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December 13, 2001

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Here is a quote from Chinua Achebe, one of Nigeria's most respected writers and clearly a patriot: "Listen to Nigerian leaders and you will frequently hear the phrase this great country of ours. Nigeria is not a great country. It is one of the most disorderly nations in the world. It is one of the most corrupt, insensitive, inefficient places under the sun. It is dirty, callous, noisy, ostentatious, dishonest, and vulgar. In short, it is among the most unpleasant places on earth." Sound like a place you'd like to visit? Our second day on Nigerian roads and we have seen what he wrote about, although it will be hard to surprise us after yesterday's machine gun incident. Checkpoints stop us every 10 km, some officers smile and wave, others are curious, asking questions, one or two hint at bribes. We weren't fined today for some imaginary offence, so matters seem to improve as we head north. By nightfall we reach Kano, a city located in Nigeria's top center, near the border of Niger and the base of the Sahara. For the last thousand years camel caravans came here carrying desert salt and made this city rich enough to rival the other Saharan trading post we visited, Timbuktu. However, Kano has retained much more of its former splendor than Timbuktu. Kano bustles with activity. The city blends old with new. Kano's international airport keeps jets coming and going overhead. Cars crowd small streets. A 12th century mud wall that once protected the city now provides mud brick for shanty town houses. These makeshift suburbs spread each year as more people come here to work in the growing industrial sector. The dye pits soak indigo cloth in the same fashion that has been used for centuries.
Some people say the smell of indigo repels mosquitos. It also repels people.
The cloth is dipped in many intervals to get the deep indigo shade.
A view of Kano: the people are more colorful than the town.
An alley in Kano.