Enugu, nicknamed the “coal city” is the capital of Enugu state in South-Eastern Nigeria. The city is popular for its cuisine, robust industries and of course, the local palm wine. Despite this, there’s a lot many people don’t know about Enugu. But of course, it’s never too late to learn.
1. The Meaning of Enugu
The name Enugu derived from two Igbo words, “Énú Ụ́gwụ́” means “top of the hill or mountain”. The name obviously denotes the city’s geography naturally decorated with rolling hills and valleys. The city was named after “Enugu Ngwo” under which coal was discovered. Enugu inhabited majorly by the Nike subgroup of the Igbo people, “ndi Nike” in the Igbo language means “those with strength or power”.
2. How did Enugu Become “The Coal City”
The Europeans commissioned Albert Ernest Kitson to lead an exploration in 1903 to find mineral resources in the area. In 1909 Coal was discovered in Enugu at the Udi Hills and this led to the construction of the Eastern Railway to transport coal to the port at Port Harcourt
Enugu was then developed by the Europeans to become one of the few West African cities with a European touch. Enugu was declared the capital of the Eastern Region after Nigeria’s independence in 1960 having previously served as the administrative capital of the same region from 1938 till independence.
3. Enugu Was Briefly the Capital City of A Country
The city also served as the “capital of Igboland” known as the Republic of Biafra in 1967. The Biafran capital was moved to Umuahia after the Nigerian Armed forces captured Enugu. In 1991, the old Anambra state was divided into two to create Enugu and Anambra State. Enugu remained the capital of the new Enugu State created by Ibrahim Babangida’s military regime.
Enugu city has a population of about 1 million people. This is one of the lesser populated metropolises in Nigeria. The city experiences two distinct seasons: the recurring rainy and dry season separated by the dusty Harmattan weather. It has a mean temperature of 26.7°C making it one of the most habitable cities in Nigeria. Travellers to the city are advised to visit this “British Developed City” during the dry season after the rains have subsided.
5. Visit the South-Eastern Capital of Nollywood Movies
The Urban market and bottling industries are some of the industries in the city. It is also the main filming location for the Nigerian movie industry known as “Nollywood.” Domestic and International flights land at Akanu Ibiam International Airport, and the Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka is the main educational establishment.
6. It is a City of Festivals
The New Yam Festival which holds to officially present the newly harvested yams to God and ancestors is as old as the Igbo culture. It usually holds between August and October with each community determining a date. Known locally as the “Emume iri ji Ohuru” or “Iwa ji” or “Ife ji oku”, it serves as the most unifying festival in Igboland. New Yam festival has become a major tourist attraction because of other colourful events such as Royal dance, Igba-Eze dance, cultural dance, masquerade parade & dance and musical rendition by various community groups. Enugu State organizes the annual Mmanwu (masquerade) festival at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in November.
7. How To Get To Enugu
Enugu is accessible by road from all parts of Nigeria. ABC Transport Plc, Young Shall Grow Transport Ltd, Peace Mass Transit, Chisco Transport Ltd and God is Good Motors are some of the road transportation companies commuting passengers daily from various parts of Nigeria to Enugu with an average cost of 4000 Naira.
The major motor parks include Old motor park at Ogbete market, Newmarket or Gariki motor park.
Local airlines with direct flights to Enugu’s Akanu Ibiam International Airport include Medview Airlines, Arik Air and Air Peace.
8. Getting Around In Enugu
The road network has federal roads connecting Enugu to other states of Nigeria while the state roads connect various local governments in the state. Enugu has a good road network plied by taxis and bikes (okada) making movement around town easy. You can also take a mini-van plying fixed routes through the city or take a taxi drop which is more comfortable but expensive.
9. Things To Do In Enugu city
The top activities recommended for first-time visitors to Enugu include the various festivals held in different communities of the city.
Hospitality is the core value of Enugu city, so visitors should learn to first warmly greet, and ask about the family and health of the indigenes before conducting business.
