• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Enugu, a place I call home

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I took a short, almost emergency visit to Enugu a few days back and I could not believe how much had changed in the coal city since I was last here. I am from Enugu state and was born and bred in the coal city. While the pursuits of life had taken me and my siblings to a couple of other different places, my parents still reside in Enugu and it is a place I love to call home.

I had booked my flight a day before at a fair amount I would say, on such short notice. It was an Air Peace ticket and my flight was scheduled for 7:30pm the next day. At 4:00pm, I rushed out of the office heading towards the airport to meet up with boarding and all other preliminaries we are always subjected to at the airport before a flight. I could not believe the rowdiness at the Air Peace counter that evening. It was nothing short of a mild chaos. Passengers had bags here and there as they paced about in a disorderly manner from one attendant to the other trying to sort out their luggage and boarding passes.

I had checked in online (trust me, this is a priceless invention from airlines where it applies) and quickly submitted my luggage for inspection and tagging before it was sent off in the carousel.
It seemed like the entire town was heading to Enugu that evening with Air Peace because the lobby was super crowded. This might also have been affected by the suspension of activities from Aero and First Nation as a result of forex shortage and the inflation currently hitting the nation’s economy. We got off at exactly 7:30pm. I loved that the flight was not delayed or even cancelled as I had feared. At 8:30 pm exactly, we were taxing into the runway at the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu.

An airport taxi and I was on my way home to see my family at long last. The streets were lighted with the yellow glow of street lights all the way from the airport. Though I could not make out much as night had fallen, I could see a couple of changes here and there already.

Enugu is a very calm and serene place and that is one of the things I love most about the city. Unlike Lagos, at 8:30 – 9:00 pm, a lot of people had retired for the night as the city had taken on its quiet and restful vibe with the bustle and hustle of the day long gone past with the sun. The roads were even better than I had remembered – tarred, smooth, with no gullies and caves at any point ensuring I had a swift ride back to my home which was at the other end of town.

People say there is nothing much to do in Enugu. People also say that Enugu is too reserved and calm and maybe rightly so. That was one of the reasons I decided to leave in the first place. The ambience is quite lax and it is seen in the way people live their lives daily. Majority of people in Enugu are government workers and small business owners or “people who have made their money and are looking for where to chill”, like some of my friends like to say.

Eateries seem to be springing up quite quickly – sharwama spots, suya stands, nkwobi and abacha joints and so on. Food is certainly a huge part of this town especially our local delicacies.

In Enugu, you have to try the local delicacies. You cannot miss the enchanting sight, smell and taste of isi ewu or nkwobi. And you definitely cannot miss having a meal of the popular okpa, which is a staple breakfast option for a lot of families in Enugu. Combine this with a bowl of milky pap/custard or a bottle of chilled coke (popular amongst students in the east) and you can literarily face anything that comes across you in the day (I’m kidding, right?).

There used to be a popular park almost in the middle of the town, Polo Park. Sadly, it has been replaced by a large shopping mall, and what is left of the children’s park is a single play ride which is still in use. I used to come here with my family when we were still children a whole lot. The rides were many -from car rides, to horse swings and bouncing castles, you never had enough of the park as a child. The mall however, has become one of the popular hangout places in Enugu. People come out to the food court to have a nice meal and catch up with friends, take a ride in the play ride outside the building, or window shop in any of the stores open in the mall.

I could see a couple of them had closed down and moved from the mall this time around. Even the cinema had not survived. This was strange in itself. I remember it was in Enugu that I had watched the movie adaptation of Chimamanda’s Half of A Yellow Sun. My friend who works in one of the offices in the mall said it may have been as a result of the hike in prices of rent and a parallel fall in patronage from customers since the economy began to tumble out of control. Another reason may be the spending habits of the people here; high-end luxury goods isn’t yet a ‘’thing’’ in Enugu. No one would stretch their pockets to the limit to buy a luxury dress or furniture for example. And if they did, it was once in a really long time.

If you are up for serious adventure, there are a number of waterfalls in Enugu one of which is the Awhum Water Falls. It is actually located in a monastery but is open to tourists and the religious, as people also come here as a spiritual, and soul searching exercise. More like an internal version of a pilgrimage to Israel or the hajj. The water fall is 30 meters high and has a cave tunnel to its entrance.

There’s also a very nice resort, Nike Lake Resort you should visit if you are ever in Enugu. This is a mini beach vacation right in the heart of the coal city at very affordable rates. Situated by the Nike Lake, the resort offers you the unique calm and serene ambience Enugu is known for with nature and technology combined for your pleasure.
You can lay out a picnic at the Ngwo Pine Forest amidst a vast array of very tall pine trees, or take a tour through the Ngwo Cave and soak in the Water Fall as well. You can also decide to take a look at the remains of the state’s coal mining days at the Coal Mines in Iva Valley or at Onyeama at the outskirts of town. So you see, Enugu isn’t as dull or boring as you thought it was.

Sadly, you know the traffic tales of woe peculiar to Lagos? It seems to have slightly encroached Enugu. But I noticed the slight traffic had to do with a traffic light positioned at a pretty busy junction. That too was obvious in my visit – traffic lights have grown increasingly popular and have been positioned at various junctions and streets to ease traffic and make road use more orderly. Truth is driving in Enugu is definitely more sane than what you would see in a place like Lagos for instance. In Enugu, there is really no hurry to anywhere. One would rather arrive safe than sorry as they say.

My trip was a short one, so I didn’t have the opportunity to visit all the places at one time. I have been to a couple of them at different times of my life and I can definitely say that I am proud to call this place my home. The people are friendly, quite industrious and deeply spiritual.

 

KOSISO UGWUEDE