Considering the list of things to do in Benin, one major thing is its rich history alongside the Songhai Empire which was one of the most powerful houses in ancient Africa from the 14th to 16th century. The people of old Bini Empire were known for their beautiful bronze artworks which are still amongst the most coveted works of art in the world. The new Benin is now home to the people of Oredo local government area and capital to Edo state. Benin is found at the South-South part of Nigeria close to the Delta region.
Getting to Benin City from Lagos is about 6 hours by road and one hour by air which makes it interesting for the traveler with the urge to travel by road to explore the striking landmarks and beautiful scenery as the bus goes by them. Benin City one of the industrial cities in the Delta region due to the presence of many rubber plantations and the warm presence of its people which ensures the continuity of the economy. Wherever you visit in Benin city the rich culture and history of their ancestors are on display like the war fought between the British and the Bini people is depicted in the Benin roundabout, the statute of Emotan the first market woman in Bini empire around the 15th century and many more.
When visiting Benin City with the intention of exploring its tourist sites, ensure you plan with the weather and season so the rainy season would not affect your tours. Visiting during the dry season would guarantee you enjoy your visit while learning history and meeting friendly and welcoming natives. Asides from English which is the official language of Nigerians, the Pidgin English which is a combination of English and Portuguese words is more common amongst the natives which you have to prepare your mind for.
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Things to do in Benin
The Oba of Benin Palace
The Oba of Benin palace is located at the centre of Benin City which has been in existence since 900 AD when Oba Ewedo (1255 AD – 1280 AD) broke ground and built what is known as one of the largest royal houses in Africa. The British and Benin war in 1897 brought most of the structure down which led to Oba Eweka II (1914 – 1932) rebuilding one-tenth of the initial plan in 1914 which has been maintained till date. Let’s fast-forward to 1999 when the palace was named a World Heritage site by UNESCO which guaranteed the preservation of the palace for the cultural and educative purpose. The palace is decorated with different local arts, crafts and historical items depicting the old and the new Benin.
The palace is seen as a sacred place by the people of Benin who have explicit do’s and don’ts which have been in effect for centuries and they believe adherence to these laws has ensured the continuity of the kingdom. Some of these laws include not wearing the colour black and red in the presence of the Oba, use of umbrella is prohibited because it’s only the Oba that is allowed to use it.
The Benin Moat
The Iya Benin moat is said to be the biggest man-made earthwork in the world which was built solely as a protection for the old Bini Kingdom. Tourists are known to be blown away with the precision of the artwork which circles the old perimeter of the city. These piece of art started with the Oba Oguola (1280 – 1295) who installed the first two moats with the aim of being battle ready and the safety of his people. His Influence caused the other kings to continue in his footsteps and create this rare wonder for the world to enjoy.
Chief Ogiamen’s House
The Great chief Ogiamen’s house is part of the old palace which was built around 1130 AD and now located between the Benin city wall and the Moat. It was the only surviving building after the British-Benin war and has been taken under the wings of the National Monuments for preservation and education of the new generation.
It is also known as the Igun street which was formerly part of the 31 guilds of the Old Bini Kingdom famously casting the lovely bronze sculptures and trinket coveted by the colonial masters and the present day art museums world wide. Igun-Eronmwon quarters is a UNESCO heritage site which sees a lot of visitors both local and international coming to see the home of the best Bronze and Brass sculptors in the world and also watch the process of their work.
Things to do in Benin
The Local markets
Explore local markets like the Oba market, Agbado market, Osa, Ohila, Ikpoba hill market amongst other markets in Benin City. These markets are either open daily, five days interval or fortnight depending on their council. While going through this market you can shop for things common to Benin City to take home on your return as a souvenir and also get familiar with locals.
This is claimed to be the 2nd storey building in Nigeria which was built by the Inne of Benin, High Chief Osawe Iyamu in 1906.
Benin National Museum
It is said to have started from the Oba of Benin’s palace until a structure was built and commissioned in 1973 to showcase the beautiful artworks of the most talented artisans in Benin and the whole of Nigeria. This is amongst things to do in Benin because it broadens your knowledge of the richness of the kingdom and Nigeria as a whole.
Okomu National park
This is a wildlife sanctuary which has the original rainforest vegetation in Ovia South Local government area of Edo state. It is home to endangered species like Buffaloes, porcupines, antelopes, birds, chimpanzees and the almost extinct white-throated monkeys.
The beautiful and hardworking woman Emotan who was known to be the first woman to operate a daycare in the Benin Kingdom as far back as the 15th Century. Her stature was erected as a tribute to her patriotism and placed at the same spot she sold her wares in the Oba’s market those years ago. Make sure you look out for a regal woman dressed in the customary Benin people’s wrapper girding her chest down with a dramatic headgear and trinkets to match.
Not mentioning Ughoton village would be like we are severing the relationship between the Benin people and Yorubas. History has it that Prince Ekaladerhan was banished to this village alongside his mother who later wandered about until they arrived at Ile-Ife to create the land and said to be the father of the Yoruba clan which is why Benin people and Yorubas are referred to as cousins. Also in Ughoton village is the shrine of the Olokun priest who went to Brazil to learn about Christianity.
Gele Gele Sea Port
It has a significant meaning to the Benin people as it was where the first Portuguese Ship docked around 1400’s to meet the then ruler Oba Ewuare. It opened opportunities for trade between the Bini Kingdom and the world where their rubber produce was exported to be made into end products in the West. This port also facilitated the slave trade during this era.
This festival came about as a ritual to fortify Oba Ewuare’s powers which are always observed within Christmas to New year where the Oba blesses his land and the people and is not permitted to see foreigners until after the ceremonies.
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