The city of Lagos, Nigeria is bursting with life! Broken up into three separate parts – Lagos Island, Victoria Island, and Ikoyi Island – all are their own little worlds connected by bridges and a flowing lagoon underneath.
While I stayed on Lagos Island during my vacation earlier this month, I visited each island getting a chance to soak in some of what each has to offer. Whether my experiences revolved around food, fashion, or culture, I constantly felt immersed in my Naija heritage.
While many people wear Western-style clothes in Lagos, a large portion of the everyday fashions seen on the street were made with traditional West-African fabric called Ankara. You can get these types of clothes from stores, but when I made my way to Ikota Shopping Complex, it was far easier to find a tailor than a shop of ready-made clothes.
Want a new outfit for an upcoming special occasion? The first thing to do is find your fabric of choice. You might opt for a high quality brand like Woodin which will set you back around ₦ 9000 (about $29 USD) for six yards of cloth or opt for something more affordable in the ₦ 3000+ range that you can pick up from the tailor himself or nearly any fabric store.
I paid ₦ 3000 for six yards of the cloth that was used to make the dress I’m wearing above. Often times tailors have style magazines in their shops that you can browse through to find a look of your liking. You can also do a quick Google search and take your findings to your tailor.
An initial meeting covers selecting your style, having your measurements taken, dropping off your cloth and sometimes paying a deposit. You might come back for a fitting midway or just stop by a few days later to pick up your finished garments and settle your balance. Every tailor is different and trying out a different tailor until you find the right one is all part of the process.
At the top of my list, I wanted to make sure I visited a well-known music and book store, the Jazzhole on Ikoyi Island, a personal favorite of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. While many know her for her feature in Beyonce’s “Flawless”, Adichie is also a prolific author and Nigerian national treasure.
Stepping into the air-conditioned store made it a literal and figurative oasis in the city. The dusty walls were lined with CDs, the floors lined with records. Some for sale, some from the owners’ personal collection. Tables carried books stacked high atop one another while a small seating area in the back created a cozy nook for shoppers.
While my partner hunted for old school musical gems one could only find in this region, I searched the shelves for CDs by modern African artists like Asa and Wizkid. I browsed through old and new magazines, chatted with the owners about the history of this long-running Lagos staple, and walked away with new music and a piece of Adichie‘s writing for my library.
Most of the food I had in Nigeria revolved around a starch and some type of soup or gravy. Meals ranged from the fried yams and fish gravy of my last post to other dishes like hearty boiled yam and meat gravy, or soft pounded yam and egusi or ogbono soup with meat.
Rice was also a major part of my diet, either fried, white, or in a dish called Jollof Rice, characterized by the seasonings and process used to make it.
While goat and beef are major proteins consumed in many dishes, I chose to stick with fried chicken, pepper chicken, and the abundant seafood options of this coastal city.
There’s so much to see and do in Lagos that I barely scratched the surface in my short trip there. I hope that through my experiences you were able to get a feel for all this city has to offer. The following pictures were taken around Victoria Garden City and feature a party dress I had made while there.