Yoruba: In the west, the Yoruba developed complex, powerful city-states. The first of these important states was Ile-Ife, which according to Yoruba mythology was the center of the universe. Ife is the site of a unique art form first uncovered in the 193Os. Naturalistic terracotta, bronze heads and other artifacts dating as far back as the 10th Century show just how early the Yoruba developed an advanced civilization. Later, other Yoruba cities challenged Ife for supremacy, and Oyo became the most powerful West African kingdom in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The armies of the Oyo king (Alafin) dominated other Yoruba cities and even forced tribute from the ruler of Dahomey. Internal power struggles and the Fulani expansion to the south caused the collapse of Oyo in the early 19th Century.

Benin: Benin developed into a major kingdom during the same period that Oyo was becoming dominant to the west. Although the people of Benin are primarily Edo, not Yoruba, they share with Ife and Oyo many of the same origins, and there is much evidence of cultural and artistic interchange between the kingdoms. The King (Oba) oE Benin was considered semi-divine and controlled a complex bureaucracy, a large army, and a diversified economy. Benin's power reached its apex in the 16th Century.

Igbos and Peoples of the Delta: Many Nigerian cultures did not develop into centralized monarchies. Of these, the Igbo are probably the most remarkable because of the size of their territory and the density of population. Igbo societies were organized in self-contained villages, or federations of village communities, with a society of elders and age-grade associations sharing various governmental functions. The same was true of the Ijaw of the Niger Delta and people of the Cross River area, where secret societies also played a prominent role in administration and governmental functions. But by the 18th Century, overseas trade had begun to encourage the emergence of centralized systems of government.

SOUTH-WEST NIGERIA

ABEOKUTA means 'under the rock', derived from the Olumo Rock, the town's most famous landmark. Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, lies on the Ogun River amid rugged, rocky hills, offering excellent photo opportunities. Home of adire cloth, Abeokuta has an intriguing array of markets which sell a wide range of exotic goods. Olumo Rock, sacred to the Egba people, is on the east side of the Ogun river. Visitors should engage a guide from the tourist center at the bottom of the rock where one can explore the caves used as sanctuary during the Yoruba civil war. At the rock's summit, visitors can enjoy a tremendous view of Abeokuta and the Ogun River.

BENIN CITY is steeped in history. World-renowned Benin bronze scuptures date back to the 15th Century when the Oba of Benin ruled the large and powerful Edo kingdom, a period when bronze casting was an art used to glorify the Oba. In 1897, a British expeditionary force sacked Benin and hauled off many of the bronzes to London. Still, several good examples of the bronze artifacts remain in both the Benin and Lagos Museums. Today, bronze casting is still continued in several streets in the city, including Igun and Oloton streets. Another attraction in Benin is Chief Ogiamen's House, a prime example of Benin traditional architecture built before 1897. The house miraculously survived the "Great Fire" during that period which destroyed most of the city.

IBADAN was until recently the largest indigenous African city. Located along the edge of a thickly wooded forest belt, it was called Eba-Odan, meaning a town at the edge of the forest.' Today it's the capital and main commercial center of Oyo state. Places of interest include Dugbe market, a huge traditional marketplace, the Parliament Building, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria's premiere university, its Teaching Hospital and Cocoa House. Ibadan is also close to the historic towns of Oyo, Ogbomosho, Ijebu-Ode, Ife, Ilesha, and Oshogbo.

ILE-IFE, the ancient city of Ile-lfe, in Osun State, is truly unique. The Yorubas consider it to be the cradle of creation and civilization. Legend says that it was at Ife that Oduduwa, sent by Olodumare, the Yoruba creator-god, established the first land upon the waters that covered the earth, thus founding Ife. His sons spread to other parts of Yoruba to create further kingdoms. Ile-lfe became a remarkable center for arts, producing both terracotta figures and bronzes dating from the 12th to 15th Centuries, second only in fame to the Benin bronzes.

LAGOS, on Lagos Island, has been settled since the 15th Century, when Yoruba groups used it as a refuge from outside attacks. It was a trading post between the Benin Kingdom and the Portuguese until the arrival of British traders in the 19th Century, presaging the colonization of the interior. Lagos is divided into several parts, each with its distinctive character. The heart of the city is Lagos Island (Eko), containing most of Nigeria's commercial and administrative headquarters. It is linked to the mainland by three road bridges, and to Ikoyi Island and Victoria Island by road. The latter are mostly residential areas with palatial houses, expansive gardens and five star hotels in a gorgeous setting. Tourist attractions in the city include The National Museum, The National Theater and miles of beautiful beaches. Finally, Oba's Palace sits majestically on Lagos Island, portions of which are over 200 years old with a newly constructed extension.

ONDO area has many fascinating tourist attractions including the Ikogosi Warm Spring, Idanre Hills, Ipolo-Iloro Water Falls, Ebomi Lake and the Museum at Owo. The most popular are Ikogosi Warm Spring and the Idanre Hills. The Ikogosi Warm Spring, located in a valley in Ikogosi Town, northeast of Akure, is ideal for camping or picnics. The Idanre Hills, with curious dome-shaped peaks, are located in Idanre, southwest of Akure. The hills have a socio-religious significance, having protected inhabitants from invaders during inter-ethnic wars in the distant past

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