I’ve wanted to attend Social Media Week Lagos for the last five years, ever since my girl Ngozi Odita founded it with a group of fellow Nigerians.
The largest innovation and technology convening on the Continent, SMW Lagos is definitely a Nigerian hot spot for the cool girls and guys representing innovation in Africa across industries.
The Busy African and I decided to introduce Shoppe Black to the masses on the other side of the Atlantic, while checking out some of the best of what the Continent has to offer.
Although this would not be my first trip to Nigeria – it’s been a minute. Tony hasn’t been back for a few years either so it would be a homecoming of sorts for him, especially since he’d have his new Iyawo [read: bride] in tow.
Considering the fact that Nigeria is home to 174 million people, with many more of her children located throughout the globe, we were both looking to Shoppe Black when we went “back home.”
What we didn’t know was how many businesses were not owned by Nigerians. We just naturally assumed everything was for us, by us. Not so. While there are countless Nigerian owned businesses, the country also has its share of businesses owned and operated by Lebanese, Chinese and other Asians.
Nobody’s here for the xenophobia that countries like South Africa are sadly exhibiting. However, in our quest to support our own, we went on a mission to experience the best Naija-owned businesses we could find.
Imagine our delight when we happened upon the #buyNigerian movement that includes businesses with great concepts and excellent customer service.
Who knew just how fun and cosmopolitan our Black and Bourgie in Lagos experience would be? Certainly not us. The two weeks we spent Shopping Naija inspired us beyond imagination.
From nail bars and rooftops to organic juice brands and museums, Lagos has a little bit of everything with lots of room left to start something new.
So whether you’re in Nigeria for business, going home to visit the family or relocating to this bustling country, check out our personal faves from in and around Lagos.
This is only a sample that reflects our quick trip but we’re looking forward to diving into the Buy Nigerian movement as we continue to build our own brand. And watch out, #shoppenaija may be coming to the innanets near you.
WHERE TO STAY
La Maison Fahrenheit Hotel
While Tony and I didn’t stay at Fahrenheit, we certainly hung out there with friends on a few occasions. The rooftop is undoubtedly one of the best places for drinks and stimulating conversations in the city.
The boutique hotel has the coolest vibe and decor. The rooms are sexy and spacious. I’ve heard great things about the food at the in-house restaurant as well. We’re definitely staying here the next time we’re in town, if only for a few days.
Protea Hotel Lagos at Kuramo Waters
During Social Media Week, we opted for Protea Hotel Lagos Kuramo Waters. It’s a smaller garden style hotel owned and operated by Marriott on Victoria Island, located a few minutes away from Landmark Center.
The rooms were modern and comfortable. We stayed on a lower floor one night and in a suite on an upper floor the remainder of the trip, which was better because of the small balcony and natural sunlight.
The food at the restaurant was pretty decent. The staff were beyond accommodating and friendly. P.S. Don’t let the website fool you. The hotel is situated on a beach but not the the kind of beach you’ll have access to or where you’d probably opt to lounge. marriott.com
WHERE TO GRAB A BITE
Nok by Alara
Named after one of the world’s oldest civilizations that flourished during the Iron Age in present-day Nigeria, Nok’s ancient terra-cotta sculptures, jewelry and artifacts are preserved today in museums around the world. The Contemporary Nok is a well designed concept restaurant, that was actually crafted by the internationally renowned David Adajaye, that features a delicious modern take on traditional Nigerian and Diasporan dishes.
It’s cute for a date night or gathering with a group of friends, with both indoor and outdoor seating options, although the menus vary depending on where you choose to dine. On one occasion I had the jerk chicken on one evening and the grilled beef filet on another.
The Red Alert was my adult beverage of choice. I ate there at least on three separate occasions and they did not disappoint on any. It’s on the pricier side but well worth it. And if you wonder why the aesthetics are so supreme, that’s partially because the building was designed by internationally renowned architect David Adjaye. nokbyalara.com
Samantha’s Bistro and Grill
There’s no denying the fact that I’m a picky eater. Not only that, I’m the self-identifying Burger Queen. My love for hamburgers has nothing to do with the fact that I’m American but everything to do with the fact that I have always, always loved hamburgers.
So put me in any city or country and I’ll find the best burgers there. In Lagos, Samantha’s might be it. But not only that, their grill had some of the BEST tilapia I’ve tasted in my life. And I’ve had some great tilapia. I couldn’t stop talking about this tilapia though. It was grilled to perfection. You should also check out their brunch. IG: @samanthasbistro
Hans & René
With locations at the Radisson Blu hotel in Ikoyi, Palms Shopping Center and Ikeja City Mall., Hans & René is a very cute, Black-owned bakery and gelataria.
