Sunday, August 8, 2010

World's Largest Market: 'The Roque' (The Rock)

The Roque Santeiro Market, a name that comes from the famous Brazilian soap opera that was a hit among the soap-opera crazed Angolans, is known for being the biggest open-air market in Africa, for transacting thousands of dollars a day, and for being the main stage for the sale of every imaginable product. Located in a northern suburb of Luanda, the capital, the 'Roque' is the size of 500 soccer fields in an area that measures one kilometer by one half a kilometer, housing 200,000 vendors. The infrastructure of each vendor stall is minimal: each “store” has a packed dirt floor, and the best roofs are some old, worn tin sheets, though more commonly just tarp.

The Roque Santeiro Market was established in its current venue in the 1980’s, at a time when the country was still beaten down by war and provisions were scarce. Initially designed like the Boa Vista Market of Portugal, the commercial area was perhaps the only location where it was possible a little bit of everything.  Now, today almost anything can be found for sale there.  Since the market is a large open-air commercial center, it certainly shouldn’t be wanting for a movie theater. The movie theater has two rooms and is built of wood and pieces of tarp, with seating capacity for 50 people each.

Currently, though the Roque Santeiro Market is means of survival for many Angolan families, at the same time the market is also a haven for criminals who have given the commercial area its bad name.  Though through hidden means, items such as guns and arms trafficking and both adult and child sexual services are reportedly able to be found.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the market’s days are numbered. The Luandan government plans to move the market from the Sambizanga to Panguila, located nearly 30 kilometers to the north of Luanda. The date has yet to be decided.

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