As well as brilliantly buoyant culture, Lagos has bumper-to-bumper cars, noise and pollution beyond belief, a high crime rate, and maxed-out public utilities. Elevated motorways ringing the island city are jammed with speed freaks and absurd traffic jams (‘go-slows’) on top, and tin-and-cardboard shacks underneath. It’s a divided city, but an undeniably exciting one.
Named after the Portuguese word for lagoon, Lagos has been a Yoruba port, a British political centre and, until 1991, Nigeria’s capital.
Located about 100km north of Lagos, Abeokuta has its own very strong cultural identity. It is well known as the birthplace of many famous Nigerians, notably former president Obasanjo, Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and writer Wole Soyinka. Soyinka’s autobiography, Ake, is a vivid depiction of a childhood spent here.
It’s a poor town, unused to visitors except those visiting the rock, and while wandering around is fascinating, you’ll feel conspicuous.
Virtually nothing of the historic city survives: it was destroyed by the British in an epic act of vandalism in 1897. But the culture and the royal family is still deeply venerated here, with the Oba (king) held in higher esteem than any mere politician.