Category Archives: City Attractions

The breathtaking sights and sounds of Enugu, the Coal City State

Hotels in Aba and Umuahia

Chido Nwakanma reflects on his experience with five hotels in Aba and Umuahia during recent visits to Abia, God’s Own State.

I like to check out hotels in the cities I visit for what they say about the places. Other factors come into play to determine where one lodges in a town. During my first visit to New York for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) world conference, I stayed in Hotel Edison, one block away from Times Square, Manhattan. It was to enable me to check out the city’s attractions. The cost was also a factor in preferring Hotel Edison to the Hilton Manhattan, the host hotel.

Hospitality experts list ten must-haves of good hotels. They include cleanliness, adequate safety/security, Internet, comfortable beds, and bathroom plumbing. Others are lighting, particularly in the rooms, aroma, simple and tasty food, and an excellent front desk for easy check-in and check-out.

Umuahia and Aba are the two significant cities in Abia State. While Umuahia is the state capital, Aba is the torchbearer for commerce and entrepreneurship. Aba and Umuahia share a similar approach to hotel patronage. They flock to the newest place, the new kid on the block.

Rixos Continental Resort shines and dazzles in Umuahia

In Umuahia, Rixos Continental Resort is the new belle. Occupancy is high, and rooms go off the rack quickly.

Rixos Continental Resort by CBN Junction off Bende Road, Umuahia 440324 is eye candy. Its modern building delights, and it offers standard facilities in the rooms. The standard room is, well, standard—the current offer of tea facilities in the room, decent plumbing, and many towels.

Its Blue Caribbean Swimming Pool is inviting. Then there is a poolside bar and an Irish garden on the other side and plenty of room for gathering near the pool and bar. There is an elevated space on the first floor above the bar. The ambience is salubrious.

Dum Hall is the conference facility of Rixos Hotel, and Rixos declares that it “affords you  a unique opportunity to meet in style.”

The website of Rixos Continental Hotel announces a gym. It boasts that it is the only hotel in Umuahia with an elevator.   Rixos is one of three trending hotels in Umuahia. The other two are Hotel Royal Damgrete and Golden Olives Hotel.

However, the average waiting time for meals we ordered at Rixos Continental was one and half hours. We experienced the same at Ibiza Resort Hotel, the comely new bride of Aba hotels.

Ibiza Hotel & Resort is the new bride of Aba hospitality

Ibiza… is luxe and modern, sits on Okigwe Road and has become a significant attraction. Its architect converted a small space (for the scale of its ambition) into something elegant and appealing. The car park tells of the constricted space as vehicles jostle.

The rooms are well-aspected. Ibiza offers good free high-speed internet (WiFi), a swimming pool, a fitness centre and gym, a children’s activities space and a business centre.

The poolside Aba is a key attraction in Ibiza. Customers gather here more than in the restaurant or bar. The offering is good with a barbecue stand to grill stuff.

Ibiza Hotel seems to have moved the crowd from Hotel Du Golf, Old GRA, Aba.

Hotel Du Golf radiates quality and timeless elegance

The exquisite Hotel Du Golf radiates quality and timeless elegance. The promoters built it in the best fashion.

Hotel Du Golf appeals despite the toll of age. It was the place to be a few years ago, near the Aba Golf Club and the Governor’s Lodge. We came in late to lodge and tested its claim to 24 hours service. I ordered snacks and coffee. Then I called laundry to do a quick turnaround with my clothes. Hotel Du Golf staff delivered on both counts.

Facilities include a standard swimming pool, a gym, a minimart and boutique, and spacious halls that the hotel describes as a “classic place for all events.” Meals are African cuisine and continental/oriental cuisine.

Abia Hotel should be better

Abia Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the state. It started as the Catering Rest House of the colonial and immediate post-colonial days. There are two in Aba, but we stayed in the main one opposite the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Binez Hotel, an old player in hospitality in Aba, won the concession to manage this hotel. They have not started. The less said about Abia Hotel, the better. I scribbled in my notebook that Abia Hotel is in a time warp. It is like stepping into the 1980s.

The rooms are big with substantial 6×6 beds. I changed from Room 207 to 203 because of the noisy wall unit air conditioner, an otherwise unclean room, a television without remote control (same as in the next room) and the lack of a writing table. Of course, it did not have WiFi.

Yet, Abia Hotel has extensive grounds for outdoor parties. There are chalets with suites or rooms that people rent for meetings and socials. It should have healthy patronage in this political season. Binez should activate its concession and make it work.

Quality speaks even after many years at Hotel Royal Damgrete

Twenty years later and with new solid competitors, Hotel Royal Damgrete can still claim its self-assigned moniker as the best hotel in Umuahia.

Quality speaks and lasts—Damgrete benefits from the excellent finishing of its exterior and interior many years later.

I was here first in 2000. It is still spick and span. The marble finishing has helped it age well without the disfigurement and loss of colour that often happens with similar facilities.

Each hotel defers to its environment. Hotel Royal Damgrete offers mainly local cuisine, from breakfast to dinner. It is just as well.

