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Ibadan: City of Brown Roofs

Ibadan literally means “between the forest and the plain,” and was once the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa, though more recently it has been overtaken by Lagos in terms of population. It is arguably the largest in terms of area, with land space of 128 square kilometers.

 

At four million people and counting, it still retains the feeling of a small town, leading some to deem it “the biggest village in the world.”
It’s known colloquially as “the brown city,” stemming from the rusted corrugated iron roofs of the single and two-story buildings that make up the majority of the city, and the reddish-brown earth it is built on. Ibadan also serves as the capital of Oyo State, and as such, the population is predominantly Yoruba.

Historically, the city was an important centre for the shipping of kola nuts produced in the southwest, which were then transported for the eventual consumption in northern cities like Kano. Today its serves as a similar intermediary for products such as cassava, cocoa, cotton, timber, palm oil, and rubber. It now covers over 400 square kilometers, and whilst less dense than Lagos, and with noticeably more older/colonial buildings, its urban sprawl has significantly outgrown the original seven hills that characterized the city.

 
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