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TRAVEL GUIDE: The Ancient City of Kano

TRAVEL GUIDE: The Ancient City of Kano

Kano State was the third and last city I visited during the last Sallah festival. I started with Kaduna, went on to Katsina and finished up in Kano. I looked at the following critically and thus the way the trip was scheduled.Transport: It was easier getting vehicles to Lagos from Kano as I do not want to break my journey via Abuja.

Durbar Festival: Kano Durbar is the largest and the grand of all durbar festival in the North.

The primary reason was to document the durbar festival. I had witnessed the Durbar festival in Katsina the day before and left for Kano around 1 pm. I got to Kano at about 4 pm and I started the hunt for a hotel. A friend I met on Instagram had gotten me a hotel with a discount and so I set out to look for the place. On getting there I called my friend, the phone kept ringing but she did not pick up. I was about walking out of the hotel when she picked and directed me to ask for the owner. Apparently, the person had been sitting at the lobby all the while I had been trying to reach her on the phone. We talked and I booked my room. It was about a 45% discount.

One thing I always do is to get a cabman that will take me around, someone that can communicate effectively and speaks the native language as well as the English Language fluently.

I just have to say if you do not speak Hausa try as much as possible to get a dedicated guide that can take you around. One thing I learnt is that almost everyone that can communicate a bit in English, preferably someone young and adventurous, who will not mind wandering with you. Then you can enjoy Kano.

If you are not documenting festivals like I am, please do not go during the Sallah festivals. I missed out on a lot of places because people were on Sallah break.


Kano State is located in North-Western Nigeria and created on May 27, 1967, from the old Northern Region. It is bordered to the north-west by Katsina State and to the north-east by Jigawa State, then to the south-east by Bauchi State and the south-west by Kaduna State. Jigawa State was carved out of Kano State in 1991.

Kano had about 10 million people according to the 2006 census figures, and 44 local government areas.

Kano City is the capital of Kano State. The capital comprises six local government areas: Municipal, Dala, Nassarawa, Gwale, Fagge and Tarauni.
Centre of Commerce is the slogan or epithet of the state. It is true, because the state was the most enterprising in pre-colonial times, and presently only second to Lagos in Nigeria.

Places to visit when in Kano

Kano City Wall/Gates: The city walls and gates are landmarks that open a window to the past existence of the people. Although the original outlook of most of the city walls has been destroyed, what now stands are replicas of the preserved walls with one of the city gates having the mud structure of the old Kano wall. The ancient city wall with a 14km radius earth structure was completed in the 14th Century to provide security to the growing population of the old Kano city in the wake of any external aggression.
Numbering about 15, the city walls once served as defensive facilities with gate and also demarcated the abode of the indigenes from those of the strangers. The surviving city walls include those located at the Bayero University old campus road; where you come across Sabuwar Kofar, Dan Agundi, Kabuga, Dukawuya and Gadon Kaya. Other sites are Goron hill and Kofar Ruwa while that of Kofar Nasarawa road presents a picture of the renovated wall.

Dala hills: It is one where the first inhabitants of the city settled. Traces of this historical fact are evident as you meander through the area where many of the buildings still retain their rural appeal. Standing atop Dala hill affords one a birds eye’s view of the sprawling city. You will experience Kano from a higher elevation at the top of the hill. It is 534 meters high. There are also 999 steps on the hill. In the seventh century, The hill was the settlement of a community that engaged in iron-working and is home to  Bagauda was the son of Bawo, a very powerful warlord in the AD.

Bashir Uthman Tofa Mosque

Bashir Tofa is notable as the man who ran against MKO Abiola in the annulled 1993 elections. He has this amazing mosque in the ancient city of Kano.  The Bashir Tofa mosque is regarded as the most beautiful mosque in Nigeria.
Do note that you can enter the mosques if you are properly dressed, that is having a scarf on and a flowing gown to cover yourself. Get someone who speaks Hausa to communicate your motive of taking the picture of the mosque. It is built with beautifully designed marble tiles.

Gidan Dan Hausa

This was built in 1909. Sometimes referred to as Kano State Museum, this is a major tourist attraction for this is where Western education in the North started.
It is named so after the title ‘Son of Hausa’ given to the Swiss tutor, Mr Hanns Fischer, that started western education in the North. He was given the name by his students because he wrote and spoke the Hausa language. This was also his residence and there he formed the vocational school referred to as Makarantar Dan Hausa (school of Dan Hausa).

Historians say the house was built more than 150 years before Fischer occupied and re-designed it, to reflect the present day status of Gidan Dan Hausa (son of Hausa residence).

Available records also show that the school which started with 30 pupils in 1909 had a student population of 209 in 1913, while the students were drawn from the 11 Northern provinces.

Gidan Dan Hausa is a symbol of colonial administration; the first education secretary of the Kano province lived there, and it was there that the second western school was established after the Nagarta Schools established in Sokoto in 1905.

This museum houses a collection of artefacts from stone age to present day, It is also the first colonial residency in Kano.


This market was built in the 15th Century. It is notable as a market for artefacts and souvenirs.
It was an outpost of the transatlantic slave trade, serving as a warehouse and waystation for slaves from North Africa.

This market has been plagued by infernos multiple times in its history, and much of the market has been demolished and rebuilt. The market shares a glorious history with the ancient city of Kano. Created by Mohammed Rumfa during his reign in the 15th century, it prospered as a commercial hub, servicing traders all the way from Tripoli. 600 years later, it is still an active centre of commerce and trade in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although dwindling in its significance, it is still seen as a solid part of Kano’s history.

Kofar Mata Dyeing Pits

You cannot leave Kano without visiting this place. It is right inside the old Kano and it was named after one of the city gate, Kofar Mata. This is where the traditional dyeing process which is so similar to the adire eleko process in Abeokuta and Osogbo, This dyeing process used the same blue indigo colour as that used in the South West but the difference is the used of the dyeing pits in Kano while in Abeokuta or Osogbo the drums are used for the dyeing process. You can read extensively about the dyeing pit here.

Katin Kwari Market

This market is also referred to as Kwari Market. It is reputed to be West Africa’s largest textile market, and one of the biggest on the continent as a whole. It is the market for modern textiles such as coloured ankara, African George fabrics, English and Chord laces. Unlike the Kurmi market that major in local materials, the machine textile products are found in Kwari. It is located not too far from Kofar Matar Dyeing Pits.

Gidan Makama Museum

This is also known as Kano Museum. Established sometime in 1440’s AD. This building once served as a temporary palace before the current palace was constructed in the 15th century. This building is recognised as a National Monument by the Nigerian Government.

The museum is divided into 11 galleries with different aspects of cultural artefacts, you find some of the ancient gates that were fixed on the different city gates of Kano, some with bullet holes with its own stories.
There are sections dedicated to cultural regalias, musical instruments, historical pots which were believed to have been stationed at the city wall for visitors from a long journey to drink from before proceeding further on their journey.

This is a place that is filled with a lot of history. It does have an open space at the back which is dedicated to the life of Ado Bayero and is an open space for local performance.

You need to visit this place if you are in Kano.

These are the few places I was able to visit because it was a Sallah holiday. The markets were practically empty with a lot of empty stalls and locked up shops. Hope to go back to enjoy more of what Kano has got to offer in terms of fashion, food, tradition, culture and its people.

Thanks for taking the time to read through the post, do kindly drop your comment below.

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