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Easter in Calabar

bathing in Calabar
bathing in Calabar
Easter week-end in Nigeria is a 4 day weekend. Nigerians travel a lot to visit their families, especially in the mostly christian south. Despite fuel shortages, people travel, by car, by bus or by plane. The flight from Lagos to Calabar was at 7.40am with a number of other flights between 6.30 and 8am. I therefore arrived at 6.20am only to find a single queue to check-in for all the flights that was already filling up the complete hall. Nigerians can be very patient with their country and their leaders but some of them cannot stand queuing so they will use any sort of VIP shortcuts, for a fee, provided by helpful airport staff and create havoc at the check-in counter by flooding the area normally designed for a few passengers actually checking-in at the counter. The process snowballed rapidly, making any movement at the check-in counter impossible because of people and heavy suitcases occupying every square inch of the floor. On top of that there is no exit path planned so that once one has valiantly succeeded in checking-in another ordeal happens to get out of the glut.
It was 8.20pm when I finally managed to check-in. Overall people managed to keep their calm commenting on but accepting those who cheated because they were Ogas, music stars or some other important species. The good thing, as well, was that all flights were pretty much delayed by 2 hours so everything finished well. Once boarded on the plane, the flight attendant made a special announcement to all passengers having a checked-in luggage. They should go down on the tarmac to retrieve only essential items from their luggages because the plane would not be able to carry those luggages for safety reasons (too much weight). Yes! Aviation fuel is also scarce so planes have to fly light. The conclusion is  when traveling inland, just take carry-on luggage with you. On a comfort note, the flight attendant said that the company would do its best to carry and deliver the luggages to Calabar as soon as possible on the next flight, whenever that is.
Duke Town, old Calabar
Duke Town, old Calabar
Calabar is nested on the eastern side of the river of the same name a few miles away from the sea. The opposite side is a large area of mangrove which is left free from human settlement. The city is old, populated by a tribe called the Efiks, which some claim from left Palestine 15 centuries ago and migrated progressively south-easternly to Nigeria for a large part of them, while others landed in Cameroon, DRC and Ghana.
The old town is fairly small but the city has sprawled miles away, leaving the airport in the middle of the larger city. In 2006, 370 000 people were reported to leave in the area. It is famous for its year-end carnival that lasts 5 days. It features a slave museum starting by a movie depicting how local tribes helped capture their enemies to sell to the White traders. It is said to have been the largest export center of slaves from actual Nigeria.
Calabar beauties
Calabar beauties
The Calabar museum is set-up in the colonial mansion of the former British governor of Calabar. The house made of wood and metal was brought in pieces from England to be assembled in Calabar. At the time of the visit the lady in charge said she couldn't let us in because the fuel of the generator was finished, so there was no light inside the building. She suggested that we should come back later or the next day. The next day, the fuel had not come either but after protesting a bit it was found that there would be enough fuel for a 15 minutes visit. Henceforth an accelerated visit took place through a few centuries of history, with lots of original pictures and objects. Towards the end a room displayed the traditional process to prepare Efik brides for their marriage. It involved a sojourn in the fattening room where young ladies would be fed substantially to make them monuments of fat. This way they would stand out from the servants around them, a bit like the queen of bees. As a matter of fact the bride occupied the larger portion of picture featuring them. To measure the fattening, they were wearing loose bracelets on each leg and arm, which once full would confirm that the fattening process had been completed. While getting fat, they were also taught how to take care of their husband, their relatives, etc... and also victims of excision. The tradition is supposed to have disappeared and today men prefer more slender wifes. As I saw this a thought crossed my mind, excision must have been one of the reason why women were only interested in the money of their husband: since he could not give them pleasure they had to find a substitute.
There was also a section on Mary Slessor, a scottish women who came in the second half of the nineteenth century to Calabar to spread Christianity and advocate women's right. She was gradually well accepted and spent all of her life in Calabar. She was known as the White Queen and was nominated vice governor of Calabar.

René, my driver for two days, told me about his dilemma to get a wife. He does not have enough money to present to her parents, so he is saving money for now. The girl he loves is still at school so even if he was to present her family with some money as a form of engagement, he is afraid she might ask him to contribute for the school fees with the risk that she might run away with a richer guy like what happened to him with his previous girl-friend who left him for another guy who had a car.
red-capped mangabey at Cercopan
red-capped mangabey at Cercopan
Calabar features two rescue centers for monkeys that are hunted in the nearby national parks, one is called Pandrillus, which aims at healing drill monkeys from Afi mountains at the border with Cameroon. The other one is called Cercopan, which deals with other species of monkeys (mona guenon, red-eared guenon, putty-nosed guenon, red-capped mangabey and sclater's guenon). Unfortunately, due lack of funding they plan to close doors in September this year.


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