One of the oldest coinages used to describe the town of Calabar, Nigeria’s former capital, is ‘Come and Live and Be at Rest’, a line which describes the city’s receptivity. Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, Nigeria, never runs out of nature’s surprises to showcase to first-time visitors and admirers of nature.
The city’s colonial architecture, still seen in older parts of the city, are a huge plus for visitors. Duke Town (where one of the country’s oldest churches, established by Presbyterians, still stands), Waterfront and Henshaw Town are hosts to some of these edifices.
The Calabar Museum, located near the Waterfront, still stands in its original location, inside the old government house which was the colonial governor’s residence. The museum houses a lot of artefacts and works which reflects on the history of Calabar.
Another interesting place to visit is the Drill Monkey Rehabilitation Centre. The centre was developed by a couple, Liza Gadsby and Peter Jenkins who were biologists. They were persuaded to stay back and look after the endangered Drill monkeys which were hunted and eaten in the Afi mountain range region. These Drill monkeys, once one of the continent’s endangered mammals, is now preserved.
Almost dwarfing every other thing which the city has to offer is the Calabar Carnival, a unique display of African heritage showcased through music, dance, drama and visual creativity reflected in the design of floats, costumes and make-up, every December 26 and 27. Despite the fun and relaxed interpretation of the annual carnival theme under a strict adjudication process, the result is pure magic – an outpouring of colour, sound and spectacular artistry, unmatched by anything else on the continent. The carnival is the highlight of a 32-day festival which runs from November 30 to January 1. It is Africa’s largest cultural festival, with 50,000 costumed revelers and over 2,000,000 spectators.
However, you must book a hotel accommodation or flight long before then, so as not to turn up in a city where all the accommodation is snapped up by early birds. One thing is sure; if you want to live, be at rest and enjoy it while you live, your destination should be Calabar.