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I was scanning through some old pictures to help me relax when I found this picture that took me back to my adventure days as a student in the university. It was an adventure that took us to a small village called Araya, in Isoko North Local Government Area, Delta State, Nigeria.
Araya was not just a village like every other village. It was a village with a story. According to our guide the people of Araya were farmers who cultivated mainly yams and cassava. Araya is known as the “Bible Site”. So many years ago, when Christianity just filtered into the southern part of Nigeria and books were rare a Bible was found on a heap of yams opened.
The only person that was known to carry a bible was the missionary who visited the villages once in months. According to the story, it had rained the previous nights and being a swampy place, the water had risen high. During rainy season, all harvested yams or crops were heaped on high grounds so that at a scheduled time, the villagers can use their canoes to take them back to the village.
On this day, some of the farmers in their canoe had gone to the heap of yams when they saw something strange. They moved closer and saw a big book on the heap opened. They were amazed. How did this book come to be here far into the forest? What marveled them was that despite the heavy rains the previous night, this book was not wet. Everything else (the yams, soil, leaves etc) was wet but the book was dry.
They took it and brought it back to the village. It was agreed that they should take the mystery book to the Anglican missionary in Port Harcourt. On getting Port Harcourt, they handed the book to the mission head Rev, Proctor who told them it was a bible and that they should come back for answers. Their return trip was not fruitful as they were denied access to see Rev. Proctor. Rev. Proctor traveled after some days through canoe with the bible en route to the seaport to board a ship to England but his journey was cut short when his boat capsized and the bible fell into the river Niger. It was the end for both Proctor and the Bible.
Araya is not a popular site today because there is poor publicity and tourism is in the dungeons of neglect in Nigeria. If the little village of Araya was in developed countries, it would have been rich with visitors and wealth. A lot of small villages have their own unique and mysterious stories that did marvel you but they remain hidden from the outside world.
My visit to Araya in the late 90s was wonderful and something struck us. The view of the grasses around the site was like an open book. It is a place to visit.