TRAVELOGUE: What does it mean to Google-Map Abuja?

Abuja City Gate
Abuja City Gate, Abuja

Immediately our aircraft landed at the Abuja airport, it became clearer that the two-day trip would be defined by a melange of awesome moments. There is this intersection between work and fun which the trip to Abuja from Lagos provided us. And between Wednesday and Saturday of the last week of May, that intersection moved through strategic parts of the Federal Capital Territory, just as we also moved leisurely along with it.

Before the trip, we—-myself and other colleagues in the media and on Nigeria’s Cyberspace—- had been acquainted with the beauty of Google Map. But many never knew there were wonders beyond the basic navigation methods we knew. A practical session with Head of Google’s Communications & Public Affairs (West Africa), Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, who doubled as our ever-supportive resource person and trip facilitator, was all we need to be quickly exposed to the hitherto unknown ways we could navigate the Google Map and draft reviews quite beautifully. The days that followed would offer us practical moments to put into practice what we were exposed to.

Google’s vision is to organise the world’s information and make it accessible and useful to everyone. This includes helping more people use Maps to make better and timely decisions.

Nigerians enjoy holidays and travel adventures. Here, Google Map comes in as an indispensable tool that helps them discover and explore their world.

#AbujawithGoogleMaps, a two-day Google Maps-guided tour of cultural and historical landmarks in Abuja, was conceived with the goal of showing how the tool could help people explore and discover the world.

Abuja: Bewitching Scenery!

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The scenery of Abuja, the capital city, is bewitching in a way that reeks of nonchalance. Where Lagos announces its presence with blaring horns and maddening (traffic) chaos, Abuja does with ease and regal serenity. And as we moved from the Thought Pyramid, through the IBB Golf Court, through the Tube Cafe, through the Millenium Park, through Silverbird Galleria, the city advertised its beauty without really doing so.

With its well-paved municipal roads, incessant traffic lights and relatively cautious road users, Abuja offered its wide arms to us and led us through the two-day Google experience without chaos.

Google Map has been designed to help users find new things to do and see dining, event, and activity options based on their location in the newly redesigned Explore tab. It could also make them know where the tastemakers are going; how to make plans as a group; and how to stay on top of the latest and greatest discoveries. All of these were put into practice the day after our arrival.

The Tour

The tour began with a visit to the Millennium Park, one of Abuja’s most visited parks, which was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. Othman Bello, a self-taught historian and our tour guide at the park, took us through a refreshing yet winding historical journey of the interface between the park and the local culture. We also had a hint into how the indigenous people make their nutritious tiger nut drink popularly known as “Kunu Aya”, which we all relished.

Soon, our vehicle moved swiftly on the asphalted layers of Bwari road, just as conversations among participants moved from social media engagements to travelling and numerous other issues in between. We got to the Ushafa Pottery Centre at Bwari area council, where traditional clay pots are made by locals. Aside from the beautifully intriguing way locals moulded pots, the beautiful hills of the environment provided scenic beauty for the shots taken.

Some of the most cherished experiences gained from the first day were captured in how Google Map helps to navigate anywhere, fast; how to create a list of prospective visitation sites; how to make detours; how to use offline maps; among other basic navigation tips. This would come handy the next day during a contest.

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The contest; the goodbyes

On Saturday, there was an energy-sapping marathon through the various parts of the city: Silverbird Galleria, Marakech, Julius Berger Park, among others. Although it was a contest, the beauty of navigating the city via google map erased all forms of melancholy that could have come with losing out. That exercise would be followed by awesome moments of photo-ops and lunch, after which we moved to the airport en route to Lagos.

On our way to the airport, we stopped at the Abuja city gate to say our goodbyes.

About 20-something minutes after we took pictures at the city gate, we were at the airport. of course, one or so hour afterwards, we were already approaching Ikeja. As our aircraft hovered above the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, a friend on the trip who sat close to me, Talabi Tomiwa, joked about the chaotic beauty of Lagos. We both agreed that although the Google experiment could have been near-impossible in Lagos, due to its perennial traffic snarl, there is beauty in the chaotic essence of this city that barely sleeps.

From the intimidating structures of the skyscrapers in Marina, through the magnificently chaotic assembly of human heads in Oyingbo, the city’s beauty was self-evident. Of course, we needed no map to “google” it.

As we all filed out to pick our luggage at the arrival section of the Lagos airport, Nosa Emma-Iyamu, a friend and colleague, asked what the trip meant to me. I chuckled but offered no response.

Minutes later, as our taxi sped off the narrow road that leads out of the Lagos airport into the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, I realised what it meant to ‘Google-Map’ Abuja: to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the capital city, move through its quiet adjoining communities, savour the beauty of its well-paved roads, capture the best of the peoples’ culture, and allow Google Map to be the ultimate guide.

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