The Durbars of Kano and Katsina – Part 2

Monday, after breakfast, we boarded the buses for a short 20 kilometer trip to Dawakin Tofa, a local pot making village.  An “old woman” demonstrated the pot making techniques as she collected clay, water, and sand and kneaded it into a dense ball, and then beat it into a pot shape with a mortar and pestle, using her hands and feet to maintain its shape.  She marked the pot with her symbolic design, and it was ready for firing in the ovens.    Her 10 year old granddaughter apprentice watched, knowing that she would inherit the responsibility some day.  The firing pits are simple enclosures where fire embers and ashes are pilled upon the pots to harden them.

Making the pot with a foot and two handsFinished pot


After observing the local pot making, we traveled to Aleku, a rural village of traditional weavers and cloth makers.  There we watched men spin thread by rolling a stick on their legs and weavers working hand looms that were little more than twigs and sticks, creating beautiful cloth runners that are then hand sewed into larger pieces of fabric.

We returned to the hotel for lunch and then split into 2 groups, as the women who wished to visit the Emir of Kano’s wife and Harem went off early, while the rest of the group made their way to the Emir’s palace grounds in Kano.  These palace grounds enclose the parade field and the crowd was already beginning to gather along the surrounding roads and along the Palace fences.  We entered the grounds and were similarly escorted to the Official Viewing Stands, again sharing the area with officials and dignitaries.  In a while, the women showed up from their tour with one of the Emir’s wives. She was his second wife, Hajiyya Abba, a trained teacher who has been married to him for 49 years, with 6 children (3boys and 3 girls) and 27 grandchildren.  The Emir of Katsina was actually her nephew and she was raised in the Royal House of Katsina.  As such, she was good personal friends with Paulette and her graciousness and hospitality were appreciated by all. As a female member of the Emir’s family, she is not allowed outside the Harem in daylight, unless she is traveling abroad.  She bid farewell to her quests as they make their way to the Durbar viewing stand. 

The second wive of the Emir of Kano

The Kano Durbar was a more scripted and controlled environment, with more elaborate costumes and decorations, and more formal proceedings. As in Katsina, the different regiments parade in a counter clockwise direction past the viewing area and take up areas on either side of the parade grounds.  The crowds pressed into the fences, and every available tree limb, sign or vantage point became quickly occupied to watch the spectacle.  In Kano, the newly elected governor with us in the viewing-stands, is well liked by the present Emir, Ado Bayero and the crowds were even larger than usual to support the respectful meeting of these two leaders. After ~2000 horsemen and 5000 men had filed past, the arrival of the Emir is announced by ancient musket fire from the Emir’s guards, and the procession of his family, wives vacant horses, guards, and the Emir himself proceeded down the center.  After the usual pleasantries, the ceremonial charging of the horses with swords flashing was re-enacted, before the Emir returned to his Palace, and we traverse the crowd to our buses and returned to the Prince Hotel.

Kano DurbarKano DurbarKano DurbarKano Durbar - Young prince with palace guardsEmir of Kano - under the large umbrella


That night dinner by the pool was a Lebanese BBQ while we shopped with venders from the dye pits and were entertained by native Koroso dancers for nearly 90 minutes. An old woman was there decorating the limbs of all visitors with henna for 500 naira per extremity.  The owner of the hotel set up a Karaoke system, and we spent the evening embarrassing ourselves, only to find videos of us would later appear on You-Tube.

Rocky & Julie

Tuesday was started with a bus trip to Kura Village (Kura meaning “hyena”).  Here we made a brief stop at the local dye pits, and proceeded to watch the turban makers create the turban cloth.  We watched as men hand stitched ½ inch wide strips of cloth into 1 foot wide turban material, and after dying, visited Bata, where the turban cloth is beat to create its shine. 

Turban cloth maker stitching strips of cloth for a turbinDye pits and turbin cloth; Our guide Sunday



Pounding the dyed cotton cracks the fiber and makes it shiny.

After departing Kura, we went to the Rock Castle Hotel at Tiga for lunch.  This hotel oversees a large dammed reservoir lake (30 kilometer radius) which provides local recreation and irrigation to the residents of the area.

The hotel was originally built in the 1970’s by the fondly remembered Governor Audubako, for a planned visit by Queen Elizabeth to the area.  However, a military coup in Nigeria ended the possibility of the visit.  The hotel has 28 guest rooms, is 4-5 stories high, and sits on a bluff overlooking the lake.  There are 2 Her Majesty suites which are rentable today.  In 1992, the State Government put the Hospitality and Tourism Board, NIHOTOU,  in charge of the complex.  After lunch and the tour, we took a stroll to the lakefront where local tourists and maruchi, suya, and sugar cane venders marketed their treats.  Finally we boarded the bus for one last stop before returning to Kano.

Top of Castle Rock looking at the huge reservoir

 In the area of Rano, we stopped at one the large, outcropping, granite rocks that populate the landscape.  Apparently, picnicking in this area was one of Paulette’s favorite pastimes in former years.  At the top of the rock, the surrounding view was spectacular, and at the base we talked and shared greetings with the local cow herders who were watching after 2 small calves that were less than one week old.

That night after returning to the Prince Hotel, 16 of us went out to an Indian curry restaurant where we ate well and drank both bottles of wine and all the Heineken beer that the restaurant had.

On Wednesday morning, it was time to check-out and to travel to the airport for the airplane trip back to Lagos, again via Abuja.  The flight was uneventful, and the adventure was over, but it is kept alive by the wonderful memories of the sights we saw and the people we met.

A special thanks by all to Paulette Van Trier for making this possible!