Sunday, July 12, 2009

watch out for abu charbel

In every building contractor there is an abu charbel. Before I introduce you properly to him, let me show you what abu charbel can do for you!

This is our appartment garden before abu charbel
arrived to our neighborhood.

And this is it after his arrival.....

long time no hear

My life in general and my work in particular were on a speedy roller coaster the last 3 months.
Though it is still spinning it has slowed down slightly seemingly nearing its destination.
During this rough ride, I travelled to Beirut to inspect the fallen garden of our apparment; then off to Johanseburg where I was kissed by a beautiful elephant followed by a week long trip to Bahrain where I had just enough time between meetings to catch up with my dear friend Maria.
Once I returned to Lagos from all these trips, it was clear that it is best to move on. We are moving back to Beirut soon.
Between the packing, the handover of work and the shutting down of an old life, I will introduce you all to Abu Charbel, the elephant, the indifferent bar scene of Beirut and the beautiful rainy season of Lagos.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

tall and beautiful

Most people you cross on the streets and in the markets of Lagos are beautifully fit.
This is not due to a special diet it is because they walk. They walk everywhere to make a living.
They walk carrying on their heads large plates filled with foodstuff or any other goods to sell.
On street junctions, young men carry stacks of news papers on their heads and run to cars to sell one. Mothers carry their baby on their back wrapped by a piece of cloth as they walk to care for their business. They all walk tall in a natural, beautiful and effortless way. They walk with pride.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


When we first arrived to Lagos everyone complained about the traffic jams or " the go slow" as it is referred to here. It did not deter me; coming from Cairo where traffic jams are a very serious issue. Last week, however I changed my mind.
The distance from home to the office is rouhgly 9 Km which we normally cover in 15 to 20 minutes. That particular monring, it took me 2 hours to reach the office... Is this a new world record for a go slow?

Monday, March 30, 2009

where i work

It is an old residential compound made up of 6 units redesigned into office space.
A peacock and 5 turkeys wonder around all day.
An empty swimming pool with its tucked away sun beds gets cleaned every time it rains.
Two tennis courts have been conveniently turned into a huge car park.
Pre-fabricated office units are slowly taking over the once lush gardens.
It is definitely an unusual working environment nonetheless it is a very friendly place.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

faits divers

We are in Lagos since 2 months. We have slowly settled into a cozy routine confirming our incredible ability to make do with very little and be happy about it!!

Earth hour went unnoticed in Nigeria yesterday. First half the country is in the dark, second the Government power supply is erratic and unreliable. Everything and everyone rely on generator electricity. Dealing with environment issues is light years away in Nigeria.

The thunderstorms and lightening in Lagos are awesome and majestic. When it rains it lasts long and it is very noisy. As soon as it stops I love the smell of the earth. It is sublime.

While enjoying a lovely dinner at our neighbors on Friday surrounded by people from all over the world, it downed on me that our world is now a metropolis and the cities are towns where we wander in and out on a shoestring!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Stuck in a go slow, step down and hire an okada at your own risk!
Okada's are motorbikes for hire just like a taxi or micro buses of Cairo.
Okadas' have grown exponentially in Lagos in recent years. Owning and running this service comes with a reasonable revenue and little costs. It is cheap to buy a motorbike. Filling up with petrol is very cheap. It costs very little to register a motorbike. It is not regulated; the money you earn is not taxable and insurance is unheard of. A successful set up to earn money and be self employed.
The only regulations okadas follow are traffic related. The helmet is mandatory however it is not standardized. You see all colors and types. Sometimes it is a safety hat; sometimes its a bicycle helmet, sometimes it is an old army helmet and the funniest are those who wear their helmet back to front, a fashion statement perhaps.
Today while waiting at the traffic light; there were more than 100 Okadas swirling around the cars in the traffic. As soon as the light hit green, a sea of human beings on two wheels zooms ahead and the noise beats a thunderstorm.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

how to keep lagos clean

The signs are written in red and say
Do not urinate
Do not defecate
Do not throw refuse
Keep Lagos clean !

No comments....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Street barber...

Need a barber? turn right... most side streets and neighborhoods have a barber spot.
There you will find a bench, a mirror hanging on a villa or a residential compound wall and a small lamp hanging on top of the mirror. As soon as a customer arrives, the barber turns on his small generator, hooks the electric shaver, turns on the lamp, wraps a dark towel around your shoulders and off he goes dealing with the unwanted hair.
I don't know how much our neighborhood barber charges. I am sure his business is thriving since every time I drive by he is busy. Mind you the barbers' customer base is limited to people walking by; in that respect our barber seem to have found a lucrative low cost corner for himself!

Friday, March 20, 2009

ingenuity or resourcefulness?

