My Father and Mother’s home land! It has been 5 years since I’ve been back and 4 since I have seen my grandmother so this was a trip that I was looking forward to. Being back in Nigeria allowed me to see the changes and growth in Lagos, visit some family and soak in the culture.
I landed at 4:30am at Murtala Muhammed International Airport from my Virgin Atlantic flight which was 18 hours including the 2-hour layover in London. (FYI: Delta began DIRECT flights from JFK to Lagos in March of this year…please note this different from the New York to Atlanta to Lagos flight).
Now I would be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel some anxiety while getting off the plane once we landed. It was my first time flying out there by myself and I was mentally ready to deal with the airport but not so much physically. I had two suitcases, a carry on and my bookbag. I had to make sure I was aware of where my bags were, push them all together and also make sure I had my passport secure and Naira (Nigerian money currency) ready; while trying to get in contact with my parents to make sure they were outside to get me; because let’s keep it real…Outside of the airport is a whole other battle zone. However, I can admit that there were some positive changes from the last time that I went; but we still have a lot more to improve on.
I was in Nigeria for a total of 7 days. I stayed in Lekki for 4 days and Ikeja for 3 days. In that time, I managed to go to a Museum, an Art gallery, a two-day wedding celebration, markets, visit some family and still have some down time. I couldn’t go to the beach because it rained a lot (our NY summer is rainy season in Nigeria).
Staying in Lekki showed me how much Nigeria had advanced over the last decade or so. There were so many Asians and Caucasians out there; I was truly surprised; and they walked around so freely. We stayed in Oriental hotel and there was a Japanese, Chinese and Continental restaurant. This was probably one of the biggest hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in. It was super spacious and met all my expectations of a hotel. The hotel also has a rooftop with a pool and a very beautiful Marina like view (many evenings were spent there eating and drinking.
One thing I can say, there is definitely a difference being in the city of Lagos and then places like Lekki Phase I and II, Victoria Island and Banana Island. If I didn’t have a driver, I was taking Uber to places. And it’s so affordable out there; one ride was 900 Naira which is about $2.50. One night we all went out to Club Buzz; it was pretty dope we had hookah and drinks.
Balogun Market: let’s just say it was truly an experience. I’ve gone to different markets when I went to Nigeria; but Balogun market was different. It’s super-fast paced and there is just so much going on at once. Once again you must be on high alert; protect your stuff, watch out for buses (danfo), motorcycle taxi (okada) and the tricycle bus (Marwa).
One thing I was excited and surprised to see when driving around was the street art. We were driving back from the market and to the left of me I saw a few on pillars under the highway. It was still in the process of being completed; I wish I was able to get out of the car to take better pictures.
Overall, I had a great experience out there, even though I was there for a short period of time it was a memorable trip. I was able to see how much Nigeria has changed from the last time I went and I was truly impressed. Hopefully the next time I go back it won’t be their rainy season so that I can enjoy all that Nigeria has to offer. And the food is amazing!!! (Sidebar: for really good Suya, go to Suya University on Allen Avenue in Ikeja).