Àjàlá in the Holy Land

by Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún

Detail from the cover of 'An African Abroad" features colorful drawing of Ọlábísí Àjàlá's famous scooter, decorated with names of places he visited, in a fantasy landscape of red mountains, green sky and fields, and bright flowers

In November 2022, OlongoAfrica revived a classic memoir, first published in 1963, that had long been out of print: An African Abroad by Ọlábísí Àjàlá. One of the reasons I’ve always loved the book is the way it fixed, as if in a photograph, the image of many regions of the world during a time of great upheaval. Àjàlá was a traveller, and also a keen observer of humanity. So the travel book he wrote is both a timeless journalistic piece, and a snapshot of the ’60s through the eyes of an African. The account of his time in the Soviet Union is as relevant now as it was on the day it was published. 

But when I read the book again a few days ago, it was his encounter with an Arab Muslim man in Israel in the early ’60s that struck me, both for its relevance to current events, and for the clarity with which the story is told.

Black and white photo of Ọlábísí Àjàlá posing on his scooter; he wears a traditional African smock in an intricate print, a dark cap, and leather sandals
Image: Nigeria Stories, via Twitter

Here it is, in the words of Ọlábísí Àjàlá:

It’s a paywall, but a small one

Read this post and get our weekdaily newsletter for $3 a month