Medicines are easily available in Lagos, however the chances of finding authentic ones are very slim...consequently you end up bringing some medicines with you from home or in my case you buy it from the supermarket!!!! Yes on the second level of goodies you will find a medicine counter.
Today Thomas's cough allergy is back. The doctor in Beirut prescribed the medicine over the phone. Next, we talk to Mr. Ali @ goodies. He confirms that one is available now but the second one shall be delivered tomorrow from Beirut. When I went to pick it up, he explained to me the system. With every flight from Beirut to Lagos a medicine parcel is sent from a pharmacy in Beirut. MEA flies to Lagos 3 times a week, so when you are short on any medicine, they are more than happy to arrange it for you. Of course it comes at a price many residents are willing to pay!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

off line

Last week ended nicely.! But the internet connection at home is down since saturday. We are using a 3G card since then. More news soon !

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Surprise delivery

After failing to deliver the book case on Saturday March 7, 2009 even though they called to inform us they were on their way, we stopped waiting. Instead we went out for a brunch at Chocolat Royal. Later on Cecilia and Nazlie both visiting Lagos for the first time dropped by for coffee and cake. Then together we went to Cactus Restaurant for dinner. The most talked of place in the city. It was a disappointing experience. The food served was tasteless Lebanese. It is so noisy you would think you are in a sidewalk eatery rather than a restaurant.
Sunday we had a quiet morning followed by a majestic lunch at the Chinese Regent Restaurant in Victoria Island. We had dim sum galore, it was delightful and the service impeccable.
The book cases were still on their way..
Monday started on an extremely sad note. The tragic loss of Jan E. the head of our market in a car accident. He was a remarkable man. He hired me on Sept 1, 2000 in Lebanon to join this company. Everyone was shaken, sad and in shock. This news has put all my petty and vain worries in perspective. It humbled me. Through out the day the news of his death dominated every meeting or phone call in the office.
Just before leaving the office with my guests that evening, I hear that the delivery was done; on top of it they also delivered a complete balcony furniture set. It is true then that good things happens to those who wait! So what is next?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Inshalla boukra

Despite following up and receiving confirmation that the delivery is on schedule; the book shelves were not delivered yesterday.
At one point they told me we are in front of your building!
At another they said we had to return back because we forgot the tools.
On the third call, they finally said the truth; inshalla boukra at 2 pm!
In the meantime my inshalla ok attitude gained another day.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

One month

We are here since a month; it went by slowly or let us say not as fast as i am use to!
The settling down is still on going and I firmly take an Inshala boukra attitude now.
My residence permit has not been applied for though I have received all the papers signed and approved. The visa person keeps taking my passport to do nothing with it.
Taking up a membership @ country club is pending an invitation by a member. The rules here are very strict. The invite has not been sent.
This laissez faire attitude is seeping in me too...
I cannot be bothered to join a gym and get back to my fitness routine. Worst of all; in an effort to grow my curly hair a bit long in order to get a new look; I keep postponing the hairdresser appointment but now the white hair is showing all over - I must forget the new hairstyle and fix this. Finally Inshalla boukra the book shelves will be delivered and we get rid of all the remaining boxes in the hallway. Perhaps then our place will be filled with the friendly warmth of our books and I recover my energy!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lagos Restaurants...

Anyone who knows us well, knows how much we enjoy and appreciate good food!
Like any cosmopolitan city; Lagos restaurants are a reflection of that. First you notice the obvious absence of the American fast food outlets as we all know it.
Second you rely mostly on word of mouth and on the Lagos guide for expats to find different restaurants. So in the last four weeks, we tried and tested some of them. They are all expensive when you think rapport qualite/prix.
The first place we tried was the Goodies restaurant in Victoria Island. It is attached to the Goodies supermarket. The menu is Lebanese with a number of continental dishes on the menu. The shawarma sandwish is very tasty but comes at 6 Dollars.... Personally; I would describe it as a snack bar. It is a good address for take away meals.
For Indian food we enjoyed Spice Bar, opposite Park n Shop supermarket. The concept and the design is based on a town diner however the service is very slow. You order your food using an items checklist. The portions are big and very tasty. We liked it so much, we have been there twice already...
For Thai food, we loved Red in Ikoyi on Awolowo road. The Thai restaurant manager and the Thai chef are on hand to offer you delicious and authentic dishes. Red has a lounge bar attached to it and is normally busy with both foreigners and Nigerians.
For Italian; we were advised by a colleague to try Piccolo Mondo. The closest thing about being Italian is its name and a number of dishes on the menu. The food orders are served in large red plates. It is cool hangout that turns into a night club after 10 or 11 pm; perhaps that is why it is popular.
The closest you can get to a five stars modern bistro is Cafe Royal on Victoria Island. It is refreshing to find such an outlet. The menu offers a large selection of dishes and drinks. Its service is quick and efficient. The restaurant has a wonderful terrace. Attached to the Cafe; you find the Royal pastry and bakery shop where we tasted the best croissants so far.
For Nigerian food, I am told the real one is sold on the streets. I have not tried that yet. I tasted the Suya at the office canteen; which is Nigeria's version of Satay with lots of cashew nuts.
There are many more restaurants in the city but we have not had the time to try them yet.
In general most people entertain at home; or as we say in Arabic play Bayt Byout!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Silent Killer

