Nigerian Natural Beauty: Zuma Rock and Gurara Waterfalls
    2009-04-25 16:26:37      Web Editor: Sun Yang

By Wei Xiangnan

Zuma Rock. The white part at the center of the rock was the human face. I'm not sure if I recognized the right part, because outline was not very clear. [Photo: Wei Xiangnan]

Southern Nigeria and northern Nigeria have contrasting scenery, although most of the country lies between the northern hemisphere and the equator, and the four seasons are not so distinctive. In the south, it is typically tropical with coconut trees growing vehemently everywhere. A warm, wet breeze blows in from the Atlantic Ocean. But in the north, big mountains reach high into the sky, and the weather is mostly hot and dry.

On a recent visit to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, I had the opportunity to see some tourist sights in the north of the country, most notably the Gurara Waterfalls and the Zuma Rock.

The Zuma Rock is the symbol of Abuja, or even Nigeria. The big rock is depicted on the country's 100 naira bill. However, it is not located in Abuja. It is actually found in the state of Niger north of Abuja, along the highway from Abuja to Kanuda. At 725 meters tall and around 3.1 km in circumference, the monolith looks more like a small mountain. Keen observers say they can recognize a person's face on the rock, and locals believe that due to the human face, the rock has mysterious powers. It is said that a couple of years ago, the tourism authorities in Niger state invited foreign investors to develop this area into a tourist attraction. They built a fine hotel near the rock, but unfortunately the business didn't perform as well as they had hoped. After rumors circulated that there killings occurred in the hotel, the hotel was finally closed. Local people say it was the negative influence of the rock that doomed the hotel.

Last year, the governor of Niger state climbed to the top of the monolith and signed a MOU with a Canadian tourism development company. The two parties agreed to invest some $700 million in the development of a tourist resort village around the giant rock. However, when I visited the rock in February, I didn't see any construction going on in the surrounding area. The monolith stood there right beside the highway, dimly lit and lonely. It was a little bizarre to see such a majestic natural wonder being passed by pedestrians and vehicles without so much as glance. It truly deserves more appreciation. Broken walls surrounded the desolate rock. My driver told me the walls had been used to surround the hotel, but now the walls were battered in parts and the hotel had disappeared.

After one-hour's drive from the Zuma, we arrived at the Gurara Waterfalls. Gurara, what a cute name! I asked many Nigerian people what Gurara means, but disappointingly and surprisingly, some people didn't even know it existed. Those who told me they knew the beautiful natural waterfall, didn't know what its name meant, or simply told me it originated from local village called Gurara, or that it's named after a river called Gurara. I kept asking around, and finally a friend from the North informed me it means something like 'water pouring from somewhere'. I found the answer was satisfactory as it implies it has something to do with 'water' and 'pouring'. I went a step further and assumed Gurara could even mean the sound of the water flowing, just hearing the word "Gu-ra-ra", it sounds like the flowing water, right?

On my way to the waterfalls, I wasn't certain if I could really hear the beautiful sound of nature. Simply because it is dry season in Nigeria, and the north is particularly dry around this time, yielding not a single a drop of rainfall. I wondered, was I going to see any water or just the rugged rock outline? To my relieved surprise, there was water. Very strong water! Although, I was told, not as strong as in the rainy season. The waterfall was simply amazing! Small streams diverted from the main Gurara River running softly around rocks on top of the cliff, converging from scores tributaries in the narrow rugged pass and dashing out from the cliff with almighty power. Finally, the water, shining under the sun, as beautiful as fireworks, fell into a pond some 20 meters below. Before returning to tranquility. There were two main streams of waterfalls, but in the rainy season, the whole cliff would be covered with a curtain of waterfalls.

To get close to the waterfalls, you need to make a daring walk. As the facilities in tourist sight were not well equipped, or, more accurately, there was no facilities at all. There wasn't even a road to the waterfall, so I had to trek along a rocky road down to the waterside. If you are nature lover, the hard work is worthwhile. Local people say they had plans to build the waterfall area into a tourism resort and there were already investors showing interest in the project. The building of a seven-star hotel is on the agenda.

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