CENTRAL NIGERIAABUJA, GURARA FALLS, ILORIN AND MORE...

ABUJA, in 1976, was selected by the Federal Government to become the new seat of government; and in 1992, the first of four stages of this move to Abuja was launched with most of the senior government officials now in Abuja . Besides being the administrative seat of government, Abuja is a beautiful city surrounded by rolling hills, with ample mountaineering potential. The Gwagwa Hills, near Suleja, the Chukuku Hills, the Agwai Hills and the famous Zuma rocks are just some of the awe-inspiring manifestations of nature's beauty in the area.

BIDA is a lively town, famous for its handicrafts and colorful market, and is the principal city of the Nupe people. Bida is famous for its glass beads, cloths, silver and brass work, it's carved 8-legged stools made from a single piece of wood, and decorative pottery. Bida's market truly stands out as a traditional showcase of local commerce in Nigeria .

GURARA FALLS is on the Gurara River in Niger State , on the road between Suleja and Minna. Particularly impressive during the rainy season, the falls span 200 meters across with a sheer drop of 30 meters, which creates a dazzling rainbow effect as the water cascades over the top into a cloud of spray below.

ILORIN , an ancient city, is the southernmost point of Fulani expansion and bears characteristics of both north and south. It has often been described as the gateway between the two because of its strategic location, and as a result offers a good base for visiting the surrounding area. Tourist sites in Ilorin include the Mimi's Mosque and residence built in 1831, the first mosque in Ilorin , and the magnificent new Central Mosque, built during the reign of Zul-Gambari, the late Emir of Ilorin. Both attest to the Islamic culture of the city. Another attraction is the Dada pottery workshop in Okelele quarters, the largest pottery factory in Nigeria . Other local tourist sites in Kwara State include the Esie Museum of stone figures. Over 1,000 soap stone figures of men and women, sitting on stools or kneeling, with elaborate hairstyles and facial marks. Little is known about the figures, being products of a very old civilization. Esie museum houses the largest collection of stone figures in sub-saharan Africa .

OWU FALLS , in Kwara State is the highest and most spectacular natural waterfall in West Africa , at its best during the rainy season. The waterfall cascades 330 feet down an escarpment with rocky outcrops to a pool of ice-cold water below.

LOKOJA is an historic colonial town. Due to its location at the confluence of the two great rivers, the Niger and Benue , it became the headquarters of the Royal Niger Company in the 19th Century. The headquarters building, still standing, was prefabricated in London and shipped to Nigeria , where it was assembled without using a single nail. Also in Lokoja is the Iron of Liberty, located in the compound of the first primary school in northern Nigeria . Here, many slaves were freed at the end of the slave trade.

MAKURDI is located on the bank of River Benue, one of the two great rivers in Nigeria . For visitors to the area, there is a zoological garden in Makudi and Goven Hills, Ushango Hills and Bassa Hills, and fishing and boating on the Benue River . In Igbor there is the Ikure Wildlife Park .

OKENE is the home of the Igbira, an industrious people renowned for their farming abilities and their beautiful woven cloth. Picturesque Okene, nestled atop several rocky hills, is a fascinating place to visit. The craft of cloth weaving still continues to thrive here and the cloth remains highly-prized throughout Nigeria . For tourists in the area, Okene has a thriving market, open every other day, where there is a section dedicated to the woven cloth.

KOTON-KARFI is located west of Okene and about 20 miles north of the confluence of the rivers Niger and Benue. For anyone who enjoys fishing, Koton-Karifi is a paradise, for the multiples of the Niger tributaries are teeming with fish.


NORTHEAST NIGERIABAUCHI, JOS, MAIDUGURI and more...

BAUCHI is an old Hausa town surrounded by an appealing range of rolling hills, is close to both the Yankari Game Reserve, approximately 1½ hours away to the southeast, and the site of the Geji Rock Paintings, located on the Bauchi-Jos road. In Bauchi, tourists may also visit a memorial and library dedicated to Sir Abubakari Balewa, the first Prime Minister of Nigeria, who was assassinated in 1966. The library houses many of Balewa's personal papers.

JOS has always been a popular destination for tourists due to its height above sea level (4062 feet). Jos has two golf courses, Rayfield and Plateau, plus a polo club and other sports/entertainment offerings. The National Museum in Jos is one of the best in Nigeria, especially for archaeology and pottery, where many fine examples of Nok heads and artifacts, circa 500 BC - 200 AD, are displayed. The Pottery Hall has an exceptional collection of finely crafted pottery from all over the country. On the same grounds, the Museum of Architecture contains life-size replicas of Nigerian architecture, from the walls of Kano to the Mosque at Zaria to a Tiv village. Other attractions in the area include the wildlife park, nestled amid 8 sq. km (3.09 sq. miles) of unspoiled savanna bush, where the rare pygmy hippopotamus is successfully being bred in 'hippo pool.'

Lions roam a large enclosure that simulates their natural habitat and visitors will also find elephants, red river hogs, jackals, chimpanzees, crocodiles and numuerous other animals to view. The Shere Hills can be seen to the east of Jos and offer a prime view of the city below. Assop Falls is a small waterfall (again, best seen in the rainy season) which could make a pleasant picnic spot on a drive from Jos to Abuja . RIYOM ROCK is a dramatic and photogenic pile of rocks balanced precariously on top of one another, with one resembling a clown's hat, observable from the main Jos-Gimi road. Kura Falls is a refreshing area forwalks and picnics, with scenery reminiscent of the Scottish highlands.

