Here lies Queen of Sheba

Posted on: May 13, 2020, by :

The V-shaped demarcation is just about seven feet. The area is protected by eight pillars, four on both sides. At the head of the demarcation is a metal gate. There is nothing unique or out of place about this place only that great efforts had been taken to preserve and keep the place.

This, the legend says, is the final burial ground of the famous Biblical Queen of Sheba. The great queen who, having heard about the great wisdom of King Solomon, King of Israel, came on to his kingdom to find out  herself. 

In Oke Eri in the Ijebu  North East Local Government Area of Ogun State, less than two kilometres from Ijebu Ode , off the Ijebu Ode-Ibadan Road, she is known as Bilikisu Sungbo.

Bilikisu Sugbo grave, due to this legend, has become a tourist attraction for many who come from far and near to visit the place. To add fillip to the story that the Queen of Sheba was buried there, many come to the grave side to offer prayers.  

According to the keeper of the place, whatever one asks from God while praying at the grave, will be provided.

 This legend and the belief that the place has some mystical power have continued to draw visitors to the place.

There is a large covering for the place built with huge metals and covered with corrugated iron sheets.  This was done many years ago and it actually could do with a little bit of renovation.

To get there, one could charter a vehicle from Ijebu Ode to Oke Eri. From the Ijebu-Ibadan Road, Oke Eri is off the road. Having entered the community, the Bilkisu Sungob  grave is outside the community on the road to Imope. The gate to the compound has decayed and it is falling. Behind the gate, the security post has collapsed.

Entering the compound, the whole place has been overtaken by weeds. On the left, the building, said to be chalets, has collapsed. By its side is an abandoned structure. At the opposite side is the gate to the grave painted white.  At the arch above the white painted gate, there is a vague inscription telling visitors that the place is the resting place of the Queen of Sheba. Behind the gate is a kind of construction project that had reached the roofing stage before it was abandoned, leaving the skeleton of the wood for the roof hanging awkwardly. The keeper would tell any visitor to remove his or her shoes before entering. Surprisingly, behind the abandoned project is a path to the grave. It is well-kept.  From the gate to the grave is about 100 metres. The whole area is surrounded by bush. Outside the Bilikisu Sungbo grave area could serve as a reserved area.

Although the people are  convinced that the history passed down to them by their ancestors is authentic, one cannot but be skeptical since there are no enough  evidence  directly linking this legendary  Bilikisi Sungbo to the Biblical Queen of Sheba.

 For instance, how can the final resting place of the legendary queen be so far away from where the stories of the Bible or the Quran were written? Also what made the Queen of Sheba choose this small community in Ijebu Ode as her final abode, many are asking?

However, many would equally ask what solid evidence anybody has that the person lying beneath the earth deep in the forest of Oke Eri is not the Queen of Sheba. This probably is what has made the site to have touristic values coupled with the mystic aspect of the grave.

In addition, the legendary Bilikisu Sungbo, a great woman, has left her legacy for posterity.

 To a British archaeologist, Dr. Patrick Darling of Bournemouth University, there is almost no doubt that the Bilikisu Sugbo grave in Oke Eri is the burial site of the Queen of Sheba. To him, some of the signs on ground when he visited it in 1994 were not far away from what he expected. And he has ticked it as the most likely site in the absence of another to contradict it.

“We have living proofs that it was a powerful kingdom, and there are many links that have similarities to the Queen of Sheba legend,” he was quoted as saying.

 Some of the features he cited as examples included the mud wall stretching over 100 miles. According to him, “The earthwork, which is larger than the pyramids in Egypt, was built in remembrance of some great figures. Stories talk of a powerful goddess.”

An expert in classical studies, one Andrew Wilson, agrees with Darling to a reasonable extent. “There is always some elements of truth passed down through generations. I would not disregard the notion that she lived in West Africa.” While the claim by scholars that the Queen of Sheba was a black and wealthy woman was also a sort of evidence, Darling pointed out that the belief in the local area that Bilkisu Sungbo is indeed the Queen of Sheba is evidence.

His words: “I don’t want to overplay the Sheba theory, but it cannot be discounted. The local people believe it and that’s what is important.”

 To those who may not know, the story of Queen of Sheba is told in both the Bible and the Quran. Identified as Queen of Sheba in the Bible, and Bilqis in the Quran, her story in relationship with the one acclaimed to be with an unparalleled level of wisdom, King Solomon, is prominent, even though with different versions. Reference is made to her in the Hebrew Bible, First Kings 10:1-13 (largely copied in 2 Chronicles 9:1–12). And in the Quran, reference is made to her in the 34th chapter.

While one account said she set out on a journey to King Solomon, having been awed by his renowned level of wisdom, another said King Solomon invited her, having heard about the amount of power she wielded and the fact that she and her people worshipped Sun. Solomon was said to have also shown appreciation, giving out gifts and everything that she desired. But while the account of the Bible says after the visit, she went back to her country, another account holds that a  relationship soon started, leading to  the birth of  some children for King Solomon. Now where was her country? To start with, Biblical accounts point to the fact that the Queen of Sheba was a black woman.

The then community head  (Baale) is not  a happy man. He says that despite the huge tourism potential of the place, no serious effort has been made to develop the place to the status it deserves as a site. He appealed to the present administration of Ogun State to help develop the place to a world class tourist site.

The Baale, with a tinge of disappointment, said he was tired talking about the place as all efforts in the past to draw the attention of both the Nigerian Commission for Museum and Monument (NCMM) have not yielded  positive results.

 “Look, I don’t feel like talking about the place any more. I have been the Baale here for years. There is nothing we have not done to make the place get the desired attention.  I am now pleading with the governor to please come and do something here. We need good roads and we need the place to be developed, “the Baale said.

Entrance to Bilkisu Sungbo grave in Oke Eri

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