At Kings Square in the centre of Benin City lies the Oba’s palace. It has so many unique features and of great importance to the Benin people. It is regarded as a national monument, UNESCO world heritage site and also a museum of some sort because of the huge number of ivory, bronze and wood artworks held within its walls.
The palace since 1255 has accommodated many obas in the past was built by late Oba Ewedo. He made this move to build a palace in order to break free from the Edionisen and suppress the Uzamas by moving the seat of power from Usama to Benin. This move was opposed by the Ogiamien who practically had control of Benin City but he was defeated by the Oba in the battle of Ekiokpagha.
The palace has been in ruins ever since the British invasion. It was only when Oba Eweka II ascended the throne in 1914 that the palace was rebuilt.. The palace houses the Oba, his wives, children, palace workers and other aides, various temples and shrines dedicated to all the past Obas, reception halls for receiving visitors, exotic animals like ostrich, a football pitch and massive grounds for the hosting of various festivals such as the world famous Igue festival. The palace serves as a residential, spiritual and communal home.
Paying a visit to the palace of the Oba can be a very interesting experience for a tourist. It is however advised to observe the following dos and don’ts.
- Whistling is not allowed within the palace because it is seen as a medium of calling out to spirits of the dead
- Pointing at the Oba or his chiefs is strictly prohibited
- Use of umbrellas is not allowed. Only the Oba is allowed to cover with an umbrella in the palace
- Females are prohibited from going to the Alaka shrine area because it is believed to contain a spirit that causes barrenness
- Only males with royal blood are allowed to approach the royal harem
- Palm fruits are not allowed to be carried on the head because they represent blood and can attract disaster
- Black clothes are not allowed to be worn in the palace because they represent mourning.