- Not to be confused with Benin.
Benin City is one of the oldest cities in Nigeria, dating back to pre-colonial times. It boasted one of the most advanced and organised kingdoms before the arrival of the British. The city used to be the capital of the old Bendel state until this was divided into Edo and Delta states. Benin City is the capital of Edo state.
The original people and founders of the Benin Empire, the Edo people, were initially ruled by the Ogiso (Kings of the Sky) dynasty who called their land Igodomigodo. The rulers or kings were commonly known as Ogiso. Benin grew rich during the 16th and 17th centuries due to trade within southern Nigeria, as well as through trade with Europeans, mostly in pepper and ivory. In the early 16th century the Oba sent an ambassador to Lisbon, and the King of Portugal sent Christian missionaries to Benin. Many Portuguese loan words can still be found today in the languages of the area.
On 17 February 1897, Benin City fell to the British in the "Punitive Expedition", in which a 1,200-strong British force conquered and razed the city after all but two men from a previous British expeditionary force were killed. Until then, Benin City had been known for its impressive architecture, including its city walls that were said to be four times as long as the Great Wall of China, but these were all destroyed by the British in the 1897 expedition. The Benin Bronzes, portrait figures, busts and groups created in iron, carved ivory, and especially in brass, were taken from the city by the British and are displayed in various British museums. Some of the bronzes were auctioned off to compensate for the expenses incurred during the invasion of the city. Various appeals have been made to the British government to return such artifacts. The capture of Benin paved the way for British military occupation and the merging of later regional British conquests into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.
Since Nigeria's independence from British rule in 1960, Benin City has been a regional capital.
Benin is known for its road transport, so a visitor can get to the city from almost any city in the country. From Lagos it takes about 4 hours to get to Benin, but it's best to travel during the day because the bad roads make the journey a lot longer and stressful. From Port Harcourt, its about 4 hours 30 minutes to Benin. The journey from Port Harcourt is a lot easier because there are better roads on that stretch. The roads in Benin City are not very good and traffic regulations are rarely enforced in this busy city, so hold-ups and traffic jams are common in some parts of the city.
Getting around in Benin isn't too difficult. The roads are fairly well constructed, and the city is well linked and networked. If you come in by air, there are taxis at the airport to take you probably anywhere you wish to go for an affordable price. And if you come in by road and are taken to the terminal of the transport service, you will also find taxis ready to take you anywhere. Taxis and buses are supposed to be painted red or rather wine on their body and yellow on the roof. But there are some buses and taxis that don't obey that code.
Most roads lead to the ring road, so to get to some places, you actually have to get to the ring road and then take another bus or cab to your destination. Moving from one part of town to another is usually done by bus but on some routes, you can also take a taxi. There are no standard bus stops in the city so generally when you are in a commercial vehicle that has reached your destination, you would alert the driver by saying "stop" or "drop", and then he would come to a halt. Don't hesitate to say this as the driver will certainly take you past your destination if you don't.
The city has a very active night life, and getting around at night time is pretty much the same as getting around during the day time, except that some routes become more dangerous at night time, so take precautions.
Apart from buses and taxis you can also get around the city with motor bikes. But the state has a law that bans the movement of commercial motor bikes between 7PM and 6AM.
Suya (Nigerian equivalent of a barbecue) but much better!
Edo people love pounded yam and orhe (obgono) soup (draw soup).
Palm wine from local palm wine tappers. Bottled palm wine does not taste as good.