Eat out to have a feel of the rich Igbo food culture
Enugu is the headquarters of popular Nigerian delicacies like Isiewu, Abacha, fiofio, akpu/fufu, Ugba, pepper soup and Nkwobi. Other foods like African salad, akpu, banga soup, oha soup, nkwobi and ukwa are also served in Enugu.
The New Yam festival
Held between August and October, the New Yam Festival is the single most important traditional festival in the city. Closely followed by the Mmanwu (masquerade) festival in November. Visitors in Enugu can celebrate the new festival by boiling yam or preparing yam porridge or partaking in the communal celebrations. There are several other festivals accompanied by a rich display of culture by the indigenes, dancing and drumming.
Enugu residents respond with “wa” rather than the commonly used “mba” for no, so visitors to the city should learn to say “wa” to have a feel for the culture.
Visitors can also take a trip to the old coal mines to see explore the tunnels. Udi and Ugweme hills is a perfect site for picnics.
Enjoy the Nightlife In Enugu
Enugu city has a bubbling night time for night crawlers. There are various joints, sit-outs and nightclubs all providing night entertainment.
Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the night party days, making the weekend the most enjoyable days of the week. People hang out at wine bars and joints spread around different corners of Enugu city, ensuring there is no boring night. Nightclubs in Enugu include Extreme lounge, True lounge, Villa Toscana nightclub and Orange room.
Hotels like Legend hotel, Dmatel hotel and Resort, Amazon hotel, Hotel Toscana, Nike Lake Resort/hotel, Hotel Metropole International Ltd, Rossy Valley International Hotels complex, and Chiez Inn have nightclubs and bars.
Shop all over the city
Enugu city has a number of large markets that serve the double function: shopping at cheap prices and tourism to have a feel of a typical Igboland market environment. The major markets are found in the city but the rural communities also have their own markets, and occasionally have night markets.
The markets are well laid out in different sections selling groceries, clothes, books, electronics, vegetables and grains.
The supermarkets in the city sell a varied assortment of foreign goods. However, the 3 main markets where visitors can buy goods and also go on site seeing are:
The ogbete market is where the largest variety of goods are found at the cheapest selling prices. Service providers like masons, painters, plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters are found in the Kenyatta and New Markets. Animals, majorly cows and goats are slaughtered in the Artisan market while the Obolo market near Nsukka sells fresh fruits and vegetables.
The night markets believed to be associated with spiritual elements, occasionally open in the smaller towns around Enugu city. The markets are lighted with kerosene lamps and were candles. It is believed that people can go to the market to contact dead relatives who died mysteriously. Most of these indigenous markets open daily till 6.30pm.
Situated at Okpara Avenue, Polo Park Mall offers modern shopping and entertainment mall for shopping, unofficial meetings and hangouts. The Polo Park mall incorporates banks, Shoprite, cafes, bars, restaurants, beauty salon and a cinema. Shops in the mall sell items such as food, cosmetics and electronics. Genesis Deluxe Cinema and the giant Ferris wheel in the mall provides entertainment.
How To Spend 48 Hours In Enugu
Enugu is a cool city with a lot of tourist attractions. It has a blend of an ancient city and convenience of a modern city that charms visitors.
The tallest building in Enugu is the 6-storey African Continental Bank (ACB) tower and the 7-storey Hotel Presidential building; all located in the Central Business District of Enugu. The Michael Okpara square found in the middle of Enugu, has the Enugu State Government House, House of Assembly and Judiciary Complex all located near the square.
Day 1: Eat Igbo delicacies:
Okpa, Isiewu, Abacha, fiofio, akpu/fufu, Ugba, pepper soup and Nkwobi, akpu, banga soup, oha soup, nkwobi and ukwa are common delicacies popularly sold in restaurants in Enugu.
National Museum of Unity was established at the end of the civil war to stimulate unity. Military artefacts and relics from the Stone Age through the post-colonial period are housed in the museum. It opens weekdays from 9: 4:00pm.a4:00 pm.
Awhum Waterfall and cave: The cave is a breath-taking scenery with its waters believed to have healing and curative effects.
