• Chidozie Uzoezie

My Three Thrilling and Touristy Days in The City of Rocks

Jos is the capital city of Plateau State situated in the middle belt region of Nigeria. The city of Jos is situated on the Jos Plateau (from which the State derived its name) approximately 4,000 feet above sea level. The unique landscape and topography of Plateau State give it naturally occurring features which are not found anywhere else in Nigeria, making it a haven for adventure seekers and home for tourists.

We touched down at the Yakubu Gowon International Airport, Jos at exactly 1:35pm following an uneventful one hour flight from Lagos. At one hour, the flight between Lagos and Jos is longer than most domestic flights in Nigeria, many of which take between 45 and 50 minutes. In fact the only time I was on a domestic flight lasting over 50 minutes was some years ago when I took an IRS Airline’s flight from Kano to Lagos which lasted for 1 hour 10 minutes.

Anyway, this was my second time ever in Jos, the first which was by road, was over 15 years ago when I attended a wedding in Jos as an undergraduate. So for me, this ‘second coming’ was a time to rediscover Jos. Upon landing at the airport, it was immediately clear to me that I had come to a different ‘world’ with a different kind of coolness and definitely a different kind of atmosphere, having come from Lagos (if you understand what I mean). And of course, I braced up for it! The drive to my hotel located in the centre of the town, was rather a long one, lasting about an hour – the same length of time it took me to fly in from Lagos.

Soon after checking in at the hotel and familiarizing myself with my hotel room, I set out to go look for something to eat but not without my tourist camera. My guide and I had decided to go on foot not only because where we were going was a trekking distance but also because it gave me the opportunity to put my tourist instincts to good use. It wasn’t very easy to find what we wanted to eat because we had gone at an odd time, when lunch was already over and dinner was yet to be served.

After trying a couple of restaurants, we found a local restaurant (I’m not even sure it had a name) which had what we wanted or something close. In the absence of Bitter leaf and Oha soups which were my first and second choices respectively, I settled for vegetable soup and semo which turned out to beat my expectation. With two lumps of goat meat, the meal turned out to be a lot better than I had expected, it was very tasty and sizable though with lots of pepper which made me cry as I ate. The best part was the affordability.

While this restaurant (like many others in Jos) cannot be compared to the likes of McDonald’s, KFCs and Mr Bigs, it certainly made sense to me. Most local restaurants in Jos are tucked in between and under lots of trees which create a huge sense of nature with attendant shadow and breeze around them. That certainly is a selling point for most tourists.

The next day saw me and a group of other tourists explore Jos in a more ‘touristy’ way. We didn’t go round in an open roof tour bus or in a bullet proof safari van, no, we went round the local way. To our own excitement and fun, we used the tricycle popularly known as keke and maruwa in most parts of Nigeria. The tricycle is the easiest way to quickly move around Jos especially within short distances, it is relatively fast, it knows all the corners and it is also very cheap. Our expeditions took us to the Jos National Museum, the Zoo Garden, the breathtaking ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ and then terminated at the popular terminus market.

The National Museum

With unmanned gates (more of entrances) at both ends, the Jos national museum is probably the only walk-through museum in Nigeria; tourists practically walk in and walk out. As we walked down from the main entrance, it was difficult not to notice the dilapidated Bight of Benin mud-fashioned house on the right hand side of the path looking more like a modern day duplex building.

Now lying under its own ruins, the Bight of Benin used to be an upscale relaxation facility with a restaurant and bar where tourists could unwind and catch some breath. It reportedly shut down due to lack of patronage.

The Jos National Museum is home to variety of pleasant artworks and artifacts which are deliberately lined up along the roads that criss-cross the museum. Perhaps, the first fascinating thing tourists discover about the museum is that, unlike most other museums, it is not strictly an indoor museum. In fact, most of the attention-grabbing things that make the museum exciting are located outside the main museum building.

There are several items of historical interest to be seen at the museum including antiquated and vintage vehicles, mining machines and locomotive engines.

For me, one of the things most worthy of mention is the antiquated Ford car which is said to be presented to Nigeria on the occasion of her Independence in 1960 by Ford Motor Company, Canada. The other is the first Locomotive Engine used to transport tin from Jos in the mining days, which was built in 1921 for the Nigeria Railway Corporation.

The Museum is also home to a community of fine artists and artisans who are settled right within the museum premises, and churn out beautiful and affordable contemporary pieces of art works including souvenirs and signages.

The Zoological Garden

The Jos Zoological Garden is actually the oldest zoo in Nigeria and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. According to records, the zoological garden started in 1956 but didn’t open to the public until 1957. The first signs that we were in for a conference with nature was the ever fresh green vegetation which lines the major path from the main entrance leading up to the museum toll gate. As we walked down, we could hear the subtle but steady sound of a moving stream flowing below an iron bridge. Once at the gate, we paid the gate fee and in we went to feed our eyes.

We saw various animals on display including birds, chimpanzees, baboons, lions, monkeys, crocodiles, tortoise, geese, stork, horses, snake, rabbits, owl, pigeons and eagles, each in its own apartment and some of them in male-and-female pairs. While, the animals especially the carnivores are securely trapped in barbed wire structures with iron gates, there are also reinforced mud huts with thatched roofs and stone crafted huts to protect them from inclement weather. Perhaps, most worthy of note are the chimpanzees which by far, pulled the highest crowds in the zoo with their seemingly unending stunts and acrobatics as if they were out to impress us (and it would be unfair to say we weren’t impressed).

