Kano The 2013 Islamic Culture Capital for the African region



Kano State is located at 481 meters above sea level, in the north of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is bounded by Katsina State to the northwest, Jigawa State to the northeast, and Bauchi State to the south. Kano lies to the north of the Jos Plateau, located in the Savanna region near the rivers that flow from the south-west and converge to form the Hadejia River which eventually flows into Lake Chad.

Present-day Kano

Kano is one of the 36 states which constitute the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Being the economic engine of Nigeria and one of the major cultural centres in West Africa, Kano is the third largest city in Nigeria after Lagos and Ibadan. The population in Kano State speak English as an official language. Hausa transcribed in the Arabic and Latin script is also spoken across the state.

Overview on the Islamic history of Kano:

Some historical sources state that the first settlement in the area of Kano in northern Nigeria dates back to 500 BC. Hausa, Kanuri and Fulani were among the tribes that first settled in this area. Most historical sources agree that Islam was introduced into Kano state after the death of the Prophet Mohammed (peace and prayer be upon him), in the era of the companions, and specifically during the reign of Caliph Uthman ibn Affan (23-35 H/643-655) (may Allah be pleased with him), who sent forces under the command of Abdullah ibn Sa‘ad ibn Abi as-Sarḥ, as part of the Muslim conquests in Africa.

The first kingdom in Kano was ruled by Bagauda whom some historical writings assume to be a Muslim ruler with the name of Dawood, and some of his men also bore Arab names such as Mohammed, Ibrahim, Moussa and Abu Bakr. Kano remained under the reign of Bagauda family until 1804.

It is historically established that the Hausa kings embraced Islam in 1800, proclaiming it as their official religion. They became the largest ethnic group in Nigeria as the Hausa people accounted for about a quarter of the country’s population. The proportion of Muslims in this tribe was about 98%, and the majority of them settled in the city of Kano in northern Nigeria.

The city of Kano experienced a rapid growth in trade and industry since the fifteenth century, thanks to its geographical location as a hub of major trade routes in the African continent. Since 1820, Kano has turned into one of the largest trading centers in West Africa, and housed the large markets that date back to the 15th century. Abundance of agricultural products such as corn, rice, cotton, peanuts, livestock, Arabic gum, as well as textile, raw materials and leather has contributed to boosting trade exchange on a large scale via the north caravan crossing the desert to Tripoli, Tunis and Fez, and from these cities to Europe.

The State of Kano is the second largest industrial center in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is known for a variety of products such as textile and agricultural products. Kano has also been the richest northern Hausa state in Nigeria.

The region of Kano had come under the domination of the Kanem Empire since the end of the 11th century and until the mid-fourth century. The Fulani Empire also reigned over this region from the beginning of the 19th century until the British occupation of Lagos in 1851.

Kano in 1850

During World War I, the Allies, fearing a German invasion from Cameroon, sent marine forces to be stationed in Kano. In 1885, the Royal Niger Company under the governorship of Sir George Dashwood Taubman Goldie managed to obtain territorial rights for exploiting the riches of Nigeria which came under the British protectorate in 1900. Then, Nigeria together with its states gained independence in 1 October 1960.

Civilizational and cultural landmarks in Kano State:

The city of Kano has experienced a remarkable urban expansion since the 15th century. Arab scientists and traders, coming from the Maghreb, the Sudan and Egypt during the Middle Ages, have largely contributed to bringing in Arab-Islamic influence in the life of the local population, in addition to architecture and arts. This has been highly instrumental in promoting the Arab-Islamic identity in that region.

The city abounds in diverse cultural buildings, featuring many historical monuments, archaeological sites, and ancient fortified walls, which were built according to the Moroccan style in Islamic architecture.

Walls and houses of the old city

Kano is characterized by its ancient walls surrounding it from all sides in the form of a circle with a radius of 14 km. Some historians maintain that Prince Gijimasu (1095–1134) was the first to build such walls. Then, the walls and gates were expanded along with the additions and renovations during the 15th and 16th centuries. The ancient part of the city houses the Great Mosque, the Emir’s Palace, traditional houses, the vast Kurmi Market and other facilities.

The Great Mosque in Kano/Traditional houses in Kano

The ancient part of the city is also known for the ancient dye pits which make use of conventional techniques and simple means. This craft is considered as one of the main features that characterize the historic city of Kano.

Gidan Makama Museum Kano or Kano Museum:

Kano contains some cultural and civilizational landmarks such as Kano Museum which houses a variety of collections featuring historical, archaeological and artistic pieces. The museum which depicts the history of Kano since the Stone Age up to the modern era is located in a notable landmark and a historical masterpiece called “Gidan” which is renowned for its traditional architectural excellence.

Gidan Makama Museum/Gidan Rumfa in 2005


Kano holds many festivals and folkloric processions reflecting folk and traditional arts in the region. One of these major festivals is the Durbar which culminates in a procession of highly elaborately dressed horsemen accompanied by music players.


With a richly steeped history, Kano stands as an important Islamic civilizational center. It is also a prominent landmark in the history of Islamic civilization which has spread its enlightening influence over the world, and substantially contributed to building human civilization throughout the ages.