Vlogger and photographer, Khalid Abdul has spent the last five years travelling around northern Nigeria. His pictures show why the area should be a bucket list destination.
When northern Nigeria comes up in conversation—or newspaper headlines—the topic is unlikely to be the stunning landscapes, rich cultural diversity, or the hospitable people of the north. Yet, to travelling storyteller Khalid Abdul, the region is an absolute wonderland. Home to Kajuru Castle, Matsirga Falls, Yankari Games Reserve, Gurara Waterfalls, the Shere Hills, and many other exotic-sounding destinations, it begs to be explored. So for him, travelling north is like answering a sacred call. He has to go regularly.
“I don’t visit a place because it’s in vogue or because others think it’s cool. I go because I think it’s cool. Many people are travelling and creating interesting content about Nigeria; and then, there’s the north, where nobody is interested in going. I wanted to change that,” Abdul explained.
Thanks to the photos and videos he posts on social media, his audience gets to travel with him.
Khalid started his Youtube channel, KhalidTheWakaholic, five years ago to show the world the other side of northern Nigeria, a region synonymous with ethnic and religious conflict. He wanted to remind his fellow Nigerians as well as potential foreign tourists that it’s a huge area with many completely safe regions.
“I’ve been travelling the interior north extensively and I’ve never had any safety concerns,” he said.
In 2019, Khalid began his most popular vlogs: Gembu Vlogs, a travel series based on the Mambilla Plateau, a region of Taraba State in northeastern Nigeria. At Gembu which is an elevated town in the Mambilla Plateau, Khalid found the largest highland tea farm in Africa, different ways to drink palm wine, rare sapphires, and Nigerians who had originally migrated from Cameroon centuries ago, and Chappal Waddi, West Africa’s highest mountain.
“It’s the most beautiful place in Nigeria. It’s incredible how largely untouched it is, and how much of it defies photos and videos. The potential here and all over the North is so huge that it is immensely shameful how nothing is being done about it. On my first visit, I just knew I wanted to make something beautiful from it. After the first season, I knew I had to return to create more content.“
His passion for exploration, he believes, comes from multicultural encounters in boarding school and at university in Abuja. The capital was his first encounter with the north. When he got some money and was able to travel on his own, he started to look around and take pictures of what he saw. He was led by his curiosity and a cell phone.
“I travel for a better understanding of the world and to challenge my own biases. And in doing this, I’m privileged to enjoy unique cultural experiences through food, music, and art that I otherwise would have never known even existed, “Abdul explained of his passion for discovering the ancient city of Kano, talking to pottery makers in Niger, climbing Mount Patti in Kogi, or witnessing the Durbar festival in Kaduna.
He thinks of his travel stories as providing an alternative view of the north, Nigeria, and indeed, Africa as a destination. His work not only shows that it is safe to travel and that even places that experience conflict are not defined by it.
“Travel has consistently shaped my view of my country and even the world, stripping down every barrier that could exist between me and the next person. The more I travel, the more similarities I find between tribes, cultures, and traditions. And even though people may be unique in their ways, we are more alike than different,” he said.
“I have always challenged the idea of ‘linear living’—the idea that your way of life is the only or ideal way of life. I strongly believe that while you may have your ideas and beliefs, we must also make room for the understanding of others. Moreso, I think life is about the accumulation of experiences, and you can only have these experiences when you make room for new ideas and understanding,” he added.
The passion Khalid has for telling unique Nigerian stories keeps him hooked on discovering new places. For destinations, he seeks the unpopular, the overlooked, the underestimated, and the misunderstood. He scouts on Google and asks questions on social media.
His travels began in Bauchi, Northeastern Nigeria, and soon he was exploring other Northern states, documenting his experiences in pictures, vlogs, and short films, adding to what he calls a “balance of Northern stories.”
“I think Northern Nigeria is the most diverse part of Nigeria when you look at the picturesque landscape, natural resources, and cultural influences that go beyond Nigeria’s borders. Contrary to popular beliefs, the more I explore the northern parts of Nigeria, the more hospitality and beauty I find-not just in the landscapes but within the hearts of the people.“
The only question remaining is, when are you planning to go?
Photo Credit: Khalid Abdul