Abuja, Nigeria – Nigeria’s Northern Star

When I think back to my time in Abuja, what comes to mind first are the long shadowy boulevards we drove down during our time there. Abuja is a stunning, comparatively calming state in sharp contrast to Lagos. Lagos and Abuja are like the stereotypical siblings, one is lively and boisterous the other melancholic and easy going. 

Abuja is only a 45 minute flight from Lagos and costs an average of 40,000 Naira ( circa £80)for a return ticket.

Millenium park – rock photo bombs majestically


Abuja is rocky, hot (most times) and sparsely populated. It really is a breath of fresh air from chaotic Lagos. It’s always nice getting out of the city and experiencing more of natural beauty. In Abuja, nature is closer though it’s a political hub and the capital state of Nigeria. 

Asides the memorable boulevards, Nkoyo, an authentic restaurant we visited was another highlight. The restaurant was beautiful and served delicious food. The staff were also very helpful and polite.

Inside Nkoyo

Edikaikong and pounded yam

Jollof and Fried rice with some fish


To get those souvenirs that prove your travel but also, and more importantly, to experience a bit of Nigerian artistry, it is a must that you visit the Arts and Culture Village in Abuja. We spent ages just strolling though the mini huts and watching artists at work. To be honest, many times we escaped into cool shady huts just to escape the unforgiving heat and sun pummelling us. 

The Arts and Crafts Village



Artist at work

Cassava Republic


At the Crafts village, there was a tiny bookshop called Cassava Republic selling an array of books centerimg round Africa and Africans and I was in heaven! My little niece and her friend were also quite pleased with the children’s books available. Cassava Republic is also a publishing house, all the books in the shop were published by them.

For many Nigerians, Zuma rock is the image that represents Abuja. The rock also features on the nations 100 Naira note. Surprisingly, I found out that Zuma rock isn’t actually in Abuja but in the neighbouring colossal Niger State. The rock is just outside the North of Abuja in Niger. For some reason though, Abuja has claimed the rock as its pride and joy.

Almost better than getting to the rock was seeing it in the horizon as we drove towards it. It’s a huge charismatic monolith which definitely leaves more of an impression than any of the other rocks I saw that decorates Abuja (perhaps why Abuja doesn’t make corrections when people suppose it’s actually situated within its territory…). As many things of grandeur in Nigeria, the rock has its own superstitious stories attached to it and hearing them as we approached the rock almost made me turn back – but I found my courage.

Zuma rock approaches

Gateway to the North East


Zuma Rock

My first voyage to the North of Nigeria was incredible. It reminded me, once again of how vast this nation is and the variety of beauty on offer.

Millenium Park

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Nigeria in Foods

This humble post is in praise of Nigerian foods in all its colour, variety and tastes. 

Now, this post only grazes the surface of the plethora of foods in the country, and this list is quite biased as it only shows foods from a small part of the country. Either way, enjoy the optical gorgeousness and I hope one day, if you haven’t already, you get to taste the gloriousness. 

My favourite is the ewa goin, the last picture, which is specially made beans with a grainy stew. Perfect with the popular Agege bread for breakfast 😋

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Various stews and meats


Eba, pounded yam, dodo, rice etc


Ofada rice


Eko and tilapia fish

Ewa and dodo

Fried rice, jollof rice, dodo, and fish(not sure which)

 

Pounded yam and Edikaikong

You know what these are 😂, we have them in Nigeria too

Ewa goin

Lagos, Nigeria – Chaotic Bliss

Lagos is chaos that manages to work. Like a piece of machinery that has all of its bits and bobs hanging loose but still manages to function. It’s chaotic harmony though sometimes just plain chaos.

Been looking forward to the day when I get to write about Nigeria, after all that’s where I was born and bred.

Finally, the time has come!

I went back home to Lagos a few days ago having been away from its blissful chaos for 4 years. The last time I went back I was surprised to find that I had completely deacclimatised from Lagos and it’s madness and friends literally had to hold my hand to cross the road! There was so much going on all at once, which really sums up Lagos, that crossing the road became mission impossible.

