The Yorubas worldwide trace their roots to Ile-Ife – a town situated in Osun State, South-West Nigeria. Ile-Ife is regarded as the holy city of the Yoruba people.
Ile-Ife appears in myths as the birthplace of creation and the location where the first humans took form.
According to Yoruba mythology, the world was originally a marshy, watery wasteland. In the sky above lived many gods, including the supreme god Olorun, the Owner of the Sky.
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Ile-Ife is the home of the Ooni of Ife, the spiritual head of the Yorubas and where Oduduwa – the progenitor of the Yoruba race – is believed to have settled down.
The Palace of the Ooni is a spectacle in itself, and a tour of the place is recommended. During its heyday of the 12th – 15th centuries AD, Ile-Ife experienced a fluorescence in bronze and iron arts.
You will be marvelled at some of the iconic architectures and inspiring aged structures within the ancient city of Ile-Ife. These buildings have sat in exactly the same spot for at least a couple of generations, providing a space for prayers, education and community.
Undoubtedly, some of these buildings desperately need restorative work but overall, most of them appear extremely well looked after even after all these years.
Beautiful naturalistic terracotta and copper alloy sculptures made during the early periods have been found at Ife; later sculptures are of the lost-wax brass technique known as Benin bronzes.
It was also during classic period Ile Ife that construction of decorative pavements, open-air courtyards paved with pottery sherds, began. This custom unique to the Yoruba is said to have been first commissioned by Ile-Ife’s only female king.
The potsherds were set on edge, sometimes in decorative patterns, such as herringbone with embedded ritual pots. Buildings were constructed primarily of sun-dried adobe brick and so only a few remnants have survived.
During the medieval period, two earthen rampart walls were erected around the city centre, making Ile-Ife what archaeologists call a fortified settlement.
The royal centre of Ile-Ife had a circumference of about 3.8 kilometers, and its innermost wall encircles an area of some 7.8 km.
A second medieval period wall encircles an area of some 14 km; both medieval walls are 4.5 meters tall and 2 meters thick.
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Visitors to Ile-Ife should bear in mind that the town is still developing, therefore it is possible to sight untarred and unmarked roads and other features that are commonly spottable in developing world.
Another downside of the town is unavailability of top brand hotels; though there are few considerably good hotels where visitors can stay.