Most people think tourism is only for leisure. But one pertinent reason to travel is for the culture. Culture tourism is all about experiencing the lifestyle, geography, art, history, religion and architecture of a place. Nigeria is a country full of rich cultures. With over 250 ethnic groups, we have such a wide cultural range within our borders yet to be explored, even by us. Cultural heritage is an indicator of our way of life as a people, which has developed over the years and has been passed down from generation to generation.
Although we are evolving due to globalisation, there are so many parts of Nigeria’s culture that are fascinating. An example would be Omugwo. This is when a mother, daughter or in-law moves to another town or country just to help take care of a newborn. For tourists, it is a rare privilege to be welcomed into such a home to witness some Omugwo rites, like how the grandmother bathes the baby or how they use unique choice of herbs/processes to solve universal challenges. Even travelling to attend a traditional wedding ceremony from a tribe different from yours or where you live is an eye-opener for a Nigerian tourist.
Cultural tourism is something we can do amongst ourselves domestically. For instance, during Motley Travel’s visit to Benin City in August this year, the tourists from other states in Nigeria dressed up in Benin attires to visit the Oba’s palace and see the Royal Museum. They also got to watch dances and listen to music by local performers and that was an amazing cultural experience. There are always tales of culture shock from Nigerians who have travelled from the one part of the country to another. Some would say their time of service in Zamfara or Kaduna State as a Youth Corper was one of the best experiences they’ve ever had. That’s because they got to experience different topographies and foods; saw new structures and artworks; heard folklore and oral history from local tour guides, etc.
There are two types of Cultural tourism, the tangible and intangible. So far what is popular in our domestic tourism sphere is visitations to our Cultural Assets such as the Nok Village, Osun Oshogbo sacred groove, Alom Ikom Monolith, New Afrika Shrine and our Slave Trade Museums. People also consider the Olaya house and Jojo Bar in Lagos which are protected by Legacy Nigeria as Cultural Assets. We are yet to maximise our intangible cultural heritage for tourism like the stories behind artefacts in our Museums or certain locations like Ikogosi warm spring or Olumo rock; our Eyo, Durbar and Sharo/shadi festivals amongst others; our dance styles like Atilogun and Bata or even our local crafts manufacturers like the Kano Dye Pits, the Akwete Weavers, etc.
It is time we appreciate our cultural resources. We need to preserve what makes us unique as Nigerians by embracing and exploring the cultural heritage from the different tribes around us. There is a quote that says we ‘travel not so we can escape life but for life to not escape us’. So the next time you plan a trip, don’t just do it to be a hermit in a picturesque location. Do it for the culture.