Kano: First Impressions

4 min readNov 15, 2020
In and around Gidan Makama museum. Image courtesy Bolu Fakoya/ travu.ng

It was a sunny Friday when I touched the ground in Kano. It happened to be my first trip there, after many weeks of dreaming about doing just that. I was riding in a friend’s car and at some point, we drove onto a major Mosque road to find that we were intruding on the day’s essential prayer that is called at 1.30 p.m. Faithfuls, attired in the usual Hausa dressing, trekked briskly towards the holy place. In the distance, I sighted four minarets — each with its star-and-crescent — jutting skywards. How charming they were!

We were swarmed by the moving men, got caught up in the mass movement and a man in green uniform told the many motorists on that road they could go no further — until the prayers were completed. Pedestrians heading in the ‘wrong’ direction got turned back and the other men in the patrol saw to it that the traffic already building up didn’t do much havoc to the day’s proceedings.

It’s really no wonder that that scene has remained with me ever since. This is religion and obligation so actively played out. And I learnt my lesson. If you must go to Kano (or any other Islamic society for that matter) on a day such as that, do well to get there well before or well after the very essential rite and never try to flout simple orders. By respecting the codes and desires of a society you are visiting, you are invariably setting yourself up to better understand, appreciate and enjoy the natives and norms. Vacationing isn’t worth it if you won’t.

I used that brief waiting period to size up the setting. I was astounded as much as I was delighted to be there. I mean, it was as if I was seeing Lagos, toned down some thirty percent or more. Then, throw a bit of Ibadan into the mix. Kano is a pretty developed city with lots of cement architecture, wide and level roads, busy commercial streets and areas … and what else? Yes, the bicyclists (which I was told compete for thoroughfares in much the same manner as the motorcyclists do). Most of the men wear the native clothes, with caps and leather slippers to match. The ladies wear the Hijab and colourful flowing gowns.

Also, when you have a reason to be in Kano, ensure to do one thing: leave your worries and prejudices on your pillow. Take the trip with a clear mind and be ready to learn new things (why else do people travel?); things no one at home will ever…


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