Since December 1, 2020, when the Christmas Village opened to the public, residents and visitors alike in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital city, have an addition to the many places to visit and unwind this festive season.
Spanning 11 hectares of land, the village, which is located in the Ibibio Museum Park, along the ever-busy Udo Udoma Avenue in Uyo, is worth visiting.
The uniqueness of the Christmas Village is that it is a one-stop-shop for leisure, a place to exert positive energy, a place to unwind without watching ones back and also a place to celebrate for surviving the unprecedented year 2020.
Moreover, it is well-lit amid colourful ambience that oozes life at night. It also hosts the tallest Christmas tree in the South-South zone; about 40 metres high, which shines alluringly at night from its base to the towering height, illuminating its surroundings with life-giving lights and excitement.
As well, the Christmas village hosts over 600 kiosks, which are offering business owners an opportunity to display their goods and products for sale to visitors.
Considering the huge size and the many festive activities, the Christmas Village has also provided jobs for no fewer than 4,000 people, an improvement on the 2,450 people it empowered last year, offering them an opportunity to make money and boost the local economy as well.
It is further divided into three zones, reflecting the senatorial zones in the state, and also hosts three stage platforms for live music and theatrical performances.
No doubt, the choice of the humongous 11 hectares is an improvement on the 4.5 hectares space, which hosted about 1.6 million visitors in the 2019 edition of the celebration.
Most importantly, the state government approved the park to enforce social distancing, and in line with safety and healthy protocols for Covid-19 pandemic.
There are many fun and exciting activities to engage visitors. From many snooker boards, three-hole mini-golf course, night football competition, DJ and music artistes live performances and even clubbing, the village is all about excitement.
The football competition starts at 9 pm every night, it features ambitious teams and will run until New Year when the winning team will be presented with prizes.
As expected of the state as food heaven, there are many restaurants and food vendors serving special delicacies, which are unique to Akwa Ibom.
From Afang, Edikan Ikong, Ikpang kukuo, Ekpan to other vegetable-based delicacies that are rich in a variety of seafood, there are enough to eat and merry.
One place to eat in the village is at Medlin Etuk’s restaurant. It is owned by an 11 years old boy, who asked his mother to empty his pocket money account to set up a space for him at the Christmas village. Visitors, who eat at Etuk’s restaurant, love the food, wine and small chops. They also marvel at the story behind the restaurant.
Aside from Etuk’s place, there are many other restaurants where great meals are served. There are also many other outfits offering related services from make-up at discount, craft and souvenirs, electronics, house decoration items, Christmas toys, Santa outfits, among others.
Of course, Bet Naija is also in the village, looking for customers who will try their luck for the jackpot this Christmas.
There are also countless hawkers, who are both selling their items and enjoying the fun in the village.
Happy that the Christmas Village is bubbling with life, activities and colour, the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the organisers and promoters of the village, is promising more fun and exciting activities until New Year day.
Speaking on the village and its numerous exciting activities, Orman Esin, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, noted that the location, the village setup and its activities are all grandeur this year than in other editions because of the conscious efforts by the state to scale the village and its activities to world class level, where people from across the world can visit for memorable experiences during the festive period.
Esin assured of improvements on all grounds; from visitors number, entertainment and exciting activities, security and safety.
He also commended the state government for granting the access to the 11 hectare Ibibio Museum Park, which is a boost to social distancing, health and safety protocols for the covid-19 pandemic.
However, the commissioner also points visitors to other tourist attractions across the state, which according to him, have made Akwa Ibom a destination worth visiting.
For him, Itu is worth visiting any time because it hosts the confluence of two rivers, the legacies of Mary Slessor, colonial history and relics, including the first post office in Nigeria, the present Queen of England’s visit to the town, among other excitements.
The Ibeno beach is also welcoming to beach, party and nature lovers this festive season and always. According to the commissioner, the beach, which occupies the largest Atlantic coastline of more than 129 kilometres, offers endless space and platform for fun-seekers to frolic and enjoy numerous beach activities without watching their back.
Also, the Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort is open and waiting for visitors, this festive season, according to the commissioner.
The resort, which is unarguably, the best in South South and South East of Nigeria, is tourists’ haven, considering its pristine nature and world class facilities.
From living golf experience, many accommodation options, best delicacies, bird watching, boating on the river and encounter with the very hospitable Nwaniba people, Ibom Hotel is truly worth a visit this festive season and always.
The adventurous can take a boat cruise to discover James Town, an exciting creek town, trailing the journey of early Christian missionaries along the Kwa Ibo River, and visit Ikot Abasi to see Lord Lugard’s house, relics of slavery, especially the Bridge of no Return, the women riot, the estuary of the Atlantic Ocean and Imo River, among others.
Visitors are also welcomed at Itam Monkey Sanctuary, to see the endangered monkey specie that is home to the town, where the people revere it.
While the state awaits your visit, the commissioner advises that visit to the Christmas Village should be complemented with the purchase of souvenirs to loved ones to sustain the memories long after the visit and also to boost the local economies.
by Emelike Obinna