A country of extremes, Nigeria knows both vast wealth and extreme poverty. Dominating West Africa politically and economically—in fact, it has one of the world's fastest growing economies—Nigeria's influence spreads around the world in terms of music, dance, food, and literature. It also has an image problem with the first thing people often saying when they hear 'Nigeria' being, "Oh, the country that sends out all those email scams." Yet for all its problems and a few of its parts being politically problematic, most of Nigeria is welcoming, friendly and warm.
Nigeria has been inhabited for thousands of years, with archeological evidence showing human habitation dating back to at least 9000 BC. Benue and Cross River are believed to be the original homeland to the Bantus who spread out from there to central and southern Africa between two and three thousand years ago. Nigeria's name was taken from the Niger River which flows through the country.
Traveling around Nigeria isn't always easy. Challenging is more like it, but don't let this put you off. In the south, old kingdoms retain their ancient rituals—initiation rites, veneration of various ancient gods and impressive sculptures of brass. In the north of the country where it's drier, Muslim Nigeria bustles in its dusty cities. Yankari National Park is the best park in all of Nigeria, while Kano, the oldest city in West Africa, beckons for its fascinating history.
Kano was founded 1400 years ago as a crossroads in the trans-Sahara trade routes. In the Middle Ages it was a major destination for scholars to learn about Islam. Today, dust and air pollution from traffic may clog your lungs so a short stay is advised. Keep in mind also that Kano is a capital city of a state practicing sharia law, meaning alcoholic is banned. However, you can still drink in fancy restaurants and bars in the Christian Sabon Gari section.
Nigeria's excellent national park, Yankari, is just over 200 kilometers east of Jos. Filled with superb wildlife, Yankari contains waterbuck, baboons, buffalo, bushbuck, over 500 elephants, and possibly even some lions. Bird watching is also first-rate here. It's best to visit any time from January until April before the rains come. This is when the animals gather at the Gaji River to drink. If you have a guide, you can take your own vehicle, or you can take a tour in a safari truck.
Be warned: the middle belt and northern Nigeria are unstable. Visitors need to exercise caution as kidnappings have occurred here. Check for updated government postings before you leave.
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