A Tourist in Nigeria

Monday, 17 June 2024

Most of my recent Nigerian travels were with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) although I did see a fair amount on the road – or in the air. I noted in my recent post on South Sudan that I was visiting places where the western government travel advisories were essentially ‘don’t go there’ or if you are there ‘then get out as soon as you can.’ That certainly seemed to be the advice on Nigeria although in fact there was plenty to see although tourists were certainly few and far between.

◄  About to enjoy a cold Guinness – that’s how it’s served in Nigeria – at the Lagos Bistro in the Discovery Museum in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. ‘Black Shines Brightest’ the Guinness billboard ads in Nigeria proclaim.

▲ I finished my Nigeria travels in Lagos, certainly one of the world’s ‘Mega Cities’ although it is no longer the Nigerian capital. One of the pilgrimages any music enthusiast should make while in Lagos is to the New Afrika Shrine where Afro-Beat pioneer Fela Kuti used to perform. If you’re there on the right night you might catch his son Femi on the stage.

◄  From there it’s not far to the Kalakuta Republic Museum, Fela Kuti’s home.




◄ Memphis may have Elvis Presley’s home Gracelands as a shrine, but Lagos certainly has Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s home as an equivalent. I’ve been to Gracelands too, but I must admit nowhere did I see the Elvis Presley underpants collection hanging on the wall.


▲ The extensive National Theatre was undergoing some extensive renovations. Right beside the theatre is the National Theatre Station for the Blue Line of the recently opened and long-delayed Lagos Rail Mass Transit system. The very modern trains run on the elevated line and this is clearly something traffic-jammed Lagos badly needs.

◄ Nothing to do with Nike Shoes, the Nike Art Gallery is the creation of Nike Davies-Okundaye, also known as Mama Nike. If you want an instant introduction to modern Nigerian art you’ll find it all here in this five-storey, art-packed gallery. If you’ve got an expensive apartment on Banana Island, the retreat for the mega-wealthy of Lagos, you’ll be able to cover the walls with zero difficulty, except to your credit card.

◄ If Nigeria had tourists then Kano would be the major tourist attraction. It’s the second largest city in Nigeria and the oldest city in West Africa. Plus my father was working there – with BOAC, today that’s British Airways – back in the mid-1950s, so almost 70 years ago. It’s certainly changed since then, I’ve got a photograph of my mother in the Central Mosque, near the Emir’s Palace, today the best I could do was snatch a photo of the mosque as we drove by.

▲ Kano City Wall near Sabuwar Kofa City Gate – only fragments, and not very well kept fragments, of the old city walls still stand. Built between 1095 and 1134 the wall once stretched for nearly 20km and featured 15 gates. You can still see sections of the old metal gates in the Gidan Makama Museum. This was once the most impressive structure in West Africa.

▲ Kofar Mata dye pits, Kano – they’re a tourist attraction which has survived and are particularly noted for the indigo blue cloth sold at the pits. They’re reminiscent of the rather more extensive and multi-coloured dye pits at Fez in Morocco.

▲ Gidan Dan Hausa in Kano, built in 1905 and the former home of British administrator Hanns Visher is another impressive survivor. The museum in the house display features arts, crafts and costumes but it’s the building itself which is the main attraction.

▲ Despite its location in the staunchly Islamic city of Katsina in the north of Nigeria visitors are welcome to climb the outer stairway spiralling to the top of the 15metre mud-built minaret. It’s a reminder of the mud-architecture of Mali, to the north-west, particularly the Great Mosque of Djenne which I was fortunate to visit in 2005.

◄ Famous Gobarau Minaret, Katsina



◄ I didn’t have an opportunity to investigate Nigeria’s national parks, some of them now run by Africa Nature Investors who seem to be taking on the same task as African Parks which runs the Boma and Bandingilo National Parks in South Sudan, which I had visited just before arriving in Nigeria. The one wildlife I did see in Nigeria – and there are an awful lot of them – is the local lizards, agama. The best examples, like this one in Jahun, feature yellow heads and tails. They all have a curious habit of skittering along for a short distance before stopping to do a series of push-ups. Is this performance intended to attract females or to intimidate other males? Don’t mess with me, look at how many push-ups I can do?