Make no mistake; Lagos bristles and hums with sound from the moment you are hit by the din of traffic in the sweltering heat of the city, until the noise dies down in the wee hours of the morning.
My maiden visit was punctuated by the thud of speedboats hitting the water; more of thrill than transport necessity for its owners as I woke up to an endearing sunrise over the Atlantic.
Then there’s the boisterousness of the people, whose conversations are nearly always carried out at top volume. There are welcoming tones as well, and an eagerness to help you get around. Days begin with choruses of greetings – “Good morning, Ma and Sir, Oga, how are the children?” and the lengthy felicitations that precede any serious conversation.
The richness of the culture is conveyed in the music, sonances, voices and echoes of a thousand venues. Sitting at Bogobiri House’s open mic nights with upcoming poets and writers as you drink hot pepper soup. The band strikes up a tune and you are likely to catch snippets of Marley, Fela and even Asa’. Be ready to eavesdrop on the latest political and business gossip from the locals or foreign correspondents calling it a day.
Sounds composed of a million words, from the pettiest chatter, to the loftiest literature, to the smooth lyrics emanating from the jazz singer’s velvet throat. There’s literature everywhere. Achebe, Soyinka with his great white hair, Chimamanda, Cassava Republic’s upcoming writers and Lola Shoneyin’s Ake Arts Festival. Sometimes I simply head out to the Jazzhole on Awolowo Road, where a fusion of musical collections, rare literary reads, and oh, that important cup of coffee waits.
I love to head out to Freedom Park every third Friday of the month for Afropolitan Vibes, a weekly musical gathering that has garnered quite a following over the years. Forget Nollywood for a while; it is at Terra Kulture that I get my weekend theatre fix (N 2500-5000 for a show), great lunch options at the restaurant adjacent, and artists on display at the gallery upstairs.
Lagos’ sartorial elegance is unrivalled. Everyone has to bling it up. Drivers wear knock-off Rolexes, Breitlings and Patek Philippes, just to keep with the trends. Stiff geles adorn perfectly made-up faces at the Ikoyi Marriage Registry, as do colourful hats in church on Sunday morning. You could be forgiven for thinking you are at the Royal Ascot races in England.
I celebrate the beauty of ankara fabric and lace found in hundreds of colours and prints – vlisco worn by high society, or simple Ghanaian wax wrappers for the woman selling plantains by the roadside. Men stand proud in their stiffened agbadas and embroidered kaftans, which contrast with Ermenegildo Zegna suits worn to the office when negotiating business deals.
Lagos is one round loop from the mainland to Apapa’s turbulent port terminals. There’s a strange beauty in the urban jungle — the swanky Lekki-Ikoyi bridge lights up brilliantly at night (this is where Johnny Walker was once rumoured to have kept walking, complete with a picture taken) and the monumental Carter Bridge, where roads interchange, is a snarled, undulating feat of engineering. Just don’t get stuck on the S-shaped Third Mainland Bridge, which is your only link in and out of the Lagos Island, particularly if you are rushing to the airport.
Weekends are for parties and beach Sundays. We catch a boat under the Falomo Bridge where we get our weekly assortment of fresh fish, prawns and for the locals, a basketful of snails, which are a delicacy here.
Or we head off to Ilashe Beach along the Badagry Creek or Tarkwa Bay Beach where our feet sink into delectable warm sand and we can safely swim. We’ve packed cooler boxes full of ice cold drinks, accompanied by small chops and we enjoy suya from those roasting it nearby. If we’re feeling adventurous, there’s the remnant of Bar Beach along Victoria Island where we mingle with the locals and survey the engineers building Africa’s newest city – the Eko Atlantic.
Ever heard the quirky line that no matter how hot your temper is, it cannot cook yam? Food brings us together. Jollof rice certainly unites us – as does fufu and okra sauce served with chunky plaintain. I love watching the morning workers huddle together by the roadside waiting for Mama Put’s piping hot akara (bean cakes), moi moi, suya or simple puff puff balls for their breakfast.
One is literally forced to rethink their idyllic sedentary lifestyle if they are to survive Lagos. It is a city that screams ‘urgency’, from the rush of the danfo (commercial taxi) drivers to the okada motorcycles that literally weave their way in traffic barely scratching the paint off your car. Just as you manage to get your breath back, you are assaulted by blaring horns signaling that the big man needs to pass.
The Lekki Craft market and Balogun are my choice when it comes to local souvenirs. Bags made of Ankara and crocodile skin, beaded necklaces, wood and stone carvings most likely from Benin are all the rage here. The paintings are worth bargaining over and will make a great addition to your walls.
More reasons we love Lagos: