Well, I’ve been home for over a week now and between trying to get caught up on work and getting my sleep back in order (apparently jet lag can last awhile) I have not yet done the final post describing the last two countries of my part of the trip — Morocco and Nigeria. Let’s correct that now.
Day 19: Thursday, July 20 — We arrive in Morocco early in the morning (around 8) but cannot check into our hotel until the afternoon (2ish). Apart from that anticipated bump in the road the hotel was nice, among the highlights of our short stay in Casablanca.
Day 20: Friday, July 21 — We take a tour of the Hassan II Mosque in the morning and then explore the markets in the afternoon.
The mosque was a fascinating structure to visit and tour through.
I was less impressed by Casablanca’s markets compared to those in Senegal. (Nigeria’s would also prove superior.)
Day 21: Saturday, July 22. It was another traveling weekend.
We checked out of our hotel in the afternoon and then flew in the evening to Nigeria. That afternoon turned out to be a bit of a bust because of our choice of lunch which turned out to be a big, bland let-down. So most of the pics posted from this day were from the previous day, save for this first breakfast shot.
The dessert and the traditional Moroccan mint tea were the highlights at dinner that night.
Day 22: Sunday, July 23
We arrived very early in the morning again, but this time were able to get into our room right away to get some sleep.
I had grown quite fond of the native Senegalese dishes but now the Nigerian cuisine blew me away. The Nigerian Djolof was a more provocative mixture of spices than the Senegalese — which sort of makes sense given the broader temperamental differences one sees both in their cultures and in their countries’ histories.
Day 23: Monday, July 24 – Market-hunting in Lagos, Nigeria — April in search of fabrics, me with an eye for creative carvings at a reasonable price, preferably that could fit into my luggage.
Our journey through the fabric markets in Lagos was among the most exciting, memorable parts of the trip. The streets were packed with people hustling not just clothes but every manner of household good and food item that you might find at Target or Wal-Mart. April strode from stall to stall looking over fabrics, examining their numbers, asking the vendor challenging questions, then haggling down to a reasonable price when finding answers she liked. Each fabric stall had its own generator churning away, leaving the smell of burning fuel never far away.
I’m quite pleased with my 4 monkeys acquisition. I might now make it a habit of trying to acquire more of the “no evil monkeys” figurines.
Day 24: Tuesday, July 25, my last full day in Africa
After a stop at one last fabric store in the morning, Tuesday was mostly a looking-at-art day. We visited a Nigerian art gallery that was 4 or 5 floors tall, packed with astounding pieces of work in every medium imaginable. (Alas, photography of them was not permitted, save for a photo with the Museum’s founder in front of her work; see the video below.)
Day 25: Wednesday, July 26, My Travels Home Begin
We had hoped to make it to a museum in the morning, but Lagos traffic scrapped those plans. I had to get back to our hotel and finish packing before catching a taxi for an afternoon flight, first to Dubai, and then to Los Angeles.
I got quite lucky with both flights. On the first, an 8-hour flight to Dubai, I was in the middle seat with friendly 30-somethings on both sides of me. To my left was a Nigerian woman; to my delight she decided to spend about half the flight answering my questions about her country and telling me all about its politics, culture, religion, and gender-based conflicts. To my right was a friendly Egyptian man whose job made him a frequent traveler; after the flight we waited together during the lay-over and he too would tell me all about his home country and its changes and challenges in recent years.
Waiting to board the flight from Dubai to LA (what was to be a 15 1/2 hour flight) I was very worried given the number of children on the flight. At one point I tweeted (during the 2 hours and 20 megabytes of free on-air internet provided):
Day 26, Arriving home: Thursday, July 27
But actually I got very lucky with the rugrat-ridden flight. I had a window seat and the two seats to my left were two Middle Eastern boys, brothers, probably between 6 and 9. The father held a toddler girl in the seat across the aisle and had a daughter about the same age as the brothers and also his wife too. And the boys ended up being on great behavior, not bothering me at all — and after we landed I told their dad exactly that.
The highlight of arriving home after any out-of-state trip is the enthusiastic greeting from Maura. She did not disappoint.
Closing Thoughts For Now…
I’m not ready yet to weigh in on the trip as a whole; I’m both still processing it and awaiting for April & some shipped cargo to arrive home before it’s officially concluded. What I will emphasize now, though is that I hope to get back to all these countries soon and spend more time in them. Flying Emirates is almost a non-stop commercial to vacation in Dubai — I’d like to spend more time exploring there. Senegal is where we spent most of our time but I’d still like to go back again and visit other cities. (In particular, Touba, where the Mouride Sufi brotherhood is located, sounds fascinating.)
Casablanca did not particularly impress me but I do think that I owe it another two days or so of exploring before passing conclusive judgment.
Nigeria was fun and exciting most of the time — I hope to go back there again too after studying more about the various tribal, religious, and cultural differences in the country.