‘What was already a city under stress had become a clear case of of swarming, warring, multiple personalities lacking all coherence and identity…a city whose human vitality was rivalled by none other in all of black Africa’
Straddling one of the continent’s principal waterways, Nigeria bridges the coast and the Sahel, linking the sparse and arid deserts of the Sahara to the congested profusion of human life and activity that is the great Niger Delta. Nigeria is a local economic powerhouse, the oil capital of the region, and the dark and sweaty shop-front of an avaricious neighbourhood.
The region is also one of the oldest in sub-Saharan Africa, with a number of dynastic societies that, before the ravages of the Slave Trade, exercised a high degree of social and administrative sophistication. The region is also the home of the Bantu people who, beginning some 3 000 years ago, spread out and occupied most of the continent. It is one of the most populous nations in Africa, and indeed the globe, with an estimated 20 percent of the entire black population of the world living in Nigeria. More than 250 ethnic groups share a diversity of languages and customs, with the south being largely Christian/animist, and the north being predominately Moslem.
Despite a plethora of social, political and economic problems, and perhaps because of them, Nigeria enjoys a rich cultural heritage spanning music, literature, film and the visual arts. 1986 Nobel literary laureate Wole Soyinka is arguably Nigeria’s most famous writer, but many other notable figures have emerged from the chaotic hubris of Nigerian arts and culture, including the ill fated writer and environmentalist Ken Saro Wiwa.
Nigeria is a hurly burly, polyglot nation of breathtaking diversity. It is home to a peculiarly African vaudeville of comedy and tragedy. It combines in equal measure happiness and horror, vast wealth and crushing poverty, base crudity and soaring sophistication. It is every image and aspect of Africa squeezed into one vast and chaotic market place of sound, vitality and colour.
Travel To & Within Nigeria
Why Travel to Nigeria
As George Mallory once said of climbing Everest: …because it is there. It isn’t easy, but you cannot really be an African traveller until you have dipped your toe in the steaming waters of Nigeria.
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For a large and diverse nation Nigeria does not appear to place a lot of importance on her natural heritage, and consequently there are only a handful of conservancies and parks, meaning that for a glimpse of the wildlife of Africa it is perhaps more rewarding to look elsewhere.
A journey through Nigeria is principally a cultural odyssey through the compressed demographic mass of local African society. There is much of historic interest in the country, divided as is into the spheres of influence of local chieftainships and ethnic groups, most, although by no means all, significantly more sophisticated in their history and current social outlook than many groups in other parts of Africa.
When to Visit Nigeria
Nigeria is uniformly hot and humid, with tropical conditions intensifying with proximity to the coast. The best time to visit is during the winter months when the humidity and heat are bearable. Look out for, and try and plan around the dry and dusty harmattan trade winds that blow in from the Sahara obscuring the atmosphere and layering the landscape in dust. This phenomenon is particular prevalent between November and March, but affect mostly the northern three-quarters of the country.
Note on Travel Warning – there is a lot to watch out for in Nigeria. While it is necessary to make these facts known, don’t let that stop you going. Nigeria is a nation at peace, with a strong and functional government. It is Africa with a capital A, and if that is what you want to see, then Nigeria is where you will find it.
Nigeria is the grand old daddy of African graft and corruption. Elected government and functioning law and order sit like a thin crust over a dark and heaving pool of invisible and utterly unregulated economic activity. Since the end of the period of military rule in Nigeria there have been some very indifferent efforts to curb what is a monstrous phenomenon, with its roots sunk deep in the fabric of Nigerian society, and which predictably have all failed.
Therefore watch your every step. Nigeria is the fraud capital of the world, and Nigerian fraudsters are consummate experts. Apart from a million scams, there is a very good chance that everything on sale from batteries to condoms to aspirin or anti-malarial drugs are counterfeit, bogus or bootlegged.
Street crime, muggings and carjacking are also a widespread feature of Nigerian life. Rules of common sense in situations such as these apply here as everywhere. Expect no satisfaction from the police in situations such as this, and indeed the involvement of any member of local constabulary is simply likely to introduce just one more clever criminal into your life.
Localised outbreaks of civil unrest and lawlessness are not uncommon in Nigeria, and although rarely aimed at foreigners, they can be extremely violent and indiscriminate, so a careful evaluation of the situation on the ground is advisable before you plan your itinerary
Currently the Niger Delta is off limits thanks to ongoing insecurity in and around this oil producing region. There is a high likelihood of kidnapping and almost an inevitability of armed robbery. More Information.
Malaria and polio are common in Nigeria, as are regular outbreaks of cholera. Anti-Malaria prophylactics are essential before leaving home. Treat all water as suspect, and wash all fresh fruit and vegetable vigorously before consuming.