Kano state, located in the Northern part of Nigeria, is the largest industrial center in the country, second only to Lagos State. This is no surprise because of its numerous industries ranging from textiles and footwear to farm produce and even pharmaceuticals. Having an estimated population of about 14 million people, it is the most populated state in Nigeria. There are so many interesting places to visit in Kano.

Have You Ever Wondered How Kano Came to Be?

It is fabled that a few thousand years ago, a blacksmith came to the Dala Hill area in the Kano locality in search of iron and ended up settling. The populace grew over generations and the ancient city of Kano was formed. The economic significance of Kano dates back to times way before colonialism when it served as one of the points in the Trans-Saharan trade routes. It was well connected to some North African cities and became known for its trade in gold, ivory, leather, salt, and even slaves.

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An 1857 lithograph of ancient Kano city

Kano state was created on the 27th of May, 1967 and initially consisted of Jigawa state until 1991 when it was carved. Kano has been predominantly Muslim since the 14th century (700 years ago) way before the Danfodio Jihad.

The emirate was lately divided into 5; the Emirates of Bichi, Karaye, Gaya, and Rano in addition to the initial Emirate of Kano.

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Ancient Kano city; two natives on their donkeys.

Join me as I countdown the top 10 places to visit in Kano. You can also read the top 10 places to visit in Niger here.

1. Emir’s Palace

The Emir’s palace is one of the places to visit in Kano.

Read: 11 Things You Should Know About the New Emir of Zazzau

Popularly known as ‘Gidan Rumfa’ or ‘Gidan Sarki’, it was constructed in the 15th century during the reign of the then ruler, Muhammad Rumfa. It has been renovated over the centuries and continuously houses subsequent leaders, but to this day, it shows the traditional arewa and adopted Arab architecture of the days it was built. You can check more about traditional Hausa architecture here.

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Entrance to the Emir’s palace in Kano.

The palace, covering an area of approximately 33 acres, is located in Kano municipal and has a central mosque, living quarters, gardens, horse stables, and even a school in it. It houses hundreds of people easy and provides employment for many.

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Emir of Kano’s palace in Kano

2. Gidan Makama

Did you know that the Gidan makama museum in Kano was once a temporary residence for the ruler in Kano? The structure was built in the 13th century and it shows architecture used at the time it was built. It is located opposite the Emir’s palace and today it is a museum and houses the most fascinating pieces of Hausa culture and histories like the original gates used in the ancient city wall and a lot more historical artifacts.

3. Gidan Dan Hausa

Gidan Dan Hausa is an interesting place too, but not a lot of people know the story behind it. It was the first place in northern Nigeria that the English language was taught.

View of Gidan dan Hausa in Kano
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View of Gidan dan Hausa in Kano

Gidan Dan Hausa, meaning “The House of the son of Hausa”, was the residence of Hans Vischer, a British educational Officer who was its first British resident. The house which is said to be over 250 years old is regarded as the birthplace of Western education in the North. If you are looking for interesting places to visit in Kano, Gidan dan Hausa.

4. Kurmi Market

Can you imagine yourself kicking back, relaxing, and snacking on some grasshoppers while watching a movie?

If yes, then getting that is an easy feat in the Kurmi market. Established in the 15th century by king Muhammad rumfa as a trading center, it’s easily one of the biggest, oldest as well as busiest markets in the country. Different goods, foods, and services are bought and sold in the kurmi market.

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Your visit to Kano is incomplete if you didn’t visit Kurmi Market

5. Kano Zoological Garden

Did you know that the first known zoo was established in about 1500BC by the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut? Well, known zoos were then established in different parts of the world and were used to study the wildlife. Students also visited the zoos for educational purposes.

The Kano zoo was established in 1972 by Alhaji Audu Bako, the then military governor. It is the largest zoo in Nigeria and reportedly has about 60 different species in it. Wildlife like zebras, lions, and Hippos among many are found in the zoo. This is one of the many places to visit while in Kano.

6. Tiga Dam

Tiga Dam was constructed in 1971 during the government of Alhaji Audu Bako and is the main tributary of the Hadeija river. It has a maximum capacity of about 2million cubic meters and supplies Kano city and the Kano River Irrigation Project.

