Funke Olaode relays here her experience in Aberdeen, Scotland, a city reputed for oil, academic prowess and with the largest quarry of granite in the world
Landing at the Aberdeen airport, I was first of all greeted by a chilly cold breeze, which I had never experienced in my life (my last visit to London was in August during the Olympics, which of course was in summer). As we drove out of the airport, I observed that the entire buildings were grey, an indication of building with granite. Would paint manufacturers ever find buyers in this environment? I asked rhetorically.
But my host answered in affirmative. Of course, they will as people still paint inside their houses. The city is mostly made up of granite buildings because Aberdeen has the largest quarry of granite in the whole world. So because of that, some of the buildings are built with lovely granite, which is very rare in other places although the granite makes the city grey when it is dark. But when the sun comes out it is beautiful because the sun reflecting off granite is a lovely spectacle.
The City Aberdeen...
Aberdeen is a city of international significance. It is also the commercial hub that drives the regional economy of the North East of Scotland, generating a large chunk of its income from fishing and the University of Aberdeen, which dates back to the 16th century. However, it was the discovery of crude oil in the North Sea during the early 70's that brought the city to the limelight as the oil capital of Europe. The influence of the oil and gas industry over the past 30 years has been considerable, helping to raise living standards in the city and contributing to income levels that have been considerably above the United Kingdom and Scottish average. Aberdeen has developed into a vibrant and cosmopolitan city and is a premier center for business, education, retailing, leisure and culture. There is a wealth of listed buildings, conservation areas and other cultural and artistic assets. Aberdeen is served by the established road and rail links, a modern harbour and airport.
According to THISDAY findings, in terms of demographic trends, the latest of which was in 2007, the population estimate for Aberdeen is 209, 280. This is the eighth largest council area in Scotland. Aberdeen has attracted a high number of migrants and those seeking greener pastures in recent times. With the influx of foreign students seeking admission into the popular University of Aberdeen and Roberts Gordon University, increases have been recorded over the past few years.
Aberdeen is the third largest city in Scotland. The largest city is Glasgow, the second largest Edinburgh. Statistically, apart from London, it is the most prosperous city in Europe and it parades the highest number of millionaires.
Apart from oil, it is well known for agriculture. Part of its economy is fishing and over the years, fishing has reduced because it has been "Over-fished". Based on results from Scottish Households Survey, 94% of Aberdeen residents thought their neighborhood was either a 'very Good' or 'fairly good' place to live. They may be right because throughout my one-week stay, there was no case of armed robbery or theft or even violence.
According to a Nigerian graduate student who gave her name as Tega "This is a peaceful city. I have had instances where people left their wallet in the cinema and still found it the following day with their valuables intact. Aberdeen is also a conservative society where people mind their business. All the gragra associated with big cities are totally absent".
Corroborating Tega's perception of Aberdeen is another Nigerian, Dr. Igiehon. "The Aberdonians and Scottish generally are conservative. They are lovely people, friendly, accommodating, godly and wonderful. Scotland used to be called 'Land of God' because they loved God and many of the missionaries that went to Africa actually emerged from Scotland. It is also an organised society. It is not a busy city; it is calm. Though like most oil city, it is an expensive setting," he said.
Another significant thing about Aberdeen is its incredible outdoors. Infact, people come from all over the world to enjoy its magnificent outdoor events. Such buildings are His Majesty Building, which has become a tourist site of sort situated on Rosemount Viaduct Street, the Dome central library is also situated in the same vicinity. And also the massive statute of William Wallace, guardian of Scotland-the main character in the movie 'Brave Heart' directed by Mel Gibson.
There is another part called Royal Decide, which is the Queen's summer residence "The Palm Royal Castle". It is a few meters away from Aberdeen. Interestingly, it is the private home of the Queen and it has been the summer residence for the Queens and Kings of England since Queen Victoria. In the olden days, the Royal Train used to move from Aberdeen to the place.
Aberdeen, the Academic City...
The University of Aberdeen is today at the forefront of teaching, learning and discovery, as it has been for over 500 years. Situated in High Street, off Kings Street and known for its academic prowess, you find students from all over the world coming to study in Aberdeen. The city has two great universities: University of Aberdeen founded in 1495 by Bishop Elphin Stone and is the third oldest university in Scotland and Robert Gordon University. As the 'global university of the north', University of Aberdeen has consistently sent pioneers and ideas outward to every part of the world. It is ambitious, research-driven university with a global outlook, committed to excellence in everything it does. Robert Gordon is a newer university focusing on the oil and gas industry particularly.
Union Square is a massive glass shopping mall where renowned designers converge to serve their teeming customers. This is a lesson for the developed world. All over the world, cities are mostly populated because people are looking for good things of life. The world visionary leaders have been able to solve these problems by making available all the cities amenities in the countryside. Not as populated or exposed as London, Aberdonians still have access to all the designer wares at Union Square located on Union Street. The gigantic Primak store occupies half of the main road. Zara, Next, Dune, Swatch, H&M and a host of others are readily available. So why go to London which is about 6 hours away by coach or one hour, 15 minutes by flight when they are at your disposal right in the heart of the city.
And the African Market...
Though a Scottish setting, African market still finds its place in Aberdeen. Located on George Street and managed by Glory Okon, the store is home away from home. Here you can get fresh locust beans, ewedu, vegetable, plantain, garri-ijebu, dry pepper, suya, ogbono, fufu, atarodo, tatashe, cray-fish and virtually all Nigerian ingredients and provisions are available at reasonable prices. A kilo of turkey is sold for two pounds. So when next you visit Aberdeen, you can visit Okon's shop on George Street to have a feel of home. All in all, it was a beautiful experience for me.