Abuja Jabamah: The Bleisure, the Romance, and the Gastronomic Experience
Do you still fall for that old idea that business and pleasure don't go together? Well, that tradition has been happily broken by the organizers of the annual Abuja Jabamah. So, if anyone tells you that you can't mix business with pleasure, tell them you can. And it's called Bleisure.
When I stepped into the lobby of the iconic Abuja Luxury Hotel in the morning of 11th March for the 2022 edition of the Abuja Jabamah, it was obvious that an unforgettable bleisure event was brewing. Exhibitors were already doing brisk businesses and smiling to the bank.
As more and more delegates trickled in, networking sessions also increased in tempo, as business cards and ideas exchanged hands and heads. Business-to-business (B2B) meetings were already happening with all intents and purposes. New business relationships were being established, even as old ones were being revived. And outside the business circle, silver tea spoons were already clattering inside tea cups set on fine ceramic platters.
Apparently, the day was set, and soon after, the 8th Abuja Jabamah kicked off with ceremonial elegance and splendour. The organizer, Ikechi Uko, set the ball rolling with his brief, but expository opening remarks which was punctuated by a few moments of comic relief. And the delegates needed it.
Beautifully compered by the elegant and eloquent Ebele Enemchukwu, former Mrs United Nations Tourism Queen, the 2022 edition of Abuja Jabamah had a lot of sauce. Perhaps, more sauce than it had ever had. The event was graced by very important dignitaries, including diplomats, industry captains and technocrats, heads of regulatory agencies, members of the media, and other big players in the travel and tourism industry. To mention a few, the Tunisian Ambassador to Nigeria was personally in attendance. And of course, there was something tunisian about him.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Dr. Ifeoma Adaora Anyanwutaku also graced the event. The Director General, National Council for Arts and Culture, Otunba Olusegun Runsewe was also personally present. The Director General of the National Institute for Hospitality & Tourism (NIHOTOUR), Alhaji Nura Sani Kangiwa, was also in attendance. His intimidating height easily stood him out.
I've heard that tourism is for tall people, and it's beginning to appear true. So, also in attendance were the Oguntoye Twins, Africa's most famous and tallest twins in the travel and tourism space. And, as usual, they brought their charm, their elegance, and their positive vibes. The President of the Federation of Tourism Associations of Nigeria (FTAN), Nkereuwem Onung, also came with his infectious amiability and listening ears. The President, Nigeria Association of Tour Operators (NATOP), Hajia Bilkisu Abdul, also graced the event with her warm and friendly personality.
Also personally in attendance was the Chief Executive Officer of the Accident Investigation Bureau Nigeria (AIBN), Engr. Akin Olateru, who bagged the Aviation CEO of the year award in recognition of his leadership quality, diligence and excellent contribution to the safety of the aviation industry in Nigeria.
There were presentations on topical issues, including that by the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Pharmacist (Mrs) Uzamat Akinbile-Yussuf, which sparked off conversations. There were fruitful deliberations which attempted to address the issues raised as well as the traditional challenges bedevilling the travel and tourism industry.
There were well deserving awards and recognitions. And, on a romantic note, there was even a marriage proposal by a delegate to his bae of life, to the absolute delight of the onlookers or should I say eye witnesses? She was shy, she giggled, she cried, but, of course, she said YES. She had to. And with that surprise Romeo and Juliet romantic drama, the day one of the 2022 Abuja Jabamah came to a beautiful close.
About Day 2...
On the second day, the National Institute for Hospitality & Tourism (NIHOTOUR) hosted the 2022 Abuja Jabamah delegates to an afternoon of exquisite gastronomic experience and unlimited fun at the beautiful Kaspaland Park. The park is located on the serene banks of the Kaspaland lake, inside the National Stadium complex, Abuja.
The excitement in and around the park was palpable. We were all ready to discover, rediscover, and explore nature. And the fun kicked off with a fun-filled kayaking session, especially for those who had some adrenaline to spend. And with the kayaking session, we worked up our appetite and soon descended on the waiting dishes. After all, they had been curated with us in mind. And they were all ours, absolutely.
From edikaikong with eba (from the South), to gbegiri ewedu with amala (from the West), to ofe onugbu with fufu (from the East), to dambum nama (from the North), and so much more in-between, the delegates 'ate and drank' Nigeria under one roof, and in one fell swoop.
Also to tease our taste buds, were many more dishes from the northern portfolio, including magarya, taura, dakuwa, goruba, alkaki, all just for our gastronomic pleasure. I never knew that Nigeria had such an array of exquisite indigenous cuisine. Perhaps, I should say that Ikechi Uko 'conspired' with NIHOTOUR to pamper us. Actually, they spoilt us more than a little. And to put us in the right mood, the atmosphere was informal and provided the perfect backdrop to mingle and socialize without holding back.
For something to drive the food home, palm wine came to the scene all the way from the South East. Also, to quench our thirst, were zobo, kunu zaki, fura, cucumber mint, and many more from the North. Oh, there was abacha too, we call it African salad, and it went well with the palm wine. And the kilishi? It was heavenly. Perhaps, the best I've ever had. And for dessert, assorted fruits came to the rescue, including those I was seeing for the first time.
But beyond gastronomic experience, we created beautiful memories that transcend cultures and traditions. We created lasting memories that will outlive ethnic bigotry and mediocrity. We created memories of unity, memories of peace, memories of tolerance, and memories of brotherhood. In more ways than one, the 2020 edition of Abuja Jabamah went well. It hit the right spots, and impressed on the right minds. For obvious reasons, we didn't want the 2022 Abuja Jabamah to end, but it had to. And so, it came to an end, but not before offering us some wonderful opportunities to create beautiful memories.
Congratulations to Ambassador Ikechi Uko and the ATQ News team for delivering a highly successful event, despite the myriads of challenges. In fact, Abuja Jabamah is not an event, it's an experience. If you missed the 2022 edition, don't make that mistake in 2023. Details coming shortly.