The general image people have about Africa is one of poverty, violence and corruption. These things do exist, I won’t deny that! But then, New York is also famous for corruption and violence. Every country and every city has its own problems, yet Africa is often mistreated. Part of this is because the news always show the bad things about it and never the good ones. Part of this is because few people actually take their time to really explore it, as most of them choose to stay in luxurious resorts, away from real Africa.
On my journey across this vast and rich continent I spent a month in Nigeria and I discovered once again that Africa is surrounded by negative myths. The world knows too little about Nigeria.
The media focuses on the bad parts, leaving out all the beauty of this country, so I will share with you why I believe everyone should experience Nigeria at least once in their lifetime.
The ethnic mix
Nigeria is home to multiple tribes and ethnicities, which make it a very rich country. There are eight main tribes, each one with its distinct traditions. One visit to the local market will show you what I am talking about: you can meet people from each and every tribe, from the Yoruba to the Hausas and more. You will hear their different dialects, you can taste their food and see their crafts.
Nigeria is a heaven for vegetarians
In Europe and US we have to buy exotic fruits and vegetables from the market and assume they are fit for consumption after they traveled miles from their native countries. Nigeria is one of those countries, so a vegetarian or a fruit lover will fall in love with the country. There are fresh fruits everywhere! And in this case, fresh means just picked from the mother-tree, so it’s indeed a vegetarian’s heaven. And all the fruits have very affordable prices.
Arts and crafts
Because there are so many tribes in Nigeria, the arts are blooming. Each tribe is skilled in making a specific type of craft. For example, Yoruba tribe organizes amazing music festivals and their traditional art will make you fall in love with their talented artists. The Ibibio tribe creates intricate wooden masks and carvings. And the examples continue. Just enjoy the art you see everywhere in Nigeria and make sure to buy couple of gifts for your family.
The people, the weather and the food
This trio is probably the most important part of every country, as it defines it. Depending on the season, the weather can be lovely in Nigeria. I visited the country in October and there was a nice cool breeze and the sun was out all day, so it was perfect.
The food is very diverse, as I said before, thanks to the cultural mix. I love akara, which are deep bean fried cakes. I also enjoy a good agbono soup and a dish made of cow food which I have no idea what to call, but I guarantee you it’s delicious.
Then, there are the people. Despite the problems with Boko Haram, the locals are always happy to talk to strangers and share their unique lifestyle. For me, the most important part of traveling is meeting different people, from different part of the world and experience their lifestyle, so I always advice on trying to blend in. When you get in a foreign place, ditch your own clothes and buy some local outfits. Eat their food, enjoy their music and do what the locals do.
Nigeria is complex and the political storm made the locals tough. But they still love their country and they love to show us, travelers, its beauty.
Talk to the locals, even if you will be using only your hands. Interacting with them will expand your knowledge about the world and will teach you a lot about who you are.