Ngwo Caves, waterfall, and Pine Forest has several caves and waterfalls. The Ngwo cave takes you through the trees of the Pristine Ngwo Pine forest.
Day 2: Udi Hills:
The site of the first coal mine in Enugu. Opened in 1915 before it was replaced in 1917 by Iva Valley mine. The old tunnels for conveying the coals outside the hill is still present. Visitors should tour the hills and learn about the history of Enugu.
Milken Hills: It offers a beautiful standpoint to view Enugu metropolis, especially at dawn and dusk. Relics of coal mines and its beautiful tunnels are under the hills. The hills are good for mountaineering.
The Ani Ozalla Lake is located at Ozalla in Enugu. Sacrifices are offered to the crocodiles in the Lake, as they are believed to be goddesses.
Mmanwu Festival: This masquerade festival holds yearly at the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium in November. So, go to the stadium to enjoy the colourful events to honour the ancestral spirits. There are several masquerades that will be displaying an array of beautiful garbs such as Ojionu, the Enyi Mmanwu, Mmanwu Ugo and Ijele, the King of masquerades.
10. Where To Eat In Enugu
Enugu is famed to be the custodian of the rich Igbo food culture. However, to enjoy the best local delicacies, tourists should try the common and less expensive “mama-puts” and restaurants around the city that serve awesomely prepared foods and soups like Okpa, Isiewu, Abacha, fiofio, akpu/fufu, Ugba, pepper soup, Nkwobi, akpu, banga soup, oha soup, ofe akwu, nkwobi and ukwa. Commence your learning about the Igbo cultural heritage with a taste of these nutrient-rich foods.
Okpa popularly called the “Lion’s food or the king’s meal” is made from Bambara flour gotten from Bambara nut. The best of this delicacy is sold at 9th Mile corner in Ngwo near Enugu.
Abacha also called African salad is a traditional Igbo meal made from cassava, oil bean seeds and spices; it is a major food included in menus for events in Enugu.
Nkwobi is a common pepper soup in an average city beer parlour; served with cow leg, it sells for a minimum of 600 Naira in restaurants and beer parlours. Ofe Akwu is the Igbo version of Banga stew made from palm fruit oil extract. Its unique aroma and taste are brought out by the scented leaf added during cooking. It is eaten with white rice, yam or plantain.
Yam and Agbugbu (FioFio) is a favourite meal for both locals and visitors. It is basically yam porridge and a mix of pigeon peas also called Akidi. It is eaten with palm oil onion and pepper sauce.
Restaurants in the city sell these local delicacies, with a few modern restaurants selling intercontinental cuisines. Mr BIGG’s, Emily Restaurant, Chicken Republic, Revelry restaurant, Happy Bytes and Raya Chinese Restaurant are examples of restaurants located along Ogui Road in Enugu. Along Independence Avenue, are other restaurants such as 9’JA food, De Main Restaurant, Barcelos, and Golden Toast, serving local delicacies. For a more romantic restaurant, visitors should try the Polo Park Mall Food Court inside the Polo Park Shopping mall at Okpara Avenue and Genesis Restaurant at Zik Avenue in Enugu.
11. Tourist Attractions In Enugu City
Enugu city is a haven for tourism with its large number of ancient landmarks and tourist attractions. The larger number of these tourist centres have free entry. The city a myriad of caves, waterfalls, springs, hills for mountaineering, forest reserves, monumental archaeological and cultural collections in museums and art galleries for historical and cultural preservation.
Nnamdi Azikiwe International Stadium
This is the home stadium of Enugu Rangers. It has a capacity of 22, 000. The stadium was named after the first President of the Republic of Nigeria, Dr Benjamin Nnamdi Azikwe. Local league matches are played at the stadium every weekend, so visitors can watch a live match in the stadium.
Enugu Golf Club
It has 18 challenging and beautiful holes. The Golf course is open all year round and has become a tourist attraction to guests and residents in Enugu. It also houses a clubhouse and a fully-stocked bar where residents and visitors can drink and relax in a serene environment. The Golf course can be found at Mount Street in Enugu.