7. Dala Hill

Can you believe that the natives of Dala believe that people can’t go on the hill after 8 pm without dire consequences?

This and many more myths and legends surround the well known Dala hills of Kano. Dala Hill, called ‘Dutsen Dala’ in Hausa is found in the local government of Dala. It stands at a majestic 534-meter height and is definitely appealing to tourists who don’t mind the climb. A stairway was constructed on the hill just so that climbing is made easier.

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The stairway to the top of Dala Hill

There is a mysterious well atop this Hill called ‘Rijiyar Kare Kukan Ka’. This means ‘The well where you’ll cry out your tears till they finish’. It is believed that if a stone is thrown down into the well, it would take about twenty minutes to reach the water. Amazing right? I definitely would want to test that out myself to see if it’s really fact or fiction.

Also, it is believed that on the hill is the remains of what used to be an old shrine of the priest ‘Barbushe’ who people of that time saw as an intermediate to a goddess ‘Tsumburbura’, who they thought protected them from wild animals and calamities.

8. Ado Bayero Mall

If you’re thirsty for some entertainment, don’t worry because you can just swing by the Ado Bayero Mall for a movie at the cinema. In the mall, there are different stores where you can buy whatever you need.

If you have children they aren’t left out because, for recreation, there are fun rides they will surely enjoy.

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Entrance to Ado Bayero Mall

9. Kano City Gates

Did you know that just like China, the ancient city of Kano was a walled city?

Yes! Maybe not as magnificent as the Great Wall of China, but It had walls surrounding the whole city. The walls contained the Emir’s palace, the really old kurmi market, and Dala Hills. These walls served a defensive function protecting its people from invasion from other cities trying to expand their domains. It was built from about 1095 – 1135 (completed in the 14th century) with the foundation started under the rule of Sarki Gijimasu. The walls were described by colonialists as ‘the most impressive monument in West Africa‘. Stretching over 20km, it is about 12 meters wide at the base and about 30 to 50 feet high.

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Ancient Kano city wall

There were about 13 gates along the walls ( locally called ‘kofa’) which served as a way to control the movement of people. These gates used to have gatekeepers called ‘Sarkin Kofa’, which means King of the Gate. You can read more about the meaning of Hausa royal titles here. Some of these ancient Gates still stand, but most have been renovated.

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A woman walks through the renovated Kofar Dan’Agundi gate, one of the 13 gates of the ancient Kano city walls in Kano, Nigeria, on June 12, 2018 (Photo credits: AMINU ABUBAKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The remnants of these 11th-century ramparts are more than ever in danger of destruction, in the face of local policies that do not care about heritage preservation and the population explosion in this saturated megalopolis.

Sadly what was once a magnificent structure showing the rich culture of Kano is now becoming a ruin with reportedly about 70 percent of the wall destroyed due to encroachment by people, natural factors like erosion, and negligence.

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A tricycle driving among the ruins of a part of the wall. (Photo credit AMINU ABUBAKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

10. Kofar Mata Dye Pits

Besides the fast declining wall, did you know that the local dye pits at Kofar Mata have been used for over 500 years?

Dyeing of fabrics and leather has been a very common source of income for ages in Kano. Established in 1498, these dye pits have never been rebuilt. Only the dyes in the holes are replaced every couple of years.

The dyeing pits are holes dug into the ground with the dye chemicals poured into it. A plain fabric with the pattern tied into it is dipped into the die and could be left overnight before it is rinsed off and fixed. Intricate designs and patterns could be achieved on the fabric like this.

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Dye pits at Kofar Mata Kano

These tye-dye clothes have been in great demand for generations, thus providing sources of employment and income for hundreds of people.

Foods like gurasa, a sort of local bread, is very famous in Kano. It is a common street food hawked around. Masa, tuwo, and other local foods are abundant around so if you’re one to explore foods, Kano is not a bad place to be. You can read more about traditional Hausa foods here.

With this, I know you can conclude that the Kano state has a lot to offer, from the local delicacies and rich cultural background to the festivities and sights and places to explore.

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