KANO CITY, the oldest major city in Sub Saharan Africa, dates back more than a thousand years. For centuries it was one of the most active commercial centers in West Africa. Today, it is Nigeria’s third largest city and the largest city in the north. Centrally located, Kano City acts as a terminus for all of northern Nigeria, linked by road and communications with all other major population centers in the region. By virtue of its historic role as trading center between the Sahara, down south to Zaria, Kano remains a living, modern day relic of a rich past.
The Emir’s Palace in Kano is the past incarnate with its old stone walls and entrance gate, at the heart of this ancient city, encircled by a wall that extended 17.7km in circumference, with 16 different gates. Close by, the Gidan Makama Museum offers an excellent history of Kano and of the Hausa and Fulani peoples. Kano Central Mosque is one of the largest in Nigeria and, with permission, a visitor may be allowed to ascend one of its towering minarets to gain a spectacular view of the city below.
KADUNA was previously the colonial capital of northern Nigeria. Located on the Kaduna River, the city serves as an important junction, with roads extending in five different directions. Kaduna is a major communications center and industrial base but also a thriving metropolis from which tourists can explore the surrounding countryside. Within Kaduna there is a National Museum on Ali-Akilu Road that features wood carvings, masks, Nok terracotta figures and Benin bronzes. Plans are under way to have an annual Durbar festival in Kaduna like the 1977 Durbar, festival that drew all the northern Emirs to Kaduna.
KATSINA, the northernmost city in Nigeria, sits on the edge of Sahel and borders the neighboring country of Niger, which has traded with her for centuries. Katsina, one of the old walled Hausa cities, is the capital of Katsina State. The Goborau Minaret, a most picturesque tourist attraction, is the tallest mud-brick building in Nigeria and is 250 years old. A fine view of Katsina can be gained from the top, an area that hosts the best and most elaborate Durbar festivals
BIRNIN KEBBI, a centuries old Hausa-Fulani walled city is the capital of the newly-created Kebbi State. The area is famous for traditional arts and crafts, beads, swords and glassware, and is the site of the Argungu Fishing Festival, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Nigeria. Held annually, it attracts competitors from neighboring Niger and Chad Republics, plus many visitors from all over the world. Apart from the traditional fishing competition, there are also boxing and wrestling contests.
SOKOTO, the center of Islamic activities in Nigeria, is the home of the Sultan of Sokoto, the spiritual leader of Muslims in the country. The city stretches with avenues of lush trees and wide roads, appearing like an oasis in a semi-desert area. Sokoto is another of the great trading cities of the North, with old trade routes across the Sahara to Morocco and Algeria. It is famed for its excellent leatherwork: handbags, wallets, fans and other items featuring exquiste crafting.
The Sultan’s Palace is a delightful sight, with its lavish architechture and guards in their multicolored regalia. At 9:00 pm on Thursdays, visitors can watch the musicians play the Tambari for the Sultan. Usman dan Fodio, the founder of the present day Hausa-Fulani states, is buried in Sokoto. Though not a tourist site per se, it holds great historic importance.
ZARIA, one of the original seven Hausa cities founded in the 16th Century, is a vibrant, attractive city which has retained its ancient look by leaving most of the modern development and industry to nearby Kaduna. Once surrounded by some 19 km of walls, in some areas still well-preserved, Zaria has three important establishments: The Ahmadu Bello University at Samaru quarter, the first university in the north, Barewa College, the oldest high school in the north, where most of the Nigerian political and military leaders were educated, and finally the Nigeria School of Civil Aviation, the only one of its kind in West Africa