Anyone who travels to Africa and other tropical areas will warn you of Malaria.
It is an age old disease that has managed to survive and resist despite the advances in medical research...
It is my number one worry and I fear it while in Lagos; it worries me more than the security concerns everyone talks about. And I fear it because generally I attract Mosquitos. How sexy!
Of course; one can take prophylactics but one cannot live on them if the stay in an infected area is more than a 2 weeks. The malaria parasite is now resistant and immune to many of the most used medicines. Smart!
There are a number of foundation working to find a cure but since this disease is not affecting the developed world, it gets little attention and is never mentioned. Shame !
It took a Bill Gates to bring it out to the headlines:
To learn more just type silent killer on Google. The result are all on Malaria.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Snail pace....

Time in Lagos moves slowly !
In the last three weeks, we were never out and about later than 9 pm!
It is not that the night life is boring in Lagos or it is limited; it is first due to being new in the city, second, we are still finding our way around and third it is the security concerns everyone hammers you with. Until we know our way around, we decided to take it slowly except on the weekend days.
By doing so our evenings at home are long; and the hours move at snail pace. We keep ourselves entertained watching movies, catching up on the news etc.. and of course we cook!
Home cooking is now the norm. Dining out or ordering food delivery is an exception which is totally opposite to how we lived in Cairo. I am not bored yet I am still adjusting to the new reality.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lagos words and phrases

There are over 500 distinct languages spoken in Nigeria. The three most prominent languages are Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. In Lagos, you will here these languages spoken with Yoruba and pidgin English dominating. Many Lagosians speak at least two languages and most understand English. Find below a translation of some commonly used phrases.

419 (also known as ‘nineteen’) – any type of fraud
505 – type of car
A drop – one- way taxi
Ah-haa – expression of surprise or indignation
Agbada – Yoruba garment for men made of 10 yards of material
Ariya – Yoruba word for enjoyment, having a good time

Babariga – Hausa word for Agbada
Been to’s – those who have been away and have solutions to everything
Black shirt – policeman
Boubou – caftan-like dress
Buka - chop house (usually makeshift)

Chop – a meal
Close – stop work
Dailies – newspapers
Danfo – small yellow public vans
Dash – tip or bribe (verb and noun)
Disting – this thing
Do-do – fried plantain
Done come – has come
Down down – a long way down

Ease yourself – go to the toilet
FESTAC – Festival of Arts and Culture hosted in Lagos in 1977 for exorbitant amount legacy being the rapidly sinking National Theatre at Iganmu and Festac Town
Flying boat – motorboat
Gari – a food staple made from cassava
Go-slow – traffic jam
GRA – Government Reserved Area, housing areas for top civil servants during the colonial era

Hello – I can’t hear you
Holdup – traffic jam
How now? – How are you?
How we go? – Where do you want to go?
How’s your body? – How are you feeling?
How was the night? – You sleep well?

I’m coming – I’ll be back
In sha Allah – God willing
Kabu Kabu – unmarked taxis or buses (Hausa)
Kobo – Nigerian coins
Make I come? – Should I come?
Minerals – soft drinks
Molue – big yellow public bus
More grease to your elbow – may God continue to bless you
Moto – car
Move for front small – go forward a little

Naira – Nigerian money
NEPA – Nigerian Electric Power Agency (Never Expect Power Again)
NITEL – Nigerian telephone company
No horning – don’t beep
Now now – immediately

Oba – traditional Yoruba King
O dabo – goodbye
Off it – switch off
On it – switch on
Oga – boss
Okada – motorbike taxi
Ole – a thief
On seat – in the office
Oyinbo – white person or foreigner

Pickin’- baby or child
Pieces – Naira notes
Pijot – peujot
Quenched – forever broken
Raincoat – condom
Sabi – to know (pidgin, Portuguese)
Sistah or Brudda – anybody from the same village
Small chop – snack
Sorry-o – expression of sympathy
Suya – spicy brochettes

Take leg – walk
Tokunbo – used items e.g. cars, clothes, electronics etc.
Tossed – out of order
To get belle- to be pregnant
Wahalla – trouble
Waist pain – stomach problem
Welcome – hello
Well done – everything’s great
Yellow fever – traffic officer
You dey - Are you in?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Part I is over

The 1st part of the settling down process is over !
The personal effects were delivered yesterday at 13:00 hrs. One hour before the agreed time. 61 boxes were carried 3 floors up and were unpacked. 15 boxes of books and Dvds remain unpacked awaiting the wall unit.
The feel and look of the apartment is different now.
Though I believe one can live with the bare minimum on borrowed stuff. I realized what I missed was the home touch. The personal signature! Lagos is officially home.
Part 2 of the settling down begins now...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Personal effects never ending story...

