Where Did Jollof Rice Come From? The Origin!

Jollof Rice
Photo: buzzghana.com

There have been a lot of arguments about where in Africa Jollof Rice came from as a lot of people from a number of African countries have claimed that Jollof rice originated from their countries. The origin of this delicious dish is still hotly debated on several forums and social media and now I have been getting this question in my email from FoodsNG readers.

Where Is The Origin Of Jollof Rice? Answer!

The debate (or if you like, argument) on this topic has always been hot between Nigerians and Ghanaians. I also, have always believed that cooking of Jollof rice started in Nigeria and later spread to other parts of West Africa like Ghana, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Gambia but I was shocked from what I saw on some reputable websites when I did a little search on this topic.

Jollof Rice
Photo: buzzghana.com

According to Wikipedia, the name Jollof rice is a derivation from the name of the Wolof people of Senegal, where it is considered to have originated. Based on its name its origins are also traced to the Senegambian region that was ruled by the Jolof Empire.

Isn’t it now funny how people from Senegal are not even involved in this debate and arguments over where Jollof rice originated from? Well, maybe because it didn’t really originated from there – nobody is really sure. There are however speculations and guesses from historians as to the origin.

One of those is that of food and agriculture historian James C. McCann, who considers this claim plausible given the popularity of rice in the upper Niger valley, but considers it unlikely that the dish could have spread from Senegal to its current range since such a diffusion is not seen in “linguistic, historical or political patterns”. Instead he proposes that the dish spread with the Mali empire, especially the Djula tradespeople who dispersed widely to the regional commercial and urban centers, taking with them economic arts of “blacksmithing, small-scale marketing, and rice agronomy” as well as the religion of Islam.

As for me, who cares where Jollof rice came from? When cooked well, this is a very inviting and delicious dish to eat any day, any time. Let’s forget where this came from and join those that have started celebrating the World Jollof Rice Day on 22 August.

On that day, Airtel Nigeria, using @AirtelNigeria with a photograph to match, tweeted: “don’t let anybody treat you like white rice; you are Jollof Rice; the life of the Party! Happy #WorldJollofRiceDay.”

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Ahmed Ogundimu
Ahmed is a Food Scientist/Technologist first of all. A Seasoned Blogger, Astute Marketer, Food Enthusiast and Manchester United Lover. I read anything and everything available so I know so many useful and useless things.


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