In February, a small crew and I were asked to go to Dubai airport to collect travellers’ stories. It was part of the BBC’s Identity Season and we’d be staying there for five days. As well as managing to cobble together this documentary the brief was to come up with a totally original online story. We’d met camel racing trainers from Oman, a trio of Saudi soap opera actors, a family on their first Umrah pilgrimage… you get the picture. But in the end a single sentence won the contest.
At the gate to Lagos I spotted an uber cool young Nigerian family, the Esochaghis. Chatting to mum, Ugochi, it turned out they were coming back from holiday but that wasn’t the only reason for their trip.
“We come here to melt our gold,” she told me. Bingo.
Was it a ‘thing’ or just one family’s tradition? That detail would make the difference between a good story and a fun footnote. On arriving back to the UK, I started my research and it turned out that it’s popular for Nigerians to take their old gold to Dubai and get it made into new pieces. The BBC magazine commissioned me to write this piece on it and the day it went live, it was the most popular feature on the BBC website; it seems that gold still has the power to get into the soul. Ironically I’m allergic to it myself.