The over 900 years old palace of the Oba of Benin is located in the heart of Benin, the Edo State capital. It is adjacent to the Airport Road. The palace attracts thousands of visitors yearly even though the visitors are restricted to certain areas. The chiefs in the palace know the various societies they belong to and their functions. Only the Oba understands the language of the palace societies.
Visitors are forbidden to do certain things in the palace, such as taking sand from the palace. The duties of some chiefs are to ensure that nobody enters the palace to take sand. Stories abound of what happened to people who attempted to take sand from the palace.
There are some places in the palace where women are not allowed to urinate. A story is told of how an expectant mother security officer almost died for urinating indiscriminately. She was said to have vomited until sacrifices were made to atone for her “sin”.
Pointing of fingers
It is forbidden to point fingers at either the Oba or his chiefs in the palace. It is said that the Oba does not point fingers at anyone as well, except in a bid to bless or curse an individual.
The Bini ethnic nationality believe that whistling is a communication medium between mortals and spirits as well as the dead. There are several deities within the Oba’s palace and the belief is that no one is sure of which deity is roused during whistling.
Open umbrella during festivals
Only the Oba is allowed to be covered with an umbrella during festivities or when he is going out. All guests, chiefs and visitors are to bear any harsh weather.
Wearing black clothes
Anybody wearing black is not allowed to enter the Oba’s palace. Such a person is sent away because such attires indicate mourning in many cultures. Palace sources say it is a taboo for the Oba to mourn, no matter the circumstance. He is not allowed to see black clothes.
Women not allowed at Ehengbuda Shrine
Women are not allowed to go near the Ehengbuda Shrine. Historians say Oba Ehemugba was born a haemophrodyte and that after powerful witch doctors worked on him, the female parts were removed. He was later paraded naked around the community. Any female – girl or woman – who enters the area immediately becomes infertile. To avoid barrenness among Benin girls and women, a ban is placed on females from entering the shrine’s vicinity.
Male visitors not allowed into royal harem
Male visitors are not allowed to enter the royal harem where the Oba’s wives stay. Male relatives of the Oba’s wives are also disallowed from entering or extending hands for greetings.
Carrying Banga (palm oil fruits) around the palace
It is a taboo to carry palm oil fruits on the head in or around the palace. Even vehicles carrying palm oil fruits are not allowed to pass through the streets near the Oba’s palace. The presence of palm oil fruits around the palace is said to be an indication that the land wants blood.
Dogs not allowed within the palace
Any dog that strays with the palace vicinity is killed or dies naturally.