Benin is the capital city of Edo state, southern Nigeria. The history of the Benin Empire can be traced in the National Museum located in Central Kings Square. Bronze plaques once decorated the walls of the Oba’s palace which depict historical events.
Heritage sites in Benin City you should visit are as follows;
Oba of Benin Palace
The Oba of Benin Royal Palace is a notable abode of the Oba of Benin and other royals. Located at the heart of the ancient City of Benin and built by Oba Ewedo and was destroyed during the 1897 war with the British, The Palace was rebuilt by Oba Eweka II and was listed as a Heritage Site in 1999 by UNESCO. The Benin rich culture celebrates and preserves the Royal Palace of the Oba of Benin. Curators, historians and archaeologists are notable visitors to this Palace.
Benin City National Museum
The Benin City National Museum is another site you want to behold. Located at the City center on King’s Square in the ancient city of Benin in Nigeria, there are significant collections of artifacts related to the Benin Empire like the cast iron pieces, bronze figures and the terracotta. You can also find ancient art related to early times in the Benin City National Museum.
Ogba Zoo, Benin City.
Ogba Zoo is a nature park established in the year 1971 in a forest reserve in the Ogba district, just four kilometers from the town center. The Ogba Zoo is a state-owned zoological park covering 750 acres of land and water, home to wild and local species, including lions, giant tortoises, primates, equine, rock pythons and antelope species. The Ogba Zoo is one of Nigeria’s top tourist destinations.
The Benin Moat
One of the man-made earthworks and wonders in the world which predates the use of earth-moving equipment or technology is the Benin moat, traditionally known as Iya.
The moat surrounds the old boundary of the City which was constructed to serve as a defensive blockade against enemies and invaders especially in times of war.
The first and second moats were dug by the fifth King, Oba Oguola (1280-1295) to fortify the City from invaders like the powerful warlord and ruler of Udo known as Chief Akpanigiakan alongside his Udo warriors. They were later crushed by Oba Oguola at the battle of Urhezen in 1285 CE. Important towns and villages in Benin City and its environs built similar moats as defence systems around their communities by the decree of Oba Oguola. The 12th KIng, Oba Ewuare the Great (1440-1473 CE) built an extension of the Moat during his reign in the 15th century. The Benin moat is a heritage site you don’t want to miss as it is over 3200 kilometers long.
Igun Street brass/bronze casters
UNESCO once listed the Igun-Eromwon quarters also known as Igun street as Cultural Heritage Site due to it being a home to bronze/brass casting industries in Benin. During the ancient Benin kingdom. The Igun-Eromwon quarters is one of the 31 guilds of the Oba of Benin. This is a hot tourist attraction site we have in Benin, Nigeria-West Africa.
|Standing elegantly opposite the Oba market in the City of Benin is a statue of a stately woman, cladded in a headgear linked with royalty and the traditional wrapper.
The elegant statue was put-up in honour of a patriotic woman known as Emotan, who traded in food items in the 15th century at the very spot where the statue was erected. During that period, Oba Uwaifiokun (1430AD – 1440AD) forcefully took over the throne of the Benin Kingdom in place of his elder brother, Prince Ogun who the heir apparent.
This period was indeed a time of travail for Prince Ogun, who paid secret visits mostly at night times to Benin from his exile. Emotan the market often warned prince Ogun against dangers of interacting with treacherous chiefs who may reveal his presence. Emotan had at one time hidden Prince Ogun from his enemies.
Prince Ogun eventually recovered the throne and was subsequently crowned the real Oba of Benin, he took the name Oba Ewuare the great (1440AD-1473AD). He remembered the important role played by Emotan, the market woman, by saving him from obvious dangers during his exile years.
Oba Ewuare ordered that the sacred Uruhe tree be planted when Emotan died. This tree was planted at the very spot where Emotan used to display her goods in Oba market. Oba Ewuare decreed thereafter that every person performing any ceremony of any kind in Benin must pay homage to Emotan. This decree was followed consequently as every citizen including the Oba himself pays homage to Emotan whenever they conduct ceremonies till this day.
The memorial tree fell and the 33rd king, Oba Osemwende (1816AD-1848AD), replanted another Uruhe tree on the same spot.
Officials of the British Colonial administration injected the tree with poisonous chemicals in 1951 and uprooted it. A violent mass reaction almost erupted, from which the 37th King, Oba Akenzua II (1933AD-1978AD) protested against the Emotan shrine destruction.
The British colonists eventually agreed for replacement from which a clay Marquette was modeled by a professional brass caster from the Igun-Eronmwon named Enomayo. Mr J.A. Danfar further casted a life-size statue from this modeled clay in London.
The Emotan statue was eventually revealed amidst pomp and pageantry by the Oba of Benin, Akenzua II on the 20th of March, 1954.
Queen Iden grave
Queen Iden was the pride of the feminine gender during her days as the wife of Oba Ewakpe (around 1700AD-1712AD). She stood behind her husband the King even with the series of setbacks which extends to the subjects revolting against the king, Oba Ewakpe. Everyone was against the king including his subjects and slaves. He was rejected by his maternal side not until the oracle was contacted. The oracle made their demand that a human blood be sacrificed for peace to be restored, of which there was no human in the palace or subjects around ready to be offered. Queen Iden then voluntarily offered herself to be sacrificed by being buried alive. This really saddened the king but restored peace to the Benin kingdom. Queen Iden instructed that her tomb be kept clean at all times with no trespasser stepping on her grave.
Queen Iden grave is located at Oba’s market close to Urhokpota hall. The contributions of women to the ancient Benin kingdom will be incomplete without Queen Iden.
Chief Ogiamien Ancient Palace:
Chief Ogiamien Ancient Palace which was built about 1130AD is a National Monument located within the city walls and Moat, precisely at No. 97 Sokponba Road in Benin City. This is the only building that existed before the emergence of OBASHIP in Benin Political Organization, also the only building that survived the 1897 British siege and expedition. The Chief Ogiamien Ancient Palace was declared a National Monument in May 26th, 1959 and by Decree 77 of 1979 that establishes the National Commision for Museum and Monument, and gazetted under the Federation of Nigeria official gazzette No. 31 Vol. 46 of 1959, the protective cover of Part II section 3 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the concurrent legislative list.
The Chief Ogiamien historical building is a rectangular shape of ancient design, grooved terecotta walls which is presently covered by corrugated iron roofing sheets and nails that have survived harsh natural weather and human deterioration till date. This historical building is typically unique and traditional architectural work with twenty rooms embedded in eight separate courtyards in Benin City.
The front wall has two doors with the main entrance and the Urho-Erimwin permanently blocked but open once during the coronation of the Oba of Benin Kingdom. There are numerous cultural and religious significance of the Chief Ogiamen Ancient palace.
Holy Aruosa Cathedral: (Aruosa N’Akpakpava)
This is the oldest church in Nigeria built in the 15th century and located in Akpakpava street in Benin City. The church of Benin (Aruosa) is synonymous with the Church of England or the Dutch reform church. When the Portuguese brought Christianity to the Benin Kingdom. The Portuguese missionaries accompanied Oba Esigie to the Idah war of 1515-1516AD. Oba Esigie could read and write in the Portuguese language fluently.
The pattern of worship in the Holy Aruosa is a mixture of indigeneous beliefs and Roman Catholic practices while the Benin Monarch is the head of the church as the Ohen-Osa are responsible and answerable to him.
Benin City is indeed filled with heritage sites, some of which are not mentioned here in this post. This is because it is one of the oldest empires in Africa and the world at large.