I especially enjoyed seeing all the colourful trees in full bloom , Lagos is truly evergreen.Returning to see the skeletal trees in London would be a shock.

Fast forward 4 years on from my last visit, I hardly noticed a drastic change from London to Lagos despite the obvious differences. I fit right into Lagos life and had my “Lagos Sense” on a 100% (there’s an extra sense that you possess that only works in Lagos, it basically is a hyper sensitivity of all your other senses and a heightened awareness of your surroundings in addition, your brain is at optimum efficiency. Without Lagos sense in Lagos, you will quickly be outsmarted, outwitted and overwhelmed)

Can I start by saying thank God for Uber in Lagos. That’s how I mostly got around and it made nowhere seem beyond my reach. Also, Uber drivers make great conversations from talk about “Herculean tasks” to “bunch of aliens” (i.e.danfo drivers) to start-up fashion businesses to life threatening stops by major roads to get puff puff. 

My first stop in Lagos was Nike Art Gallery which was way beyond what I had expected. The gallery hosts hundreds of masterpieces made from artists all over the country. Stunning pieces that take your breath away and force you to stand and stare at their glorious beauty. Every single piece of painting or sculpture was pure artistic genius. The gallery was three floors high and stacked to the brim with art.

It is located in Lekki, Lagos and is a must-see!

Nike Art Gallery

Nike Art Gallery

Nike Art Gallery

 

Still on the Island in Lagos,(Lagos is divided into mainland and the island) I visited Terra Kulture. Terra Kulture is a popular spot in Nigeria to hang out as it has everything. It has a great restaurant serving some authentic dishes, it hosts a well stocked book shop which also has pieces such as African print wallets and bags and fridge magnets which tourists will love. On the top floor is situated a small art gallery which has some amazing pieces. So you get a really satisfying visit here. They are currently extending property and will continue to host theatrical shows as well. Terra Kulture is very Nigerian and was created to laud Nigerian creativity and inspire a desire to be educated on things Nigerian. You will often see people with their laptops working in the book shop. It’s a cool creative space.

Terra Kulture

Some other places I went to which might be helpful information are:

The Nail Studio 

Location – 9 Bishop Aboyade Cole Street, Lagos Island

The studio offers more than just a nail bar, and is well equipped for beauty needs. I got a gel manicure and my first pedicure in a very loooong time!

KL’s Naturals Salon

Location – 29C Ikorodu Crescent, Dolphin Estate Lagos

I have been following this natural hair salon for almost a year on instagram, gazing in admiration at the amazing up-dos and styles created with natural hair. Of course, I had to go visit when I was in Lagos.

Now, I have been natural for over 2 years and only been to a natural hair stylist once. It was a bad experience and I had a pulsating scalp for over a week after the violent hair combing I experienced. I hardly comb my Afro hair and always finger detangle hence I am terrified of combs, especially wielded by other people, anywhere near my hair.

I was a bit nervous about visiting another hair stylist after my horror experience at the other stylist in London, however, I left happy and with a spring in my step after visiting KL’s naturals! They took the time to gently finger detangle my matted hair, which immediately impressed me. My hair wasn’t touched by a comb until the stylist had made sure my hair was well finger detangled and deep conditioned, then she gently combed my hair. I also had a trim and a blow dry which just exploded my usually shrunken hair into a lions mane. I was happy to better see how long my hair really was. To tame the mane, I asked for a French braid which was done really well and I was on my jolly way. If you have natural hair and are in Lagos just go to KL’s naturals.

Now something that may sound strange which I did a lot of in Lagos was go to the cinema. I watched 4 movies in less than 2 weeks because they were so cheap. You can watch a movie for as little as 500 Naira (£1) in Lagos. Movies also come out in cinemas when they do in America, so I was able to watch movies that are not yet in the cinemas in London. If you think cinemas are overpriced in London, if you are ever in Nigeria make sure you watch as many movies as you can but not to the detriment of more culturally enlightening experiences of course…..