They serve traditional flavors of gelatos and sorbets that you’d find anywhere in the world but also a variety of local concoctions that were quite delicious. My personal favorite was the Agbalumo – a sorbet made from a popular indigenous fruit affectionately called “African cherries.”
Hans & René also offers a selection of other sweets and baked goods. This is not the place to go if you’ve kicked your sugar habit but most certainly the place to visit if you have a sweet tooth. hansandrene.com
Craft Gourmet by Lou Baker
This may be bit of a faux pas, considering we are all Black everything but I be remiss if I didn’t recommend Kraft Gourmet located on the upper floor at Mega Plaza. Why? Because although not Black, they are of color and their customer service was EVERYTHING.
Plus the food is good. I dined there for a late brunch twice. The chicken and waffles were tasty. The $10 mimosa came in a carafe that allowed you to squeeze out at least three mimosas, which meant I was pretty tipsy both times but I didn’t complain.
The owner’s husband was very sweet and extremely accommodating. I believe they’re Indian, which in this case, is good enough (brown enough) for me. Great service goes a long way. IG: @craftgourmet
One afternoon after quite a hot and dramatic visit to the National Museum, Tony and I were looking for a quick bite en route to our next appointment.
I saw the signage from the road on our way to the museum and asked the driver to pull into the parking lot for So Fresh. We were pleasantly surprised by the neat juice bar that also had a variety of salads, wraps and smoothies.
It’s not only nutritious and but is an an ideal haven for Nigerian veggie lovers. We love their branding and customer service as well! sofreshng.com
So Fresh isn’t the only health conscious brand in Lagos. Once again, my girl Tayo put me onto several great Nigerian businesses in the area. She and her husband are huge supporters of the #buynigerian movement.
During a visit to her home, she offered me a refreshing and nutritious Simply Green cold pressed juice. I was in love! The owners of Simply Green have mastered the art of branding. Additionally, their products come from a Nigerian owned farm where they grow their fruits and veggies.
Their juices can be found at various stores throughout the country as well as at their own location in V.I. If you’re really committed to cleansing and giving your system a break after stuffing it with fufu and pounded yam, you can order a cleanse which ranges from 3 to 6 days.
The Simply Green staff delivers your fresh juices directly to your door. How cool is that? simplygreenjuice.com
Scratch and Social
It’s no secret that I have a picky palate. I’m even pickier when it comes to my pedicures. I decided to check out Scratch and Social at the end of SMW when it was time for my nails to get touched up.
Someone told me that the uber cute nail shop also had a bar so I figured it was the perfect answer to cure our need for happy hour and tackling my manicure at the same time. The vibe is super chic.
The place is owned by a millennial from Texas who returned home to try her hand at Nigeria’s booming start up sector. I absolutely loved the place. I loved the service. What I didn’t love was the four hours it took to get my nails done. (Neither did Tony or Yaba).
I think it had more to do with the fact that it was a Friday night and that it takes at least an hour for each service and there was at least one person ahead of me. In MY opinion, it might be better if the owner just makes everything by appointment only to alleviate the wait unless she hires more staff to meet her growing demand.
Also a free drink for the wait would have been a nice gesture. All in all, she was very sweet and I’d still go back because you can’t beat the vibes. scratchandsocial.com
House of Tara
There was a House of Tara booth during SMW and I picked up two lipsticks. I loved the colors! So after I discovered that it was in the neighborhood when we drove by one day on the way back to my in-laws, I stopped in to pick up a few more lipsticks and a few things for my mother-in-love.
House of Tara has a full line of cosmetics. You can book appointments to have your makeup done as well. Since I purchased my colorful hues, I’ve been wearing them almost daily.
They’re not very big tubes so I’m not sure how long they’ll last in comparison to larger brands but I love the way the purple and bright pink shades highlight my complexion. shop.houseoftara.com
WHERE TO SHOP
Located in Victoria Island, Alara is very chic, very modern, very ultra-dope concept store boasting of luxury brands from around the globe. The four – five story locale has anything and everything a couture loving fashionista/o would ever need in their wardrobe or home.
I don’t do red bottom shoes (my ankles and size 10s/41s were not set up for stilt walking unfortunately) but they had plenty pairs of Christian Louboutins if that’s your thing. The store also functions as a gallery that is curated by my good friend Temitayo Ogunbiyi.
