Calabar is a city in southeastern Nigeria. It is presently the capital of the Cross River State and is fondly referred to as the "Canaan City" - "the biblical land flowing with milk and honey." Although one is not likely to actually find milk and honey flowing on the streets of this enchanting and alluring city, one will definitely discover the warmth and hospitality of the people of Calabar in abundance.
The city lies along the Calabar River, 5 miles (8 km) upstream from that river's entrance into the Cross River estuary. It is watered by the Calabar and Great Qua Rivers and creeks of the Cross River (from its inland delta).
The city was settled in the early 17th century by the Efik branch of the Ibibio people. It then became a centre for trade between white traders on the coast and natives. Fish, cassava, bananas, palm oil, and palm kernels were traded at Calabar for European manufactured goods, and the town also served as a major slave-trading depot.
The city was known as Old Calabar until 1904. The name Old Calabar was originally given by 15th-century Portuguese navigators to the African inhabitants of that part of the Gulf of Guinea coast. This region was the main source of the Calabar bean, a poisonous bean that, when ingested, markedly affects the nervous system.
By the mid-19th century, after the waning of the slave trade, Old Calabar's economy was based on the export of palm oil and palm kernels. In 1884 when the chiefs of Duke Town accepted British protection, the town, served as capital of the Oil Rivers Protectorate (1885–93), the Niger Coast Protectorate (1893–1900), and Southern Nigeria (1900–06) until the British administrative headquarters were moved to Lagos. It remained an important port (shipping ivory, timber, and beeswax, as well as palm produce) until it was eclipsed by Port Harcourt, terminus (1916) of the railroad, 90 miles (145 km) west.
The city is a major transportation center, with good road connections to the rest of southeastern Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon. It has an excellent natural harbor and airport. The city is the market center for the surrounding area. Industries in this city include sawmilling, boat building, cement and ceramics production, and food processing. The city is hosts University of Calabar and the Federal Polytechnic.
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