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Ancient city of Kano

Some Facts About the Ancient City of Kano You Should Know

Kano is the state capital of Kano State in Northern West, Nigeria. The city lies to the north of the Jos Plateau, in the Sudanian Savanna region that stretches across the south of the Sahel. This article exposes you to the things you probably never knew about Nigeria’s most popular northern city.

Kano is the commercial nerve center of Northern Nigeria and is the second largest city in Nigeria, after Lagos. The principal inhabitants of the city are the Hausa people.

Kano is a Hausa and Fulani dominated city that is largely Muslim. Christians and followers of other non-Muslim religions form a small part of the population and traditionally lived in the Sabon Gari, or New city.

In the 7th century, Dala Hill, a residual hill in Kano, was the site of a hunting and gathering community that engaged in iron work; it is unknown whether these were Hausa people or speakers of Niger–Congo languages. Kano was originally known as Dala, after the hill, and was referred to as such as late as the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th by Bornoan sources.

Dala Hill, Kano

The Kano Chronicle identifies Barbushe, a priest of a Dala Hill spirit, as the city’s first settler. Elizabeth Isichei notes that the description of Barbushe is similar to those of Sao people.

While small chiefdoms were previously present in the area, according to the Kano Chronicle, Bagauda, a grandson of the mythical hero Bayajidda, became the first king of Kano in 999, reigning until 1063.

His grandson Gijimasu (1095–1134), the third king, began building city walls at the foot of Dala Hill. His own son, Tsaraki (1136–1194), the fifth king, completed them during his reign.

In the 12th century Ali Yaji as King of Kano renounced his allegiance to the cult of Tsumburbura, accepted Islam and proclaimed the Sultanate that was to last until its fall in the 19th century. The reign of Yaji ensued an era of expansionism that saw Kano becoming the capital of a pseudo Habe Empire.

Kano city wall

In 1463 Muhammad Rumfa (reigned 1463- 1499) ascended the throne. During his reign, political pressure from the rising Songhai Empire forced him to take Auwa, the daughter of Askiyah the Great as his wife.

She was to later become the first female Madaki of Kano. Rumfa reformed the city, expanded the Sahelian Gidan Rumfa (Emir’s Palace), and played a role in the further Islamization of the city, as he urged prominent residents to convert. The Kano Chronicle attributes a total of twelve “innovations” to Rumfa.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Fulani Islamic leader Usman dan Fodio led a jihad affecting much of central Sudan, leading to the emergence of the Sokoto Caliphate.  In 1805 the last sultan of Kano was defeated by the Jobe Clan of the Fulani, and Kano became an Emirate of the Caliphate.

Sokoto caliphate in the 19th Century

Kano was the largest and most prosperous province of the empire. This was one of the last major slave societies, with high percentages of enslaved population long after the Atlantic slave trade had been cut off.

Heinrich Bart, a German scholar who spent several years in northern Nigeria in the 1850s, estimated the percentage of slaves in Kano to be at least 50%, most of whom lived in slave villages.

In March, 1903 after a scanty resistance, the Fort of Kano was captured by the British, It quickly replaced Lokoja as the administrative centre of Northern Nigeria. It was replaced as the centre of government by Zungeru and later Kaduna and only regained administrative significance with the creation of Kano State following Nigeria’s independence.

Emir Palace Gate

From 1913 to 1914, as the peanut was expanding, Kano suffered a major drought, which caused a famine. By 1922, groundnut trader Alhassan Dantata had become the richest businessman in Kano, surpassing fellow merchants Umaru Sharubutu Koki and Maikano Agogo.

Ado Bayero became emir of Kano in 1963. The current emir, Muhammadu Sanusi II, was enthroned on 8 June 2014 after the death of Alhaji Ado Bayero, the premier of Kano Emirate, on Friday, 6 June 2014.

Current Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II

Kano state was created in 1967 from the then Northern Nigeria by the Federal military government. The first military police commissioner, Audu Bako, is credited with building a solid foundation for the progress of a modern society. Most of the social amenities in the state are credited to him.

The first civilian Governor was Abubakar Rimi.

In the late 60’s, a ground tracking station was established on the hill overlooking Kano to track NASA’s Mercury and Gemini spacecraft when they passed over Africa.

In December 1980, radical preacher Mohammed Marwa Maitatsine led riots in Kano. He was killed by security forces, but his followers later started uprisings in other northern cities.

In Kano, discrimination and violence against Christians are not uncommon. In a June 2016 incident a Christian woman of Igbo extraction was hacked to death by the by irate youths for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Mohammed.

After the introduction of sharia law in Kano State in 2000, many Christians left the city. 100 people were killed in riots over the sharia issue during October 2001.

In November 2007, political violence broke out in the city after the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) accused the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) of rigging the November 17 local government elections. Hundreds of youths took to the streets, over 300 of whom were arrested; at least 25 people were killed. Buildings set on fire include a sharia police station, an Islamic centre, and a council secretariat. 280 federal soldiers were deployed around the city.

Kano was connected with trans-Atlantic trade in 1911 when a railway line reached Kano. After a hiatus of many years, the railway line from Kano to Lagos was rehabilitated by 2013. The train trip to Lagos takes 30 hours and costs the equivalent of US$12, only a quarter of the equivalent bus fare.

Railway Line at Kano

Kano houses the Bayero University and a railway station with trains to Lagos routed through Kaduna. Because Kano is north of the rail junction at Kaduna, it has equal access to the seaports at Lagos and Port Harcourt.

Bayero University, Kano

The city maintains its economy and business even in the 21st century with it producing the richest black man, Aliko Dangote whose great grandfather, Alhassan Dantata was the richest during Nigeria’s colonial period.

The emir of Kano hosts a Durbar to mark and celebrate the two annual Muslim festivals Eid al-Fitr (to mark the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha (to mark the Hajj Holy Pilgrimage). The Durbar culminates in a procession of highly elaborately dressed horsemen who pass through the city to the emir’s palace.


Once assembled near the palace, groups of horsemen, each group representing a nearby village, take it in turns to charge toward the emir, pulling up just feet in front of the seated dignitaries to offer their respect and allegiance

The city’s Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, the main airport serving northern Nigeria, was named after politician Aminu Kano.

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