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A popular and historic city in Akwa Ibom State, Ikot Ekpene also referred to as “raffia city”, is largely regarded as a citadel of arts. The city derives its name from the village of Ikot Ekpene which originally was made up of ten families with a long and rich history. However, it is now mainly inhabited by the Anang people who are noted for their cane furniture and basket handicrafts. Significant exports include basket weaving, sculpture, and most notably, raffia cane furniture which form the basis for the casual name of the town. Ikot Ekpene is located on the A342 highway parallels to the Calabar coast on the southeast and Aba to the west, with Uyo by the road just to the east, and Umuahia to the north. THREE FAMOUS SITES Ikot Ekpene town plaza Located in the heart of Ikot Ekpene. The town plaza consists of a long tree lined promenade with two outdoor dining areas either side of an exciting central fountain. A bandstand forms a major architectural feature and is a venue for outdoor entertainment along with a large outdoor viewing screen to show soccer games and films. Complementing facilities include a maintenance building, car park, public toilets and an access footbridge which in actual fact, seems to draw tourists from far and wide.
The Raffia-Co-operative Stores A major tourist attraction, the Raffia-Co-operative Stores at Ikot Ekpene is popular for the raffia crafts and masquerades. Ikot Ekpene Main Market An old market in the city, this market provides an interesting glimpse into city’s culture. It is usually abuzz with middle class shoppers, all swarming around its roadside stalls and showrooms. Tourists most times explore this markets for souvenirs. LODGING From budget B&Bs and Motels to stylish boutique hotels as well as the new Starwood hotel – Four Points Ikot Ekpene, the city has some fantastic overnight options. The best choices are the numerous small budget hotels and B&Bs scattered around the old town. The rooms start from as low as NGN1,500 (New Kevino Hotel )on, and the stylish boutique hotels are affordable at a range of NGN 7,000 – NGN10,000. A popular city in the area, the top choices are often full, so visitors may want to make reservations well in advance, especially for weekends. SHOPPING Shopping is always a personal experience and Ikot Ekpene offers opportunities to gain this experience. The city’s diverse neighborhoods offer virtually every type of shopping imaginable, from local foods and products to arts and crafts, also trendy threads. The vibrant atmosphere the local markets also can make shopping lots of fun. In fact, Ikot Ekpene has some of the best markets in India, with a lot of art and handicrafts. These town plaza as well is a treasure trove of merchandise waiting to be discovered.
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CUISINE Full of culinary secrets, a walk through the boulevards of Ikot Ekpene is likely to lead you to countless food joints that are drenched with the aromas of good food and the hum of both hungry and satisfied customers. Thanks to a preponderance of bukkas, street food vendors, fast foods and fancy restaurants, Ikot Ekpene can be a foodie’s paradise; lending a much-needed retail counterpoint to all that earnest craft and art exhibits around the city. Favorite food spots include Foodsput, Hi-Point Bar and Tenlex Bar and some of the local foods to try include: Ekpang Nkukwo, Afang, Atama Soup and Edikang Ikong. FUN FACT The people of Ikot Ekpene have a holiday tagged “Ikot Ekpene Day”. The day is set aside to honor the city of Ikot Ekpene, also called “the Raffia City”. The celebration which is observed by the town’s inhabitants and original families, takes place shortly after Christmas and is celebrated annually.  

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This article was first published on 4th February 2016 and updated on February 12th, 2016 at 2:22 pm

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