Thursday, September 19, 2013

Arik Air's Guide to Nigeria's Cities

In the wake of Air Nigeria's ignominious demise, Arik Air has taken up the mantle of flag carrier for Nigeria, and taken on West Africa's key Lagos-Accra-Monrovia route, which I flew a few months back.
Arik Air's in-flight magazine, Wings, has the usual economy class journalism, but I was delighted by the airline's back section feature, WingTips, which are visitor guides to cities it serves. These include not only the larger global destinations like Johannesburg, but also most of its domestic network, including Akure, Asaba, Gombe, Ilorin, Jos, Kaduna, Katsina, Owerri, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Uye, Warri, Yola. Each profile has a section, Behold, which celebrates the city itself, followed by paragraphs on what to buy or what local markets the city has, and what or where to eat, and where to stay.
Brussels Airlines and Kenya Airways produce similar content for their in-flight glossies for spots as exotic as Lomé and Conakry, and of course Lonely Planet and other adventure guides have provided information on off-the-beaten-path African cities for decades. So perhaps I am looking at this from the perspective of a patronizing foreigner, but this glossy promotional series was pleasantly unexpected. I find it so warming and optimistic to find these tourist guides to these places, so little known and little visited by foreigners, and broadly speaking so infrequently appreciated or celebrated by just about everyone.
The only time any of these places make it into the international press is likely when there are fear-mongering stories about Nigeria's insecurity or imminent break-up. Rather than danger warnings, its nice to read celebratory recommendations suggesting travelers explore the country.

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