Living away from home; whether in pursuit of happiness or fleeing dire circumstances, can be difficult. But nothing highlights it like the holiday season. The elaborate streetlights, the gigantic pine trees, the pristine skating rinks, the chiming carols emerging from every store and restaurant as if playing from heavens loudspeakers, trigger all your nostalgic senses. If that doesn’t get you, the mass exodus of people from the big cities and the realisation that there is no “Christmas Food” certainly will. All this makes holiday travel especially attractive, albeit prohibitively expensive. If you’re like me and have left your holiday plans late, look no further than these amazing destinations to take the holiday blues away.
I’ve always had a fondness for Lagos during the holidays. From when I was a little boy growing up in Kaduna. Every Christmas, I’d try to convince my parents to take us to see our cool cousins who lived in Lagos for the holidays. So now that I’m a grown man its no surprise Lagos is one of my favorite places to spend the holidays. Whether its weddings, festivals, countdowns, raves, concerts, holiday parties, themed parties, restaurant openings, or even church retreats — December in Lagos; which has become a thing, is about the best time you’ll have anywhere in the world. In the indelible words of Banky W — Aint no party like a Lagos Party. If you’re into Afrobeats and live music; and frankly who isn’t, there’s a full lineup of the genres finest playing sold out shows almost every night, culminating in the years biggest acts — Wizkid and Davido headlining separate shows. If you’re more of the rave type, the All Black Everything (ABE) Christmas Day party hosted by Tiwa Works now in its 9th year, is always a good time. Appropriately followed by the Boxing Day White Party. Follow @decemberinlagos or @nothingtodoinlagos for some of the hippest parties in Lagos.
Just like Lagos, Accra hosts a lot of returnees from the diaspora during the holidays that give the already vibrant city an extra shot in the arm. Along with that comes the perfect opportunity to throw weddings, live shows, beach parties and art exhibitions. Just like Lagos (although they’ll swear they got there first) December in Ghana is also a thing. Theres also a dope All Black Party and…you guessed it, a subsequent all white party to boot. Of all the amazing parties in Accra this holiday season, I’m mostly looking forward to the rebirth of Sandbox Beach Club. If you’re in Accra, make sure you check them out. If you’re not the party-party type, Labadi beach offers a more relaxed departure from the intense atmosphere that accompanies the holidays. Nothing prepares you for the future like a visit to the past. A few miles outside Accra lies a few of the most historic relics of the trans-atlantic slave trade in West Africa Cape Coast and Elmina castles, and they’re definitely worth a visit.
Lamu Island, Kenya
If the holidays for you are more about resting, recuperating and resetting, then this immaculate island off the coast of Kenya is your best bet. I must admit, as someone whose idea of a vacation isn’t really laying on the beach and sipping margaritas, I wasn’t really sold on spending the holidays in Lamu. While the Arab influences that permeate the city’s architecture, and the preservation of the most natural of elements like the narrow streets and donkey taxis make the city charming, it’s the festivals that make Lamu colorful and exciting. The Dhow Sailing Race on New Years day is the premier event of the holidays. Professional and amateur sailors alike can partake in the festivities, and if you’re like me, you can finagle your way onto one of the racing boats. If you aren’t as daring, you can also follow the race in motor boats or watch it from the sea walls or rooftops that line the beach. If all that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are lots of activities including checking out old ruins, sailing the mangroves in search of hippo’s and dolphins, snorkeling and just a good ol’ picturesque background for your amazing photos.
In a non-scientific social media poll, I asked respondents where they would spend the holidays if they could choose anywhere on the continent. Zanzibar came out on top. Considering most of my followers are Nigerian, that’s saying something — Probably that I need to be there. The autonomous region off the coast of Tanzania is known for its amazing beaches, its blue waters — which are the most beautiful you’ll find anywhere in the world, its spice market and its many tourist attractions but one of the best kept secrets is its Full Moon Party on new years eve, among several other amazing parties that will light up the Zanzibar night. Like Lamu, the Arab influences in Stone town — which is the only place on the island i’ve been to, and preservation of historic structures, make me especially love it. Zanzibar is a top tourist attraction all year round, but during the holidays its an especially hot spot. Follow @zanzibarguide and @weoutcheatz for places to go and things to do.
Cape Town, South Africa
Despite my well-documented apprehension to recommending South Africa to Nigerian Travelers (read here), it received the second most votes in my afore mentioned poll, so here we are. It’s arguably the most picturesque cities in the world. Located in the southernmost part of the African continent, the holidays in Cape Town are especially enjoyable because…well its summer in the southern hemisphere while the rest of us deal with harmattan and winter and tropical storms. The New Years Eve at the V&A Waterfront is sure to be LIT! Literally! Afterall what are the holidays without fireworks, street performers, live artists, countdowns and kisses. There are also a ton of New Years eve parties and festivals with great live performers and DJ’s. My personal favorites would be the Strongbow New Years Even party at the Clock tower Rooftop and the Longstreet DJ Festival. Theres also a few brunch parties on New Years Day, if you intend to party your life away. VibesScout.com is a good resource to find dope parties. So if you MUST go to South Africa, go to Cape Town. But make sure you let them know along with new leadership brings new opportunity to revise their foreign policy as it relates to other African countries.
This non-exhaustive list just provides a template for where to go and what to expect, there are a host of other amazing African cities that come alive in December and a ton of events for different palates. The end of the calendar year provides a new opportunity to start all over, reset, resolve and re-strategize. A good vacation can revitalize the soul and help prepare you to tackle what is sure to be an interesting year ahead.
As for me, you can cash me and my @sailingnoire crew in Lamu. We’ll be sailing into the New Year at the Dhow Sailing Regatta. Follow our exploits on @thedanjuma #dhowaboutthat.