Tales from Elegushi Beach: A reflection on Lagos, Nigeria

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Sitting quietly on a bamboo chair, I gaze at the Ocean…at Awori fishermen confronting the waves of the Atlantic. Legend says that their forebears founded Lagos (Eko), centuries ago. The dexterity with which they confront the violent waves of the African Atlantic bears credence to skills passed over multiple generations from the founding of the fishing village.

While gazing, I remain semi-attentive to the beautiful tunes of a Nigerian highlife music playing at a nearby bar. A little distance away, two coconut sellers gently push wheelbarrows filled with fresh coconuts, ready to crack one open, if anyone’s interested. The coconut juice is angelic. I know because I had one. Actually, I already had two since my arrival.

A short walk away sits a suya spot. A trip to Nigeria is really never complete until one’s mouth wrestles with the grilled, spicy meat from the open fire of a mai suya. Hopefully, none of the pepper finds its way into one’s eyes. This is Elegushi Beach, lest I forget.

I’d come here to get a respite from the bustle of West Africa’s economic powerhouse, Lagos city. Rising from the quiet fishing village started by the ancient Aworis, it has evolved into the ever noisy, traffic-ladden, somewhat intimidating cosmopolitan city on the Nigerian coast.

It attracts everyone. The mai suya and coconut sellers are from the northern part of Nigeria. Ghanaian pepper traders drive in from Accra. Suppliers of the sweet-smelling Cocoderm cream drive in from Abidjan. Touts or “Area boys” come from….well, all over West Africa. This is Lagos city.

It’s been quite an experience. I’ve seen a lot. Upscale restaurants and beautiful arts galleries on Lagos Island; Open-air markets with their fair share of legit and not so legit trade wares on the mainland; roadside bukas serving everything from “affordable” rice and stew to the controversial 404 (don’t ask what it means). But every time I visit Lagos or other cities across the region, I leave with memories of, and respect for, one group. The women who run the food and textile sections of the open-air markets.       

From the Balogun market in Lagos, through the Dantokpa in Cotonou, to the Makola in Accra, the West African market women possess a reverent calm-headedness, intelligence and resilience that helped preserved the age-old market institution across the region. A visit to Lagos or the region is never truly complete without a first-hand experience of the open market’s unique flair. Now it’s back to the beach.

As the night falls, the fishermen gradually head home, save for those who recently went ashore on an overnight fishing expedition. The beach gradually feels cold though more lively thanks to voices from the bars. It’s time to head back to my hotel room and prepare for my departure after an 8-day trip to the African city that never sleeps. I’ve felt in tune with the city since my arrival. I’ll always remember that feeling.

Nugwa & Co. designs private luxury trips to interesting locations across West Africa. Learn more about us at https://nugwa.com/

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