I got back from Nigeria a few days ago. Based on my previous trips to faraway destinations, I know that when you return from a world that’s very much different from the one you know, the one you live in, you sort of exist between the two worlds for a few days/weeks (depending on the length of your trip). Mine was very short, only 10 days, but it was a great chance to get a taste on “Naija” as locals refer to Nigeria. I wouldn’t write about statistical details about the country, you can google it or check it on wiki if interested. :) I arrived in Lagos late night. Arriving in a city where about 17-20 million (noone I’ve asked knew exactly how many) people live has a huge energy. Something I’ve never felt anywhere. Not even in NYC or Bangkok, 2 cities that surely has their own energy, but nothing like Lagos. The area of the airport was quite dark, hundreds of people were hanging out there, selling all kinds of refreshments, snacks, and taxi drivers fishing for customers and touts of course.
My friend picked me up soon, and drove home. The first 2 days in Lagos was a culture shock, but a very pleasant one. I had to switch my mind completely and very fast if I wanted to avoid frustration. Traffic and traffic jams or “go-slow” in local “Broken English” (pidgin) dialect can be terrible. It can be easily normal to spend hours in the car without reaching your destination within the city. During my short stay in Lagos, I was fortunate enough to live with a local family and experience their everyday life.
My plan was to get a taste of Lagos, then after 2-3 days I’ll fly up north to Kaduna where I was invited. As plans often change in Africa (most people say you can’t really plan), I had to cancel my ticket as I needed to fly to Abuja to photograph the reopening of the Hungarian Embassy. This was a regular protocol photoshoot, however I got to meet some of the local diplomats, ambassadors, businessmen whose help was priceless during the rest of my stay. After the assignment at the embassy was over, I traveled to Kaduna by car. Military and police checkpoints on the road, as the northern part of Nigeria sees some ethnic clashes sometimes, prevalently represented by the Boko Haram, which is an extremist islamic group who fight against Christianity and Western influence. Despite the dormant risks, I preferred the northern part of the country, I enjoyed visiting the local villages, meet hausa and fulani people who enchanted me with their modesty and dignity.
Fulanis are traditionally nomadic people, herding cattle, goats and sheep. They are one of the largest nomadic ethnic groups in the world, spreading over several territories. The Fulani follow a code of behavior known as Pulaaku, consisting of the qualities of patience, self control, discipline, prudence, modesty, respect for others (including foes), wisdom, personal responsibility, hospitality, courage, and hard work.
I arrived in Zaria on a Friday early afternoon, right in the middle of praying day… wanted to visit the emir, but he was out, as he’s the one who usually leads the Friday’s prayer. This place is magical. It’s basically a state within the country, that looks back on a more than 700 year old history with its own ruler, the emir. I took a few shots outside, but as soon as the praying started, I had to stash my camera not to violate any religious and cultural customs. Problems can be ignited very easily around here.
To be continued…