Monday, August 22, 2005

Abuja....So Much Nicer Than Lagos

I went to Abuja this week to register for my National Youth Service. This is a period of work, which lasts a year long, and is dedicated to the government, so to speak. It doesn't mean that you have to work in a government organization or in civil service do. Some people do, but many find their own jobs and use that to serve out the youth service year.

I hadn't been to Abuja in about 5 years and was excited to go back. I remember it as being rather dull, especially in comparison to Lagos, and was curious to see if I still felt the same. Abuja is definitely still more laid-back than Lagos. I think of it more as a town than a city. Almost the first sight we saw as we drove out of the airport though was of an accident scene. A man lay face-down on the ground, surrounded by a car, a motorcyle and, of-course, the inevitable bystanders. He was moving slightly and it appeared that he might have been riding on the motorbike and was knocked off by the car. Despite this disconcerting event, this didn't seem to represent the state of Abuja traffic. Abuja roads, unlike Lagos, are mostly highways (the less prominent streets are mostly found in the residential areas). There are also less people in Abuja and Lagos and as a result, there is just a whole lot less traffic. I enjoyed being a car that sailed freely down the streets, unemcumbered by other cars.

Abuja is very unspoilt, with a lot more greenery on view than in Lagos. I'm hard pressed to name many areas of Lagos with large expanses of vegetation. Abuja is aso still a very clean city. Although, I've always considered myself a city girl, Boston really mellowed me out and I could see myself settling quite nicely in Abuja. The buzz of a big, cosmopolitan city is always attractive,until you have to spend hours in traffic everyday.

Bird's Eye View of AbujaBird's Eye View of Abuja. It looks so peaceful doesn't it?

On our second day there, my sister and I were given a tour around Abuja by my parent's driver. We drove by the Children's Zoo, saw Aso Rock (the rock, not the presidential residence), Millenium Park, the National Assembly, the Central Bank, several government and ministerial buildings, which I can't remember, the major hotels (Nicon Noga Hilton, Sheraton and the Meridien), the International Conference Center. I took a lot of pictures and would like to get them online, but the connection is so slow that it would take me forever.

We stopped by at the Sheraton for lunch. I ordered suya, which turned out not to be suya at all, but nicely spiced meat. I could have made that myself. Of course, if I wanted real suya, the Sheraton was probably not the place to go to. We tried out the Meridien for dinner and that was pretty good. At least, the Nigerian food on offer there had a much more authentic taste.

We returned to Lagos the next day and I wasn't overly thrilled at returning to the traffic of Lagos. We spent about an hour in slow-moving traffic in an area that should ordinarily be about 15 minutes away. Sigh!! The "charms" of Lagos driving, I guess.

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