Saturday, 18 September 2010

Kano Durbar

Last weekend I returned to Kano or, as I like to think of it, 'the Lagos of the north'. Not that I've been to Lagos yet, but Kano is big, 9 million people live there, each of whom seems to own a car or a motorbike as the roads are thick with traffic and pollution. Riding on a motorbike through the traffic is as stressful as I imagine the chaos of Lagos will be when I get there.

Kano holds a durbar celebration twice a year, to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid and the end of Ramadan. During the festival each of the 46 local government areas sends their local leader, and a group of horsemen to greet the Emir (king) of Kano at his palace, apparently this began as a way to boost the armies of the emir, but today it's a fantastic spectacle and draws visitors from across Nigeria and beyond.

We arrived in Kano on Thursday, to be told that the end of Ramadan was not until Friday, the date is dependant on the moon, so can be hard to predict, but happily the government had declared Thursday and Friday public holidays already, so we had a four day weekend to enjoy. Ten of us were staying with Sophie, who luckily has a very big house, and we spent the first night eating and generally enjoying catching up on news from other VSOs.

On Friday I went with Lucy, a VSO in Jigawa, to visit her colleague Sanussi's village just outside Kano. We met his aunts, step mother, grandmother and mother, as well as his wife Amina and his son. Sanussi's family were all very friendly and welcoming to us, and were delighted to hear us practising our few words of Hausa. The tradition when visiting people during salah is to eat a lot, and we were given a huge meal of meat pies, chicken, cake, stew and randomly some rice krispies, by Amina. We brought gifts of palm oil and ground nut oil, and his family gave us very generous salah gifts of fabric and fans. It was really interesting to visit some Nigerian homes, as despite living here six months, I've spent very little time with Nigerian families in their own homes, outside that of our landlords.

Saturday was durbar day, we had been advised to turn up early to avoid the crowds, so at 2pm we arrived (ticket less) at the Emir's palace. When we said we were from VSO we were let straight in, but I think this was more to do with being baturi (white people) than the guards having ever heard of VSO. We sat in the stands to watch the procession of horses, dancers, musicians, and finely dressed local leaders. The horses and riders were all elaborately dressed in gold, silver, sequins and tassles, which are impossible to do justice with words, so here are some of Richard's photos which do a better job than I could of describing the outfits.
One of the younger horse riders
some only looked around 5!

The event ended with horses charging across the parade ground, canon fire and a deafening round of gun shots from the muskets (towards the canon end of the spectrum) fired by the Emir's guards.
The aftermath of a musket shot from the guards.
The next day we went to government house, where in the absence of most of the embassy representatives (they were worried about tensions around 9/11 and that foolish American church) we got the diplomats VIP seats!

Me with my diplomat seat tag. we were sitting behind the Spanish ambassador.
Here we saw the Emir and all the local leaders from the day before arriving on horse back to greet the governor, each local leader bowed to the emir as they entered the chamber. Then the Emir and governor each gave a speech before everyone ate from the take away boxes by each seat.  After this we went back outside where we were up close to the horses, even I was able to take some pretty impressive photos on my phone!

The whole weekend was a wonderful spectacle, and the atmosphere in Kano was incredible, every one was dressed in their finest clothes and greeted everyone they met with 'barka de salah' (happy salah). We saw lots of families wearing matching brightly coloured kaftans, and girls in fancy dresses, it really felt like a celebration, as it should be, fasting during the day for a whole month is no mean feat.

1 comment:

  1. Hello. I'm frm Kano and also a participant in the durbar. Its really joyful for me reading your blog and your appreciation of our culture. Thanks a lot and hope you come back and experience our culture once again.

    Mohammed Bello (