MAIDUGURI is a handsome, impressive town with broad streets and plentiful trees, presiding over strong traditions and a culture dating back more than 1,000 years. Maiduguri is an ideal place for seeing the Kanuri people, with their fine tribal markings, and the Shuwa women, adorned with plaited hairstyles and flowing gowns.

The BORNO REGION around Maiduguri is one of the most fascinating places in Nigeria . Along the northern borders of the state is Sahel-Savannah country, endowed with rolling sand dunes punctuated by oases in the dry season, yet covered with vegetation during the rainy season. Southern Borno is generally green savannah land, enlivened by hills and rock formations, while toward the Cameroon border, visitors will enjoy majestic mountain visages.

The BULATURA OASES are on the western side of Borno State northeast of Nguru. This is the desert in a Hollywood film set: dunes, camels and palm trees around an oasis. The severe beauty of this place offers a special treat to visitors who have yet to experience such a daunting landscape. The oases are also excellent for bird-watchers; in the dry season there are thousands of palaerartic migrants which congregate there.

YOLA, on the upper reaches of the Benue River , lies in close proximity to some of the most scenic areas of Nigeria , situated along the mountainous border with Cameroon . The Mambilla Plateau (see pages 22 & 23) is within a day's journey from Yola, as are the Shebshi mountains to the south.

The GWOZA HILLS are breathtaking. They are located southeast of Maiduguri , and southeast of the village of Gwoza Valley, along the Cameroon border.

MANDARA MOUNTAINS are also in this area, stretching from south, in the Mambilla, to Mubi in the north. The Mandaras provide some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Africa . Itis suggested that tourists in the area take at least a week to enjoy both the Nigeria and Cameroon sides of these mountains.

NORTHWEST NIGERIAKANO CITY, KADUNA, KATSINA and more...

KANO CITY , the oldest major city in Sub Saharan Africa, dates back more than a thousand years. For centuries it was one of the most active commercial centers in West Africa . Today, it is Nigeria 's third largest city and the largest city in the north. Centrally located, Kano City acts as a terminus for all of northern Nigeria , linked by road and communications with all other major population centers in the region. By virtue of its historic role as trading center between the Sahara , down south to Zaria , Kano remains a living, modern day relic of a rich past.

The Emir's Palace in Kano is the past incarnate with its old stone walls and entrance gate, at the heart of this ancient city, encircled by a wall that extended 17.7km in circumference, with 16 different gates. Close by, the Gidan Makama Museum offers an excellent history of Kano and of the Hausa and Fulani peoples. Kano Central Mosque is one of the largest in Nigeria and, with permission, a visitor may be allowed to ascend one of its towering minarets to gain a spectacular view of the city below.

KADUNA was previously the colonial capital of northern Nigeria . Located on the Kaduna River , the city serves as an important junction, with roads extending in five different directions. Kaduna is a major communications center and industrial base but also a thriving metropolis from which tourists can explore the surrounding countryside. Within Kaduna there is a National Museum on Ali-Akilu Road that features wood carvings, masks, Nok terracotta figures and Benin bronzes. Plans are under way to have an annual Durbar festival in Kaduna like the 1977 Durbar, festival that drew all the northern Emirs to Kaduna .

KATSINA, the northernmost city in Nigeria , sits on the edge of Sahel and borders the neighboring country of Niger , which has traded with her for centuries. Katsina, one of the old walled Hausa cities, is the capital of Katsina State . The Goborau Minaret, a most picturesque tourist attraction, is the tallest mud-brick building in Nigeria and is 250 years old. A fine view of Katsina can be gained from the top, an area that hosts the best and most elaborate Durbar festivals

BIRNIN KEBBI, a centuries old Hausa-Fulani walled city is the capital of the newly-created Kebbi State . The area is famous for traditional arts and crafts, beads, swords and glassware, and is the site of the Argungu Fishing Festival, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nigeria . Held annually, it attracts competitors from neighboring Niger and Chad Republics , plus many visitors from all over the world. Apart from the traditional fishing competition, there are also boxing and wrestling contests.

SOKOTO, the center of Islamic activities in Nigeria , is the home of the Sultan of Sokoto, the spiritual leader of Muslims in the country. The city stretches with avenues of lush trees and wide roads, appearing like an oasis in a semi-desert area. Sokoto is another of the great trading cities of the North, with old trade routes across the Sahara to Morocco and Algeria . It is famed for its excellent leatherwork: handbags, wallets, fans and other items featuring exquiste crafting.

The Sultan's Palace is a delightful sight, with its lavish architechture and guards in their multicolored regalia. At 9:00 pm on Thursdays, visitors can watch the musicians play the Tambari for the Sultan. Usman dan Fodio, the founder of the present day Hausa-Fulani states, is buried in Sokoto. Though not a tourist site per se, it holds great historic importance.

ZARIA, one of the original seven Hausa cities founded in the 16th Century, is a vibrant, attractive city which has retained its ancient look by leaving most of the modern development and industry to nearby Kaduna. Once surrounded by some 19 km of walls, in some areas still well-preserved, Zaria has three important establishments: The Ahmadu Bello University at Samaru quarter, the first university in the north, Barewa College, the oldest high school in the north, where most of the Nigerian political and military leaders were educated, and finally the Nigeria School of Civil Aviation, the only one of its kind in West Africa.