tradition of women dressing to indicate their marital status still survives. The weird helmet-shaped headgear, called a calabash, which many of the local women shows you the status of the women. There’s a calabash for all the different stages in their life: the first is given to them at the age of five, the second when they enter puberty, the third on their wedding day, and a brand new calabash each time they have a child. Each calabash is adorned with cryptic signs, meaningless to us but easily cracked by the local men who can spot a married women just by looking at her calabash. The women take great care of their headwear, especially on market day. They polish them with a special oil in an effort to have the shiniest one.

Footballers

Every market day there’s also an impromptu soccer game in Tourou. Local guys who fancy a game just turn up and play. Soccer is absolutely huge here in Cameroon. The country’s team have done really well in the World Cup and won the African Nations Cup numerous times. Every Cameroonian wants to be the next big soccer star and the people in Tourou are no exception.

Where To Stay

There’s nowhere to stay in Tourou as such, however, you could find a bed for the night without looking for too long, or you could set up camp against a small fee and sleep under the stars. For treks in the Mandaran Mountains go straight to the CAAJEF Office in Tourou near the shop that sells calabashes. They’ll provide you with an expert guide and itineraries.

More Information

Tribal People of Northern Cameroon
Journeys International tour taking in Tourou Market

By Marie-Laure Vigneron