We packed our personal belongings in Cairo on January 14, 2009; back then we were told it will take 2 months for the shipment to reach us in Lagos.
Subsequently, we packed enough clothes and other personal amenities to last us 2 months. This meant 6 large suitcases...
On Feb 5, 09 Tunde my colleague from logistics drops by to pick my passport up because our lot arrived and we should expect delivery in 3 days max.
When I followed up on the 3rd day, it turned out to be a false alert ! Immediately, I contacted the agent in Cairo. She replied quickly saying that our stuff is still in Cairo; it will take 2, 3, or perhaps 4 days before it leaves Cairo to London!
At that point, I decided to take a deep breath and be calm. I reminded myself why the fuss, they already said it takes two months. So I let the matter to rest and took back my passport.
On Saturday the 14, the local agent called me to confirm that the lot is now in Lagos and as we speak it is being cleared through customs. He committed to deliver on Monday. The delivery time today changed by the hour; then it was tomorrow 8pm and everyone is still happy.
Just now, it changed to Wednesday at 10 am!
In reality, it turned out that the crate have not cleared customs yet, so why are they fussing about the delivery date and time; je ne sais pas!
Personally, I will be glad to get it on Friday 20th, anything before that is above expectations!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lagos Impressions

Two weeks passed quickly and i am still pinching & asking myself; Am I really in Lagos? or I am in a dream and shall wake up and find myself back in Cairo...

Lagos is vibrant, colorful and kicking forward to say the least.

It certainly still offers challenges in many areas specially security and electricity. Nonetheless you see and feel the changes.

The most visible changes are the large cranes overhead and the many construction sites.. New hotels are coming up as well as many new residential compounds.

You don't see Peugeot cars on the streest as much as before. Now it is www variety of Japanese and other European cars. The Peugeots have almost disappeared.

The grocery scene is not limited to Park n Shop anymore, you have a large choice; Shopright, Goodies, Megaplaza, La pointe, etc.. Though very well stocked with all kind of supplies, it is shockingly expensive! The mall cutlure is creeping in too.

The best part of a city is its markets, I have not had the chance to visit any yet. The one I remember from my first stay was the Yaba Market where i spent many hours in its alleys and small stalls offering everything from food to textile to shoes... Unfortunately for me it has been demolished!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The arrival...

The MEA flight landed in Murtala Muhamed airport at 7:30 am on Feb 1, 2009 nicely. The flight was full.

What struck me on the flight is most passengers knew each other. While waiting to take off, you could see them greeting each other and chatting. The same continued after take off!

We disembarked. The first experience was the smell. It was hot, humid and stale.

Welcome to my blog from Lagos Nigeria.

The first 10 days in Lagos were fun and the settling down process has started.

We all experience changes in our lives and most of us move to new cities more regularly than before. Yet every move, despite knowing the place, is mixed with curiosity and anxiety.

This is the second time I relocate to this city. The first time was in 1995.
During this journey, I intend to share my experience.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

First week in Lagos

The arrival procedures were orderly and unexpectedly smooth.

On disembarking you head down to the first immigration check point, they review your landing card and your passport, sign it and then you proceed to the second immigration point, one person enter your info on the computer while the other one stamps it for you!

A few minutes later; we were in the arrival hall. Almost every passengers had an escort or two waiting for them. The luggage belts started and our 6 pieces of luggage arrived safely too. With the help of the company airport rep. and his airport veterinary friend carrying our cat, we swung past customs.

Back in 1996 when you walked out of the airport you were met with a wall of people who were just waiting for their next victim. This time around there was no one at the exit. It was calm.

That Saturday morning was Sanitation morning. It is a Lagos curfew held on the last or first Saturday of each month from 6 am until midday. No cars or motorbikes are allowed on roads or streets. The only exceptions are the escort cars leaving the airport.

Thanks to this the route to our new accommodation took 30 minutes.

The temporary apartment we moved into was on Ikoyi Island in a quiet neighborhood. It was very basic and extremely noisy not only because of the electricity generators but also of the window air conditioners.. And I thought they don't manufacture those anymore..... that night, I slept less stupid!!!!!!

By Monday morning, the noisy apartment drove me and the cat nuts! something had to be done...

First priority on Monday is to meet with the manager in charge of housing. Two days later after some haggling, he acted and offered an alternative. We moved immediately to a new place on the same island. The new area is Lagos version of 6th of October in Egypt.

It is a pretty apartment with 3 en suite bedrooms and a large kitchen.. Enough to host parties.