Lagos is an experience of a lifetime. The city will enchant and wreck you. The bedlam. The 15-minute journeys that stretch to five hours because of traffic jams. The multitudes everywhere you turn, each individual fizzing with hope and energy and stories, each unfazed by the maladies of living here — crumbling infrastructure, an oppressive kleptocratic government, the daily whiff of disasters brewing.
Lagos, or (as it’s known in Yoruba), is a city of paradoxes, of extremes. Every condition exists prodigiously here. This is why Lagosians sometimes quip, “: “Lagos never ranks last in anything.” Take housing. In the neighborhoods of Lekki and Ikoyi, you’ll find mansions posher than any in Manhattan or Mayfair. But across the Lagos Lagoon, you’ll find a floating city: thousands of families living in shacks built over stinking waters.
With more than 15 million people, Lagos is Nigeria’s capital of culture, finance and entertainment. It is the laboratory of two of Nigeria’s major cultural exports: music (including Afrobeat) and cinema (Nollywood). Afrobeat songs chart high on the Billboard Hot 100; Nollywood is the world’s second-largest movie industry by output. Even when I was a boy growing up in northern Nigeria, hundreds of miles away, the city was my reality. Like most Nigerians, it informed my identity — culturally, linguistically, philosophically.
Each time I visit, time seems both to freeze and to hasten. Every moment amid the orchestra of Lagos’s streets or the polychrome of its markets, every stop at its psychedelic parties or its devious police checkpoints, every conversation overheard or scene witnessed makes me wiser, more conscious, more human.
Although Lagos is ever-changing, like most Nigerian cities, its spirit, and how it informs its residents, remains largely consistent. Thus, many modern classics still offer powerful and faithful evocations of the city.
Set mostly between 1930s and 1940s Lagos, Buchi Emecheta’s novelfollows Nnu Ego as she navigates childlessness and the challenges of womanhood and motherhood in a patriarchal society. Emecheta, with immense deftness and subtlety, provides a haunting and forceful attack on patriarchy, sexism and misogyny in Nigeria, and indicates how they taint and limit a nation.
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Not long ago, visiting exotic animals in their habitats was the stuff of intrepid explorers who ventured weeks into remote wilds. Today, sleek new nature lodges bring adventurous luxury to fragile but closely cared-for ecosystems.
Whenever we travel, there’s always a risk of encountering some unsavory conduct along the way. A new survey delved into the kinds of behaviors that irk travelers the most, and many revolve around health and hygiene and invading other people’s personal space.
On the Kent coast, where the North Sea meets the English Channel, the historic town of Deal was at one time the busiest port in England. Today, though, it’s less dockyard and more seaside resort, popular with day-trippers and weekenders from London and beyond, who come for the pebble beach and pretty castle and stay for the town’s growing culinary scene.
Best known in Phnom Penh as Chef Nak, Rotanak Ros has spent over a decade traveling around Cambodia, recovering, preserving, and spotlighting traditional Khmer recipes. The richness of the region's cuisine, which she says comprises “at least a thousand dishes” from over a thousand years of history, collides in one place: her hometown of Phnom Penh (say it: “pa-nom penn”). “This is not just the hub for art or culture,” says Ros. “This is the place where everyone comes for a better life—and when they come from different parts of Cambodia, they bring their food.” On top of hosting market tours, cooking classes, and food-focused homestays for travelers, she also curates the Khmer menu at the Rosewood Phnom Penh's Brasserie Louis. Still, she makes the most of her days off at her favorite spots to eat, drink, and relax in the cradle of Khmer cuisine.
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