Esther Unravels The North | Kano Experience

Remember Esther who decided to unravel the North? Her Kano experience is here and we hope you love it just as much as we did.

After 2 nights and well over 2 days, the train finally arrived at Kano, the capital of the state with same name. On arrival, out of my freewill and respect for my location, I decided to “dress” like the locals (wear a hijab) and it was pretty cool.

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Kano Station Platform

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Entrance to Kano Railway Station


As with every human after a long journey, I was starving and as an adventurer, I wanted to taste the local delicacy known specifically to the people of Kano. Thanks to an excellent Nigerian I met on the train, my first gastronomical experience was superb.

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The meal is a combination of barbecued meat, cucumber, tomatoes, cabbage, a special kind of fluffy rice cake and pepper. It cost N700 ($3.5), was tasty and I was honestly overfed.


Kano is regarded as the commercial and financial hub of the north. The Central Bank of Nigeria, Kano was built in 1963 and there are clusters of industries in the industrial zones around the city.

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Front view of CBN Kano. The original building was constructed in 1963 (3 years after Nigerian’s independence)


After my meal, I had to look up hotels and book one for my stay (as I needed a shower badly). Thanks to a friend I made at the train, I was able to maneuver the language barrier while communicating with the taxi driver on my destination and choice of hotel. After the much needed shower and a decent night’s sleep, I was ready to hit the streets and see the city for myself.

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Adventurer in town 🙂


The first official stop of the tour was the Kofar Mata tie and dye pit. The word Kofar Mata translates to “woman door” meaning that the business of the family’s clothing affairs is supposed to be managed by the woman.

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Posing at the entrance of Kofar Mata with the head of the colony and the English interpreter.


The colony dates back to 1498 and in its residence you can find 5th and 6th generation fabric makers that produce materials of varying designs all depicting nationalism, unity and progress. Within the colony are pits (6 feet deep and 1 foot wide) where plain white materials are transformed into the makers desired design. The properties used to get the desired designs are potassium, indigo and ash; all mixed in varying quantities and different timings.

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Esther and a 5th generation cloth dyer at the dying pit

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Some clothes designs generated from the colony

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Traditional method of ironing clothes


After Kofar Mata, the next place of visit was Kurmi market (the oldest market in West Africa). The market dates back to over 700 years ago.

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The feeling of the market can be likened to Arabian movies of the 1500s. The paths leading to the market is like a typical Arab settlement with the smell of incense heavy in the air. Littered on the paths are pots and household utensils made of bronze and brass, multitude of spices, household appliances of days gone by, kids toys made of clay and colored with chalk, very narrow lanes and lots of people!

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Legend has it that the market was a port for slave trading and exchange in the days of slavery and most of the spices used in preparing our delicacy were first introduced and sold at Kurmi market.

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A young man happily doing his part to add to the economy


Culturally, Kano is an emirate ruled by an Emir who is regarded as the father of the people. It’s a hereditary heritage that is designated to the royal houses. The present Emir is HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the former CBN governor.

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Picture of the history of the Kano royal family tree and their dynasties


A visit was made to the Kano museum in order to better understand the history and story of the people of Kano and how they have evolved over the past 700 years of their documented existence.

I was told the museum used to be the original residence of Lord Lugard.

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Established in 1440

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These clay pots (which date back over 800 years) were discovered on a hill within the old Kano City walls

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The gate behind me has been in existence for over 480 years. It was used by Lord Luggard himself as his entrance gate.

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Front view of the Emir’s palace


The old city of Kano is a walled enclave with 14 doors. Behind me is the Kofar Nasarawa (which translates to Nasarawa door). It’s a present day overhead bridge constructed by the immediate past government of Kwakwaso.

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The popular Kofar Nasarawa aka Kwakwasiya bridge


The Kano zoo is indeed divine! There are over 130 types of animals on a very vast portion of land.

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 My take:

  • Northern Nigeria has a lot of collective history and the people revere their place in their story.
  • The city was pretty cool and not as hot as we tend to think of the north.
  • The locals do not eat meat as “we” are led to believe since they rear animals.
  • The fee to the zoo is N100 (5 cents) but the value of the visit is way more.
  • Having a tour guide or buddy that speaks the local dialect is priceless.
  • It is very very important to dress appropriately and respectfully.
  • Greetings and salutations are pretty cherished by the locals, so a “Sanu” is required whenever there is a gathering of men.
  • The people are industrious and quite respectful.
  • The ambiance of the city is clean, calm and beautiful.