It is one of a few hotels in Abia State and the South-East to offer local delicacies such as ukazi with achara. They are niggardly with the achara, but they had it to serve.

On this visit, Ikeddy Isiguzo and I hosted the Umuahia chapel of the Correspondents Association to break bread and bond. It was an exciting evening.

The next day, April 8, I shared drinks with my schoolmates at the Federal School of Arts & Sciences, Aba (Class of 80-82). Our school no longer exists because Nigeria phased out A-Levels, but it exists in our hearts and minds with shared experiences.

On hand for the evening meeting were Joy Utah, Onyebuchi Nwoko aka Oncle, Chuks Onuoha and class captain Johnson Owanta. The Class of 80-82 plans a 40-year Reunion on 22 – 24 April 2022.

The service at Hotel Royal Damgrete is courteous. The staff are helpful. They are available and willing and do not disappear as in some other hotels.

The rooms are spacious and outfitted with the right mix of facilities. They now offer standard air-conditioning, desk, WiFi, and television with many channels. The bathroom is neat; it reflects its age with a bathtub and handheld shower. They would do better with more recent wash facilities and showers. And more than one towel, please!

Hotel Royal Damgrete offers reasonable grounds. There is a swimming pool, a lawn tennis court, and a gym. People sit out as we did poolside with a bar. Then there is a well-equipped gym.

I found some of the art furniture on the grounds alluring.

Hotel Royal Damgete on Factory Road, Umuahia, deserves many repeat visits and stays.

Hardware sans software and no tourism promotion

The hospitality industry in the South-East generally has shown great capacity in hardware. The hotels are often attractive physical specimens. The service software is a significant drawback, with few exceptions.

It’sService. Service. Service.

The hotels and facilities in the two towns say that Abians are up-to-date and contemporary.

None of the hotels had any tourism promotion of any kind. No one in Umuahia offered guests, including on this trip many guests from the South West and South-South as well as renowned journalists and educators, any journey to tourism spots in Umuahia or Aba. The government’s tourism promotion agency should have at least information desks in the more hotels. Such desks are standard in South Africa, Kenya, and even Ghana.

The hotels are vibrant with patronage. Do hotels reflect the economy, or are they bubble zones removed from the reality of the larger society? Big debate. However, the construction standards speak to the desirable.

Have you booked your accommodation and tourist site for Easter 2023?

About hotels

The primary purpose of hotels is to provide travellers with shelter, food, refreshment, and similar services and goods, offering things furnished within households but unavailable to people on a journey away from home, says Encyclopedia.com

“Historically, hotels have also taken on many other functions, serving as business exchanges, sociability centres, public assembly and deliberation, decorative showcases, political headquarters, vacation spots, and permanent residences”, it adds.

Globally, hotels as industry and institutions transformed travel, creating new areas of activity while extending the influence of urban culture. Great hotels have contributed to the beautification of the landscape of their cities. They are also an index of real estate, construction standards and modelling other virtues.

Significantly, hotels speak to the living standards of a city. You can tell about the living index of a city by the quality and type of hotels within it. It may even be aspirational.

Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel opened to great acclamation in 1986 in Abuja for bearing the hopes and visions of a capital city in the making. It was huge, classy, and international standard. Yet, Abuja was a city in the making.

Famous artworks in Enugu streets and landmarks

All over the Coal City are famous artworks in Enugu roads and landmarks that beautify the city. These artworks define both the history and the bubbling arts scene of Enugu.

This is an update on 10 Famous landmarks in Enugu

Many of the sculptors were executed by students – and by famous artists. Consequently, Enugu is a unique example of a effective town-and-gown handshake, especially in the Arts. It shows how a city can benefit from having an institution that hosts a famous arts school.

Famous landmarks in Enugu
Group Capt. Samson Emeka Omeruah

The story of artworks adorning famous junctions and sights began four decades ago (in 1981). Old Anambra’s Military Governor, Group Capt. Samson Omeruah visited the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, in the State capital.

In the course of being conducted round the institution’s Campus II on Abakaliki Road, he was taken to the bespoke IMT Art Garden. This is the place where excellent stude artworks were being kept.

Omeruah couldn’t believe his eyes. The paintings and sculptures he saw were simply out of this world. He also couldn’t believe that they were executed by the students themselves.

The Governor immediately decided that the pieces he saw there – particularly the sculptural works – shouldn’t just be sitting there. He ordered them to be installed at stragic road junctions and landmarks in the City.
They were to be placed in such a way that Enugu residents and visitors will see and also appreciate them.

A committee was set up to implement the Governor’s directive. They transported a number of artworks and installed them at many spots around the Coal City.

IMT’s Graphics Arts Department (link) has produced many famous artists, including Effiong, Ifeanyi Afuba, Chike Aniakor and the rest. It is a bespoke learning center for artists in Nigeria.

Famous Otigba Statue

Sculpture at Otigba Junction


Among the sculptural pieces carted away is the Otigba, the drummer. The Otigba statute is a giant drummer beating an equally gargantuan drum which was placed at the junction where Chime Avenue (New Haven) joined Ogui Road. In short order, the drummer took over as the landmark for the area, subsequently renamed Otigba Junction.

