I would be doing Lagos a great disservice if all I talked about were its humidity, the impossible traffic and the hints of sexism that befell me on my last trip (more on this in another piece). I think if I were to truly explore what the delectable city had to offer and laid it bare Florence and the Machine would come to mind: “sweeter than heaven and hotter than hell”. This is a sentiment encapsulates an unforgettable experience.
I have been here often enough but I don’t really know the city, when you think about it really can you truly know a city? The city I currently live in still harbours great mysteries for me, the city I grew up seems to be so far away that its stories don’t belong in my head anymore. But I digress.
Like an inescapable dream Lagos comes to life in audacious yet subtle ways. One of the pleasures of this trip was a restaurant called Terra Kulture, nothing special by most counts but I find that I couldn’t stay away (there was free wifi). Tucked just a few ways away from the famous Bar Beach, the African themed restaurant is a fusion of art, entertainment and food. The premise for it seems is to provide top notch Nigerian cuisine while serving its customers need for culture, with the occasional plays as well as housing a gallery with exhibits from some top photographers. The whole place comes together quite nicely, like a perfectly executed dish of intellect, perfect mixology and soul food. Here the ladies meet for their weekly book club, whether books are read or it’s an excuse for a gander at the bar is anyone’s guess. I have a favourite dish here, and ate it every day I was there: Ofada rice (a sort of locally grown rice served with a spicy sauce) accompanied by fried plantain (yum yum) – it is a taste duet that sends your taste buds into an orgasmic adventure.
One night after losing my resolve, I relented to go party. I danced with strangers and was proposed to by a supposed Prince. In the same breath a man claiming to be an oil tycoon promised me the world if I would only permit him a dance. It’s a strange thing venturing in the night in Lagos. I mean who could resist a Prince and an oil tycoon, me apparently. But you get the gist, the drinks will follow and the rich will play.
Unlike my last trip I decided to forgo my preconceptions and make my way to the Mainland, a place my father would rather I did not go. Lagos is vast populace and like most urban areas it has its problems, unfortunately those problems are laid quite bare for the world to view. The city dwellers don’t seem too perturbed by this; their city is still the greatest in the world and there is no telling them any different. As I made way through into the jungle of broken concrete it plays out like an unfinished dream or one deferred. The dreamers are still dreaming but its workings are incomplete, they have made their peace with what will come but I don’t they know what that is. Some believe it will never be complete and that too is okay. For the few in the know, the overpopulation and traffic is just a small price to pay in a bigger dream that they can taste on the precipice — and so they solider on.
I feel that too. I dared a trip to the beach on one the days with a friend, as we surveyed the surrounds she said to me “you feel that?”
“What?” I ask in confusion.
“The city.” She replied simply.
The ocean was waging a war against the shore, its waves crashing fiercely and the city behind us hummed in choreographed aggression. It took a moment but soon it was clear, the city is more than the pretty views, yes there pretty views here, the food (which is to die for) or cheap liquor. The city is a beast. While most tourists would go to many big cities for the sights and landmarks, this is not that city. There are sights here; I am told I am yet to actually go to one. What this city has is culture, an experience and gravitas.
Lagos, pack your malaria meds and get ready for ride of a lifetime.