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A Nigerian woman’s food at a London hotel

The renovation of my main apartment was done and the landlord wanted us to go see the place together so he can talk me through a few things. On my way out of my temporary apartment block, a strong smell of boiling tomatoes and fresh pepper harassed my nostrils. I didn’t think much of it at first, “maybe it’s the Indians I saw the other day cooking some lovely curry this morning,” I thought to myself.

I met my landlord, we drove to the renovated apartment and did the checks.

A month ago, I had woken up to a mini-flooding in my flat. I thought someone had poured water on the floor at first until I noticed that my roof was leaking. I immediately phoned the estate agents and they brought in some engineers to have a look. After two more leaking episodes, the landlord advised we move to a temporary accommodation, so he can get the place properly fixed.

The temporary accommodation would be a fantastic two bed hotel apartment. It was great: friendly receptionists saying good morning, sir, to you on your way to work and good evening, on your way back. I also met some really great people at the hotel lobby, we watched some Champions League games together and had some good laughs.

On my way back from the checks with the landlord, the smell of my neighbour’s cooking greeted me again, but less harshly, this time. The smell has gone from an aggressive boiling tomatoes and pepper to a more subtle, relaxed, friendly smell of a cooked stew. I stopped and tried to figure out where the smell was coming from. I was sure it wasn’t curry, this time, but a fantastic, deliciously-smelling Nigerian stew. — I just needed to figure out exactly where it was coming from.

Suddenly, I started to hear voices and then I stopped, put my ears close to the door and the people in there were blasting Yoruba — in a true Yoruba/Nigeria fashion — shouting on top of their voices. You would have thought they were having a fight.

Nigerians don’t talk. They yell. I’ve had to reassure an ex-boss of mine who had just finished having a Skype-call meeting with some of our Nigerian partners based in Lagos; during the meeting, our Nigerian partners yelled all through and the Oyibo boss felt very uncomfortable throughout the meeting; he thought he’d done something wrong and that was why they were shouting at him, I had to calm my guy down: I told him that they weren’t shouting at him, that we, Nigerians, are just very passionate people and that’s how we talk. I know he must be wondering why I don’t also talk like that. Well, if only he knew how much I’ve had to refine and tone down my natural self just to fit in so I don’t get fired because the boss thinks I’m being disrespectful by yelling or speaking too loudly at him. Till this day, some people still think my voice is too loud. To those people, I’m sorry there’s nothing much I can do for them anymore. I cannot discard the remaining Nigeria in me just to make someone else feel comfortable.

Back to our stew guys, I listened in for a few more seconds just to be sure it’s Yoruba they were speaking and not that the aroma of the food was just messing with my mind. Now I was sure it was Yoruba and for a minute I was going to knock on their door to introduce myself as a neighbour but then I remembered my Yoruba was rubbish and because I did not want to disgrace [the legacy of] my ancestors at this lovely London hotel, I carried my “long-throat” and walked straight to my own apartment.

Cover Image: Suleiman Ahmed 

Suleiman Ahmed, a software engineer by day and a writer by night. Author, Trouble In Valhalla. Twitter: @sule365 | Email:

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