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.