Chimpanzees are the most friendly, most curious, most ‘clowny’, most intelligent and most intellectual animals. If there were ever to be a comedian in the animal kingdom, it would most certainly be a chimpanzee. To put it succinctly, chimpanzees are clowns. As I watched them in utter excitement, I remembered the Charles Darwin theory of the evolution of man which holds that man evolved from chimpanzee which evolved from sea weeds. Well, while that theory holds no water, chimpanzees remarkably exhibit a striking semblance to human characteristic and they seemed to understand moves and instructions from tourists. According to the zoo attendants, many tourists visit the Jos zoological garden just to see the chimpanzees display.

Available records show that the zoo at some point had a total of about 130 animals, but has in recent years faced decline due to lack of interest on the side of government with respect to restocking the zoo. However, the available animals at the zoo currently are just enough to satisfy your quest and make your expedition worthwhile.

Our visit to the zoological garden was spiced up by the presence of happy and excited local kids most of who had come to hawk one thing or the other to tourists.

The ‘100 Steps’

The ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ literally took my breath away; it wasn’t like anything I had done before. The ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ consists of 100 flights of staircase carefully carved out from natural and preexisting stones and rocks leading to the top of a hill. The hill is historically said to be the ancestral home of the Afizere tribe when they migrated from Chawai in Southern Kaduna to what is known today as Plateau State.

The first striking thing about the 100 steps is the symbolic entrance gate on which the sign, ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ is inscribed and through which you must begin your expedition.

The steps are steep, irregular and crooked, giving the climber tough time and difficulty while ascending and descending the hill. As we were panting and climbing the hill, I felt like I was doing the Nigeria’s Guilder Ultimate Search reality TV show only that there was no prize to be won.

Once on top of the hill, we could have almost a full glimpse of Jos city centre including the popular terminus market. According to the locals, Joggers and those looking for six packs who live around do not need to use the gym as they frequently come to the steps in the early hours of the morning or in the evenings to exercise and work out free of charge.

Forget it, climbing the ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ is not the kind of thing you do with just physical strength and a bottle of energy drink; of course, you need a lot of that but you also need a lot of mental and emotional strength. Yes, if climbing the ‘100 steps to Afizere Settlement’ didn’t take your breath away, then you didn’t do it well.

City Like No Other

In more ways than one, Jos is unlike most of the other major cities in Nigeria and even Africa. Tucked in between lots of mountains, hills, rocks and plateaus, Jos is about the coolest and the coldest city in Nigeria and definitely one of such cities in Sub Saharan Africa. You would be disappointed if you expect to see the kind of human and vehicular traffics in a city like Lagos or the kind of boisterousness seen in many other cities in Nigeria. You would also be disappointed if you are looking to see people moving like some herds of cattle or some flock of sheep without a shepherd.

In Jos, you would not see people who seem to be perpetually in a hurry and always wanting to outdo each other or people who are ready to verbally abuse you at the slightest provocation. You would be pleasantly surprised to notice that, unlike a place like Lagos, people in Jos are laid back, they are calm and they actually obey traffic laws.

Jos is no Lagos or Abuja or Accra, there are no skyscrapers, there are no suspended bridges and there aren’t numerous flyovers, but certainly there is enough to feed your wandering eyes and satisfy your curious mind.

A Word About The Weather

Perhaps the most applicable thing to say about the weather in Jos is that I found that my oily cream very useful. Yes, I hate oily cream but for once I didn’t regret having it. At an altitude of 1,217 m (3,993 ft) above sea level, Jos enjoys a more temperate climate than much of the rest of Nigeria. Average monthly temperatures range from 21–25 °C and from mid-November to late January, night-time temperatures drop as low as 11 °C. Jos is popular for its all-year-round low temperatures with its harmattan and even winter feel, little wonder the whites love it. If snow was ever to fall in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa, it would be in Jos. If you are planning a visit to Jos, please don’t forget that thick cloth and that oily cream. The weather can be harsh!

Where to Stay in Jos

Assuming you have the money, don’t expect to stay in some of the world’s most luxurious and boutique hotel brands like the Marriott or Radisson Blu or even the midscale brands like Hotel Ibis, they simply aren’t there. Forget luxury hotels, there are many decent and cost saving hotels in and around Jos with proximity to most of the major centers of attraction.

I stayed at the popular Plateau Hotel which was built with the tourist and the holiday maker in mind as it has a couple of tourist attractions right within the premises. So for me, my adventure started right from my hotel, even before I knew it.

Travelling to Jos

Geographically, Jos is situated almost at the centre of Nigeria and there are commercial buses going to Jos from most major cities in Nigeria. But if you are planning a trip to Jos from Lagos, the best and the most convenient way is to go by air. Currently, Arik Air is the only airline that operates scheduled flights between Lagos and Jos. The airline operates five return flights every week between the two cities.

In case you are in a hurry to explore Jos, the in-bound flights from Lagos are conveniently timed in such a way you can begin your adventure as soon as you land in Jos. Visit to book your flight today.

Chidozie Uzoezie is a Travel and Tourism Blogger and a Content Creator. He's the CEO of The Afritraveller, Africa's trendy travel and tourism blog.

#TheWanderluster #HospitalityandTourism

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