Monday, 7 September 2009
BY ANDREW IRO OKUNGBOWA
Last week we commenced the serialisationon the eight Nigerian cities slated to host the FIFA Under -17 World Cup Tournament billed to hold between October 24 and November 18. It was Abuja last week, this week we move to Enugu — the Coal City. BACKGROUND Enugu is one of the five Eastern States of Nigeria. Others are Ebonyi, Abia, Imo and Anambra. Of the five, Enugu has a vast and appealing landscape made up of undulating hills, lush green vegetation, highlands and lowlands. It thus presents captivating scenery for the delight of visitors and nature lovers. For instance, the highlands of Agwu, Udi and Nsukka Hills as well as the Oji-River basin present a perfect backdrop for the city. In the words of a resident of the state, “Enugu State has the natural ambience, scenery and land- scape that makes it, a first choice tourist’s attraction.’’ There is plenty for the visitor to savour, especially within the metropolis of Enugu, the capital city. The state is called ‘Coal City,’ in reference to its glorious past, when it was a major mining centre. The boom in coal made the city to flourish as an economic hub in the region outside being the capital city of the then East Central State. Relics of the rich coal trade are still visible. The city had two distinct coal mining enclaves — the Oneyeam and the other is Okpara coal mine. A visit to any of these two sites is something to cherish as one is taken through the inner recesses of the then famed coal business. Historically, Enugu State was formerly part of the Eastern Region with Enugu city as the administrative Headquarters. Over the years, Enugu remained as a melting pot for the people, especially serving as an enclave of rest for people who needed a serene and calm environment of the city for holiday. Arts, Culture ONE of the elements that visitors to the city should look out for is the artistic and cultural expressions of the people, which are very distinct from that found in other parts of the country. The people are noted for their proclivity in metal work, wood carving and cloth as well as mat weaving. Although there may be not too many notable galleries where one can view most of these works, however, there are pockets of art shops and malls where many of these are on display. Even a visit to some of the traditional homes could reveal a lot about the art and culture of the people. The National Museum located in the city also offers a glimpse into the art and cultural heritage of the people. A lot of traditional entertainment would be on showcase during the period of the world football event however; perhaps the most colourful would be the Mmanwu (Masquerade) display, which should be re-enacted at the time. Mmanwu display is one of the most prevalent cultural entertainment form of the eastern region as it cuts across all the states and towns; however, that of Enugu is highly revered by the people because of it unique theatrics, puppetry, pomp, artistry and massive nature. Airport THE city boast of an airport, which is devoted to domestic operations. Although it has an international status, it is yet to function effectively in that direction. One can get connecting flights from the airport, which is located in a section of the city called Emene — one of the industrial areas in the city, to such places as Abuja, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Lagos. Tourist Attractions THE city and its environs has an array of tourist attractions that should compel visit. The endless list include: • Eastern House of Assembly and Government House (Lodge): This building once served as the House of Parliament for the Eastern Region during the colonial era. It was here that such historical figures as Late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Former President of Nigeria and Leader of the Eastern Region) and Michael Okpara (Governor of the Eastern Region) once held sway. The Ezeagu Tourist Complex: It is located outside of the city however, it is an attractive place to visit to savour a lot of natural creations and unique landscape of luxuriating greenery featuring among others pockets of springs, lakes and waterfalls, the spring is noted for it unique flow of warm and cold water. *Opi Lakes Complex: This is also another complex situated out of the city and habours many natural attractions such as lakes and features a number of leisure activities ranging from sport fishing, boat cruises and picnic. *The Ugwueme, Udi Hills: These are undulating and mountainous ranges that present a picturesque view. Good site for relaxation and soul inspiration. Mountaineers would find these locations inviting. Also in the same league are The Agwu and Milliken Hills *Awhum Waterfall: The fall measures more than 30 metres high and is located close to a monastery. The water is said to be curative and associated with some spiritual powers. *The Ani Ozalla Lake and Shrine: This complex is unique for harbouring crocodiles with some spiritual sentiment attached to the sight. *International Conference Centre: located at Independence Layout, Enugu, it is a state-of-the-art centre which has among others a 5,000 seater main bowl, 1,500 seater small bowl, 1, 000 seater dome theatre, a 200-room hotel and office complex. Onyeama and Okpara Coal Mines: Coal used to be the signature industry and symbol of the city however, the mining fields of the city have been abandoned over the years. They present good locations for visitors to see into the past existence of the people. The coal tunnels, underground roads, colonial buildings and other relics at the mine complexes are good reference points. Other attractions within the city include the Polo Club, Michael Okpara Square, the National Commission For Museum and Monuments complex, the Zoological Garden and the Arts Gallery at the Institute of Management and Technology. Some of the towns within the fringes of the city to visit for a glimpse of the rustic and pristine existence of the people amidst traces of modernity include Nsukka, which is a town hosting the University of Nigeria. (It also has a campus in Enugu), it is the foremost university in the eastern region.