The Otigba Statue was carved in 1980 by Afuba, then a third year student of IMT. In 2020, residents of Enugu watched in horror as miscreants who infiltrated the #EndSARS protests set the iconic sculpture on fire.

A group of artists quickly teamed up together and contacted them Afuba, the original artist, to repair or reproduce another Otigba. The group included organisers of Arts In My City Arts Festival, Society of Nigerian Artist, and Art in Nigeria Project.

New Otigba, with artist Chris Afuba underneath

Artworks as landmarks

Two things distinguish the artworks found around the City. Many of them, like Otigba and the Reticent Baboons (Monkey Junction) in Independent Layout have become landmarks. Today, there are many such iconic works of art that people now use as landmarks to give directions to visitors and those looking for directions to places that they are not familiar with. One of them is Monkey Junction also carved by an IMT student.

see-no-evil-hear-no-evil monkey art in enugu
Three Wise Monkeys

The “Three Wise Monkeys” can be found at Ozubulu Street, near the EFCC State Office. They are sitting on the fence, with their famous “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” gestures.

A second attribute of the artworks is that many of them represent the history of Enugu. The first sight that hits visitors coming into Enugu from the Ninth Mile Expressway is a depiction of the 1949 coal miners’ strike. It shows a politician joining a group of miners protesting the condition of the mines. As many as 49 miners were shot dead by the British task masters during the strike.

coal miners strike enugu artwork
Coal Miners Strike, 1949

There is another artwork in front of the Park Lane Hospital, the oldest hospital in Eastern Nigeria, honouring healthcare providers trying to do what they know best how to do – which is taking care of health for the people.

park lane hospital junction enugu
Parklane Hospital Enugu

Rounding up these symbolic artworks is the Cenotaph in Okpara Square. It shows a military officer with gone raised high indicating that they presumably the Nigerian Civil War was over. If we move further down to Aguleri Junction, there is amolten sculpture that indicates to all that they have arrived at a court zone – the symbolic blindfolded maiden with a sword and a scale in both hands.

Cenotaph at Michael Okpara Square

Recent efforts to add more

The Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi Government has added a dash of artworks here and there and substituted others. Some of the additions defy rational explanation. Examples are replacing the lions at both entrances to Government House Road and the Lion Building itself with “white lions” and adding three more Otigba artworks in the same Origba Junction.

However, the administration compensated these flamboyant displays with some original pieces that adorm the rehabilitated forest park beside Okpara Square (now renamed Unity Park).

There are so many other artworks in Enugu. The best we can do is to just give you a sneek peak to some of these to whet your appetite.

Welcome to Enugu, the Arts City.

Enjoy.

10 artworks on Enugu Streets and places

More than 10 artworks cn be found at tny one time on Enugu City Streets. They light up Enugu City junctions and streets. Many of them have become landmarks. A few, such as the Otigba at New Haven junction, have completely taken over the names of the locations where they are planted. Culture and travel online publishers have also tried to feature these pictures although some are quite dated today.

Wherever one goes to in Enugu City, one is likely to meet a great artworks done by great and budding artists. In 1981, a military governor visited the IMT Art Garden. He was pleasantly surprised by the famous artworks done by students of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu. The inspiration to move away these artworks belonged to him.

Here is a list of the most important works you are likely to meet as you traverse the Coal City.

Otigba junction sculpture
The original iconic image

The Otigba Junction artwork, easily one of the famou artworks adorning the Enugu landscape, was done by Christopher Afuba, a third year IMT art student. Unfortunately, the orginal image was burnt down by irate youths during the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria. But as Enugu Metro reported, Afuba was contracted to restore the image, which he did.

the story of old

coal miners strike enugu artwork

the story of coal minersis among the first 10 artworks on Enugu Streets

the famous IMT art garden

new unity park enugu artwork

relatively new

see-no-evil-hear-no-evil monkey art in enugu

Monkey Junction

park lane hospital junction enugu
zenith bank fountain
national museum enugu art work
white lion artwork enugu

Enugu glows for LIMCAF 2019

All roads lead tomorrow to the IMT International Conference Centre, Enugu, venue of activities marking the 13th Edition of the Life in my City Arts Festival (LIMCAF) celebration.

The various activities to mark the Enugu finals of LIMCAF 2019 begin tomorrow Monday, 11 November 2019, with exhibition of winning entries from the zonal competitions.

Artists, art enthusiasts, curators, art buyers, and students will have five full days to appreciate the range of artworks and media which caught the eyes of judges at six zonal competitions from where they were approved to come to the finals in Enugu, capital of Enugu State, Nigeria.

The climax is on Saturday 16 November.

The Nsikak Essien-led board of judges will examine the range of winning entries and select the national winners who will be crowned during the grand closing ceremony on Saturday.

Among other features of this year’s event is a festival lecture on Tuesday 12 November by emeritus Professor Ola oloidi, a renowned professor of art history and art criticism, as well as a children’s art workshop.

The Saturday 16 November ceremony – grand gala and award night – is to be chaired by foremost artist, Prof. Bruce Onobrakpeya.

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