The Ancient city of Ile Ife is believed to be the original home of the Yoruba race. Often referred to as ‘Land of the Source’ thanks to the traditional notion that Ile Ife is the cradle of the world, the city offers a connection to Yoruba’s past and a peep into the future. Whichever of the creation story one chooses to believe, what cannot be denied about this city is that its well preserved monuments, culture, tradition and architecture give snippets not just of its age-long existence, but also about its position as a prominent city in Yoruba land, at least. Anthropologists says habitation exists in this city as far back as the 350 BCE, while archaeologists have dug out evidence of urbanization in Ife discovered to date back roughly 500AD.
The traditional leader and spiritual head of the city is the Ooni, he is a descendant of Oduduwa the primogenitor of the Yoruba race. Some historians opine that the children of Oduduwa migrated from Ile Ife to establish other yoruba cities.
So much for history, Ile Ife has approximately four hundred thousand residents, a sizeable number of which are Muslims. Christians and traditional believers have significant presence in the city too.
Geographically, Ile- Ife lies on longitude 4° 69’E and latitude 70° 50′ N. Its climate is tropical, featuring the rainy season between April and October and the dry season lasting from October to March. Essentially an agrarian society, the city has numerous effigy, historical and cultural sites and gaping monuments.
A visit to Ile Ife is no doubt a romance with the rich history and culture of the Yoruba race. A site that cannot be missed at the city’s centre is the massive Ori Olokun. It is a statue of the god of the sea built at the the Ori-Olokun Roundabout, formerly Mayfair Roundabout. The Opa Oranmiya (Oranmiyan Obelisk) is another historic point that visitors must not miss. It is a granite monolith standing over 5 meters above the ground. At the Afewonro Park in front of the Ooni’s Palace is the statue of Oduduwa, clad in his white single loin cloth which is wrapped around his left shoulder. His face is covered with beaded crown “Are”, and his right hand clutches a staff. The V-shaped Park itself is worth a sight. Tour the Ooni’s Palace, the National museum close to it and don’t forget to visit the Oduduwa groove which is the final resting place of the legendary Yoruba primogenitor—be sure to secure necessary approval on-site as there are restrictions at the groove.
Feel at home in Ile Ife by chowing down some of the city’s notable delicacies. For a lunch, try the pounded yam and efo riro (vegetable soup); if you are at one of the local canteens, request specifically for bush meats. These are games prepared to accompany regular meals. The popular local drink is palm wine. This is best enjoyed with pepper soup—preferably made with goat meat or bush meat, although pepper soup made with catfish is fast gaining inroad into the menu these days.
Light meal such as moin-moin and Eko (corn made pap), and Eko and Efo riro are some of the city’s signature dinner. Moin-moin is a delicacy made from beans. The most mouth watery ones comprise highly nutritious recipes such as fish, Irish potato, meat, chicken, onion and crayfish thereunder. For continental dishes, however, there are hotels and bars effectively covering the grounds.
Other popular delicacies are rice; beans and starch-rich food such as Eba (made from cassava flour and locally called garri), Fufu and Amala among others.