Nigeria’s federal capital, Abuja, offers a new perspective on Africa’s most populous nation. Here’s how to get around the city:
Travelling to Abuja from any part of the world could be an interesting adventure. The Federal Capital Territory is the Nigerian seat of government and its serene and beautiful landscape is usually what attracts first-time visitors.
Abuja was purposefully established in 1976 with the intention of resolving tension between political and religious spheres, as well as creating a central capital and relieving overcrowding in Lagos. The city was built on a variety of granite slopes, making for interesting geological sites. Among the most well-known are Aso Rock and Zuma Rock.
Abuja didn’t become Nigeria’s capital until 12 December 1991 and, until recently, it was largely perceived as a city primarily for government employees and business people, who usually left it empty on weekends as they travelled to other big cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt or Kaduna to see their families. What most people like about Abuja is its tranquillity and roads which are normally – and blissfully! – free of traffic.
City Guide – Abuja
The airport is 40km west of Abuja (N3500 by taxi). Flights depart hourly for Lagos with several airlines.
When to go
The busiest month for tourism in Abuja, Nigeria is June, followed by April and February. Prices for hotels and flights will be most expensive during these months, though you can save if you book in advance. Tourists are unlikely to visit Abuja in November.
English is the official language, other languages are spoken as well including Yoruba, Ibo, and Hausa.
Currency & Costs
The Naira (N) is the currency. Budget between $75US and $250US per day
Okadas have been banned in Abuja. Instead, there are plentiful green taxis (around N200 a trip).
What to eat
Traditional food is spicy and jollof rice, fried rice and catfish are common dishes at many of the capital’s restaurants.
Where to eat
There are many upscale restaurants in Abuja. One is the famous Chez Victor, where you can enjoy the very best French and African cuisine. Here you can taste the natural ingredients used to prepare the dishes, all served with immaculate presentation. There are also good treats for vegetarians. For a little over N3 000, you can have a really decent meal here.
However, if you prefer oriental cuisine, you may want to check out Sawadee Oriental Cuisine, a Thai restaurant. This is the perfect spot to enjoy mouthwatering, contemporary Thai food in a great setting. Kumasi Crescent, Wuse II. Tel: 0705 569 2832.
Salamander Café is one of the most popular restaurants in Abuja, where many people connect after a hectic day to share a meal or a drink. It offers healthy breakfasts and lunches from Monday to Sunday and is also popular among expatriates and lovers of culture. Established in 2007, it’s a place where you’ll find good African music and books at the Glendora bookstore inside. The café occasionally organises reading sessions which you can attend, as well as evening “Faaji Sessions” of old-school music. 72 Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse II. Tel: +234 702 785 0932.
Where to stay
There are many hotels in Abuja, notably the famous Transcorp Hilton, located in the heart of the city. It offers easy access to the commercial district, as well as tourist attractions and is just 40 minutes away from the airport. Set amid well-manicured gardens, the Transcorp Hilton offers many leisure facilities to enjoy. You can choose from its array of stylish rooms and suites. The rooms each offer a city view, wifi, TV and a marbled bathroom, among other amenities.
If the Transcorp Hilton is fully booked (which is usually the case during peak periods), you can find a good alternative in Tranquil Mews, a new hotel in an exclusive side of the Utako District, five minutes from the city centre (including Wuse II) and the central business district. It’s an ideal choice for families with babies, as cots are available in many of the rooms.
Another pleasant option is the Summerset Continental Asokoro Hotel. Asokoro is a major district on the East side of the city. If you’re a nature-lover, you’ll enjoy the hotel’s peaceful, leafy surroundings.
Where to go
The Three Arms Zone is inspired by Washington D.C.’s Capitol Hill. This is where you’ll find the National Assembly, the Presidential Villa and the Supreme Court.
The Usman Dam, 25km from the city en route to Kaduna, 6km up the Bwari road, supplies the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria with both electricity and water and is an unforgettable sight.
For a feel of Nigerian arts and culture, head to the Bwari Pottery Centre. The attractions for visitors are its striking design of palm-thatched roofs and arrowhead-shaped windows, plus a studio laid out like a gallery. Besides watching the potters at work, you can also view and buy their finished products, such as pitchers, vases, casserole dishes, teapots and decorative lanterns. The centre is situated close to the Nigeria Law School on Old Suleja Rd, Bwari.
What to do
Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a game at the IBB International Golf & Country Club. The nearby Silverbird Galleria offers entertainment for the whole family. You can also explore the impressive natural rock formations of Aso and Zuma on the outskirts of the city, stroll through Millennium Park, with its scenic gardens and wildlife, or visit the breathtaking Gurara Waterfalls outside Abuja.
If you want to pamper yourself a little, visit the Sueno Wellness Centre. It’s a perfect blend of spa and restaurant. The spa side offers an array of a treatments, from hot stone and shiatsu massages to facials and treatments for children. 3 Agadez St, off Aminu Kano, Wuse II. Tel: 09 291 0093 or +234 803 614 1866.
Likewise, the Chatoyer Beauty Lounge offers full-service beauty treatments. It’s easily accessible and comprises seven different sections, including a hair studio that doubles as a crèche for your little ones while you’re having your hair done. 7b Konoko Crescent, off Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse II. Tel: +234 817 264 1549 or +234 805 076 4299.
Whatever you choose to do in Abuja, explore the city and enjoy all it has to offer.
by Funke Osae-Brown