As a farewell, my big brother took me to this amazing restaurant called Nok by Alara, a contemporary restaurant with food from not just Nigeria but other African countries such as Ivory Coast. Not exactly sure what to call it as people seemed to know it as Alara, which is actually the luxury shop attached to the restaurant but the restaurant itself is called Nok.
It was obviously quite posh, asides the fact it had a beautiful luxury boutique shop attached to it selling brands such as YSL. The decor was exquisite and the staff were on tip top form. The seating outside the restaurant was really gorgeous with colourful woven seats scattered around. Our meal was quite expensive as far as prices in Lagos restaurants go and for the first time since I got to Nigeria, the portions were small. However, the food was really good.

Nok by Alara

Nok

Tilapia fish and Eko

Outside seating, Nok

Lagos was no where near as stressful as I envisaged it to be though like London it is an inherently stressful place because it’s perpetually buzzing. Lagos can be a relaxing holiday destination if you want it to be. If you however really want to get your teeth into the beast that is Lagos, you need to step out of your car or Uber and hit the streets, buy street food, go to open markets and of course take danfo i.e. Nigerian public buses, which are an experience all of their own. All life is represented in any one of those 13 seater buses you see crazily speeding round the city. They are microcosms of life’s complexities, I kid you not. They can very easily become a therapists office, a pharmacists desk, a comedy show or a court room.

*Asides Lagos, I also visited Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. To hear of my time here which included beautiful rock formations and more yummy food, please read the second part of this blog post which will follow shortly!

Burundi – Bujumbura and Matana

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Sunset – if you look to the horizon you can just see the silhouette of hills in the DR Congo

 

Burundi is a piece of heaven. So strikingly beautiful and raw and perfect. You never hear of Burundi as a tourist destination nor do you see it in National Geographic, but it’s beauty is on par with many more famous beautiful destinations. My whole time there (3 months) was very authentic and non-touristy in many ways. I went there to volunteer with a local church in the hills of Burundi in a village called Matana.

We flew into Bujumbura, the capital city. It is very mellow, in my opinion, for a capital city. Of course it was more hectic than the villages, but in comparison to say…Lagos, another African capital city..it was really mellow. But then again most cities are incomparable to Lagos, even the staunchest Londoner/New Yorker would find Lagos overwhelming at the very least. I would recommend visiting the tourist market which have loads of handcrafted things you can buy for people back home. Cafe Gourmand was also a nice treat, its a patisserie where you get all the usual sweet stuff and ice cream, unsurprisingly loads of westerners congregate there.

Now, Matana, was where I spent most of my time in Burundi. It is a village in the hills, Burundi is mostly hills covered in lush green and tea farms (tea is really good here). I love rural living, I live quite rural in the UK and just love the peace and slower pace of life. Matana is very beautiful and most people live off the land and rare cattle. People are proud of their cows and I saw one of the biggest cows I have ever seen in my life whilst up there, granted it was also pregnant. When it rains up here it pours, its loud and very heavy, nothing like you would ever see in England. It’s a deluge. Then the after-rain smell is just gorgeous due to all the green and red earth..urgh..perfection!

Of course, I  visited Lake Tanganyika a couple of times. It’s the biggest freshwater lake in Africa and second biggest in the world by volume. In some parts, the beach is white and the lake very clean and you feel you are in the Caribbean and not beside a humongous lake. At some point we were driving to Blue Bay resort and on one side of the road were huge hills dotted with palm trees and on the other side was the beautiful lake, needless to say I was awestruck the entire time.

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Lake Tanganyika

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Blue Bay

For the first time in my life, I finally got to see a water fall  after climbing through the hills in Rutana. The Karera Falls were amazing and I truly felt blessed to have the opportunity to be in this beautiful country filled with such natural beauty.

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Karera Falls, Rutana, Burundi

To add more to the wonders of Burundi, one of the sources of the Nile can be found here, it’s only a trickle now but nevertheless a must-see. Of all the places I have traveled to, I felt my most content and complete in Burundi; the rolling hills, the Lake, the people, the red earth. The beauty that surprised me at every turn and the the generally slow pace of life really does give this little gem heavenly traits!