The Magic Garden
This is a park built solely for recreation and relaxation in a soothing atmosphere at the city centre. It houses a swimming pool and restaurants. Friends and family can gather for get-togethers in the garden. The garden occasionally hosts family-themed events and activities.
National Museum of Unity
Also known as Enugu museum, was established after the civil war in 1972 to heal the wounds of the Nigerian Civil war. It aims to promote understanding, peaceful co-existence and love among Nigerians. Visitors can tour the Igbo Gallery, Unity Gallery and the Enugu Coal City Gallery. Go with your phones and gadgets to capture the beautiful sights in the museum.
Polo Park Mall
This mall is situated at Okpara Avenue in Enugu. The mall is important for its array of modern shops like swatch stores, Nike Store, The Hub Store, Fine brothers, HealthPlus, Montaigne Place, Pandora, Puma store and Shoprite. It has a food court where all the major food chains such cold stone creamery, Citi Chef, Golden Chef, KFC etc., sell local and international cuisines. Visitors to the Polo Park Mall can ride the giant Ferris wheel, grab a cup of ice cream, watch a movie in Genesis Deluxe Cinema and visit the bars to unwind and hang out with friends.
Awhum Waterfall and Cave
The waterfall is 30 metres and its cascading waters are believed to possess therapeutic effects and curative powers. Visitors to the waterfall will be treated to the sight of an evergreen vegetation housing a variety of wild animals and birds.
The Ugwueme and Udi Hills
The hills rise above hundreds of metres above sea level. Visitors to Enugu can take a hike to these hills for mountaineering and picnics. The first discovery of coals is found under Udi Hills, the first site of coal mining in Nigeria. Visitors to the hill can tour the tunnel beneath as it is now a tourist attraction. The hills are good for mountaineering and landscape admiration.
The Ezeagu Tourist Complex
This complex is the must-be place in Enugu as it has a large number of interesting places to wow all visitors to Enugu. The 3-km cave, cold and warm spring, waterfall and a lake within a 30-minute drive of the city centre makes the Ezeagu tourist complex resplendent with wonders. And with a proper layout and beautiful environment, family, friends and visitors can picnic and swim.
The hills named after an Enugu colonial administrator gives a perfect panoramic view of Enugu metropolis, most importantly at dawn and dusk. The relics of the coal mines and the beautiful tunnels of the Iva Valley are underneath the hill, hence serving a triple purpose: Mountaineering, picnic, and tourism.
Ngwo Pine Forest, Enugu
Hosted by Milken hill in the Ngwo community, Enugu. This neatly arranged cluster of pine trees marks out a path that leads to the Ngwo cave and waterfall in the same neighbourhood. The leaves of the pine trees form a natural blanket for visitors. The natural beauty and grace of the forest make it such a tranquil environment for picnics, relaxation, and meditation.
12. Where To Stay In Enugu City
Enugu City has a large number of affordable and quality accommodations with cheap bars, cafes and restaurants. There are budget-friendly hotels for as low as 3000 Naira per night. Rooms in the hotels have comfy beds, air conditioners, en-suite bathrooms and occasionally swimming pools and gyms.
Dmatel Hotel and Resort situated at Independence Layout, Enugu, offers relaxation and leisure at the outdoor swimming pool surrounded by a beautiful landscape and garden.
Nike Lake Resort/hotel is located on the banks of Lake Nike in Enugu. Made of 216 beautifully furnished rooms and suites. It is a perfect weekend getaway for singles, picnicking friends and even couples. It has breath-taking views in a secure and tranquil environment. The Airport is just a 15-minute drive to the hotel.
Amazon hotel is a budget hotel at Njemanze Street and has charming, spacious, and comfortable rooms in a serene and quiet location ideal for relaxation.
Hotel Toscana offers premium lodging arrangements and luxurious bedding in a fully air-conditioned room. It is an ideal lodging for travellers and residents.