After working up an appetite spending hard earned money at Alaro, you can go its sister restaurant in the back for some good bites. IG:@alaralagos
I have to credit my play cousin-in-love for turning me on to Gray Velvet. Kemi’s an it girl who comes home frequently. Because she highly values more modern twists on traditional wear versus Western name brands, she shops at Grey Velvet.
We checked it out before flying back to the States. Kemi was right! I wanted to buy half the store but only left with an Ankara Agbada, a few tops and a pair of shades.
It’s a cute boutique located in the Lekki shopping center and has a variety of colorful dresses, blouses, pants, skirts, accessories including the local made high end Femi handbags. greyvelvetstores.com
I posted a status on facebook about my experiences in Balogun Market hunting for fabric. I handled it like the O.G. professional Diasporic haggler that I am.
But battling the sheer excited chaos and heat that are Lagos’ largest street market is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced. So if you want to purchase some small items for the home or friends, go to Lekki Market.
In addition to sculptures, masks and jewelry, there are also a very vendors with nice traditional paintings. You still can bargain, don’t just take someone’s last price. But even if you do, you’ll still come out with some good finds. Find out more about Lekki Market here.
WHERE TO FIND ART AND CULTURE
Kalakuta Republic Museum
For years Kalakuta Republic was a place that lived in my imagination. The actual home of one of my patron saints, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Kalakuta Republic was the socio-political and ideological headquarters and living quarters for the late great father of Afrobeat and contemporary Pan-Africanism.
In 2012, the home was converted into a museum, to preserve not only his remains but Fela’s legacy and serve as the family’s headquarters for Felabration. Today, it also plays host to the rehearsal spot for Fela’s youngest son and my good friend, Seun Kuti.
Seun and Egypt 80 practice there weekly for hours. Upstairs is a local hangout spot and bar for neighborhood youth. We had the opportunity to hang out with Seun and crew and got a tour of his dad’s home turned-museum.
The museum is in Ikeja, in the heartland of Lagos City, about an hour’s drive from the island. Click here to learn more about the museum.
Another place I’ve been wanting to visit is the Centre for Contemporary Art in Lagos. Founded by curator Bisi Silva in 2007, the center preserves, exhibits, and discusses contemporary Nigerian art and visual culture.
In addition to its gallery space, the center houses one of the largest visual art libraries in Africa. When my friend Tayo took me there, she introduced me to brilliant young artist Kelani Abass, whose exhibition If I Could Save Time was on view in CCA’s galleries.
Bisi is as brilliant as she is sweet and CCA is a much needed institution. CCA is located on the mainland in Yaba. ccalagos.org
If you google what to do in Lagos, one of the top tourist attractions is Lekki Conservation. Since the in-loves lived in Lekki, I naturally assumed that it was right down the road (that’s also how far way our driver described the distance). It was a little further than down the road but it was worth the trip.
Growing up a five minutes drive away from the swamp, I’ve always been enamored with nature and botanical landscapes. The conversation is a quiet walk into local fauna, an oasis away from the urban hustle and bustle that is Lagos.
For whatever reason, I encouraged my brother-in-love to trek up the six suspension bridges that took us on a journey into the sky above the trees. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, perhaps testament that I’m slowly overcoming my fear of heights.
We saw some local wildlife including peacocks and had a meditative, peaceful good time. ncfnigeria.org/projects/lekki-conservation-centre
Jazzhole was yet another socially hip place that we got put onto by friends. This time, it was a suggestion by Afrobeat queen Wunmi. A group of us headed there after treating ourselves to post-brunch sorbet at Hans & Rene.
The place was fantastic! There were all kinds of classic vinyl albums from all over the continent. There were also loads of books, magazines and cds.
Between browsing and listening, you will probably engage in profound conversations with the founders or one of the Jazzhole’s intellectual patrons.
There’s also a cozy cafe situated in the back that carries assorted teas and small bites. Check out this Black Fabulousity post about Jazzhole and its owners here.
The New Afrika Shrine
The first time I went to the Shrine was in 2007. It felt more like a dream than something that actually happened in real life.
Femi performed, I probably had my share of African cabbage and cried. LOL. I was so overwhelmed at the idea that I was at Fela’s shrine. Granted, it wasn’t the original edifice, but the spirit of Fela lives there.
We missed Seun’s show, which is the last Sunday of each month but we were able to catch Femi live. The show was nice and laid back.
I’m undoubtedly a bigger fan of Seun’s than Femi but it’s well worth the trip. The Shrine is in Ikeja. It’s a must do for any true Fela disciple. thenewafrikashrine.com