Etymology: “The most likely earliest derivation is from the Wolof word for Europe “Tougal”. In the same way that Wolof means the people of Jollof, Toubab means the people of Tougal (Europe)”
Street meaning: Foreigner.
And boy did I feel like one today;-) I just needed a good espresso and a croissant and some time hanging in a restaurant. Deidre and I walked out of the neighborhood, grabbed a cab heading towards the heart of Bamako, found a bank with a working ATM (!!!!) and ended up at a French patisserie (remember that this was a French Colony for awhile). The espresso was great and the croissant and triple layer chocolate cake thing (I was greedy) was heavenly. Just sitting in an European style cafe for a few hours was enough to reset the body and get ready for more of the African experience.
Walking a block down the road, we came to the Toubab styled grocery store called Le Fourmi (translation, “the ant” …. what a weird name for a grocery store). It reminded me of a small but well-stocked general store with a bit of a modern big box feel. Though the street markets of Africa have blessed me with amazing sights and smells and experiences, wandering around the shelves at this store was relaxed enough to truly take in the more subtle cultural differences between Africa and the West. i.e. the toothpaste they use, the soap that is available, their cleaning supplies and methods. Did you know that there are imported brands of Cocoa Puff knock offs that sell like hot-cakes? Or that one of my favorite brands of single malt scotch can be had at a fraction of the cost of its selling price back in Portland? (Yes Scotty, its a bit of Scotch heaven here). Best of all was that we actually had time to browse and didn’t have to fight off the hucksters.
Not that the hucksters are a bad thing. Its actually quite a hoot to wade through them and take in the experience. Just not today.