As Banky W appropriately said, “Ain’t no party like a Lagos party.” He could have sang something like, “Ain’t no traffic like Lagos traffic,” but I doubt that track would sell thousands of copies and receive plentiful airtime. You can fill in the blanks with almost anything and it will make sense. “Ain’t no blank like a Lagos blank.” The possibilities are endless because as I experienced from a week long vacation there last week, ain’t no city like Lagos.
It is impossible to see all of Lagos (pronounced Lay-gos, not Lah-gose like the one in Portugal, although the Portuguese did give the city known as Èkó, a new name of Lagos when they landed there in 1472) in a week–just like it takes months to really understand Manhattan, Chicago or London. I think it would even take years to master Lagos, the second largest city in Africa (behind Cairo) because of it’s ever growing density and pure madness. Driving around downtown VI, I felt like I was in New York City because of the wide streets, tall, not so sparkling buildings and people everywhere. People on the street in Lagos though are different than people on the street in NYC, Chicago or Rome (some of the big cities I’ve been to.) In the latter, the vast majority of people are 1) walking and 2) walking with a purpose. Plenty of people walk with a purpose in Lagos but a lot of other people are sitting or standing around the street selling things. Almost every street within the city is lined with women sitting on a small wooden stool with their market neatly stacked up in front of them waiting for someone to sell to. I cannot imagine what would happen if the city started requiring sellers to have vending licenses. The four of us who went, (three of us Oyinbos studying Yoruba and one Nigerian friend) were lucky enough to have our friend, a Lagotian, take us around the sprawling metropolis of islands from the comfort of the back seat of his Camry. (Lagos would not be an easy place to live without a car.) If we didn’t have him we would have been nose deep in our Nigeria travel book the whole time looking like dumb tourists.
A main concern for us Americans while in Lagos was finding good food. The three of us who went, Abike, Kayode and I are serious foodies so eating non-Nigerian food that is hard to find in Ibadan was of utmost importance. We started at the Indian hotel on VI for overpriced Indian food that was satisfying, but not worth it overall. We had drinks at Bungalow’s on VI. I had a glass of cranberry juice for 800 Naira ($5.30), Abike had a bloody mary for 1,300 Naira ($9) and if we weren’t so full from whatever we ate earlier that day I would have gone nuts over the menu. They have sushi, pizza, hamburgers, nachos, sandwiches and calamari. As it goes in Lagos, everything was more than $10 a plate, but for the chic ambiance, (except for the 20-top of Indian people in the corner celebrating something and cheering every 5 minutes) comfortable chairs and AC, it would be worth it to splurge. If you are looking for delicious Thai food in Lagos, you must go to Bangkok on VI. Prices are reasonable for Lagos; each curry dish is about 2,200 Naira ($15). Rice is another 700 Naira. The service is good (they do proper wine service) and they have a nice wine list. We saw more American/European/Indian/Chinese/Lebanese people at all of these restaurants than Nigerians. On the whole, Nigerians do not like to eat out, especially at Indian restaurants.
As the week progressed, more and more Christmas decorations appeared all over city structures. The pillars supporting the different bridges connecting the mainland to Lagos Island and Victoria Island looked like candy canes by the time week was up. The Zenith Bank building looked like a rectangle X-Mas tree, covered top to bottom in string lights. I feel bad for the people working near the windows in that building. The Palms shopping mall in Lekki, an upper-class neighborhood on the eastern side of VI that is rapidly expanding, blasted Christmas tunes throughout the mall while shoppers robotically sang along.
We made it to the University of Lagos, a truly amazing bookstore called Jazz Hole, the Galleria mall, Balogun market (one of the most intense experiences I have ever had walking through a crowd) and last but not least we saw the new Harry Potter at the Palms. I am already planning my next trip back to Lagos.