You see, my open-mindedness started a couple of years ago when I made up my mind to stop being religious, and I can’t seize to appreciate that conscious move as it has helped me a great deal as a traveler.
On getting to Kano, I couldn’t be more proud of myself as everything that was either supposed to shock/surprise me ended up making every minute I spent worthy of the sacrifice made by traveling almost 1,000 kilometers away from home.
Here are a few things I find surprising about Kano and its people:
1. Kano is as developed as it is local
A lot of people (who mostly haven’t traveled outside their regions of origin) are usually quick to rant about how backward Northern Nigeria is drawing the rest of the regions back simply due to videos and images which are usually denting the image of the region, the same way the western media paints Africa and her people.
Depending on which neighbourhood you see first as a stranger in Kano, you might want to be tempted into the generalization trap- thinking what you’ve seen is how it is everywhere. But you will be making a grave mistake because, just like everywhere else around the world, Kano also is a bonafide member of the double-edged sword, Boasting of some of Nigeria’s finest and shittiest schools, roads, architecture, etc.
All you need to do is move around to have a balanced view of things.
Kano is the commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria and is the second largest city in Nigeria.
2. Keke Marwa is the major transportation means
While Micra and Korope are respectively the undisputed champions of Ibadan, and Oshogbo, Keke rules supreme on the roads of Kano. Now, this isn’t what got me all cracked up. What I found really interesting is the manner at which the drivers take out time to decorate the interior of their rides. In fact, 8 out of every 10 Keke you encounter will have it’s interior marvelously designed.
Whatever brought about that movement needs to be upheld and celebrated.
3. Overly Conscious Women
In truth, I saw many beautiful women in Kano, many of whom were surprisingly fair and possess interesting physic which would qualify them as impeccable models. The interesting thing, however, is the fact that all through my stay in the state, I only saw 2 ladies who had their hair uncovered. Like this wasn’t the women were so concious about their bodies that they usually use their hands in covering their breasts and bums even after putting on their Hijab.
I really do not know why I find it funny and commendable at the same time.
4. The sharia police are effective
Yes, they are called ‘Hisbah’, and their main duty is to fish out religious criminals. By this I mean Muslim citizens indulging in every immoral act which includes but not limited to the drinking alcohol, inappropriate contact between a male and female, stealing, etc. Why I think I like this initiative is that it exempts citizens who aren’t Muslims. So, If for instance a Christian is caught drinking, no punishment will be melted out on such person when caught by the Hisbah officers.
The Kano State Hisbah Corps was established by the state government in 2003
5. Religious Laws are weaker in some parts
Remember I said 2 women weren’t covering their heads. Yes, those women lived in Sabon Gari, a very popular neighbourhood which houses folks who came into Kano from other parts of Nigeria, especially the east and south.
“So why is this relevant?” you might be tempted to ask.
The thing is, while you can have access to pubs, bars and even brothels in areas like Sabon Gari, it’s entirely an abomination in other areas such as Badawa, where there are Hisbah police officers lurking around almost every corner, waiting on you to just lose your home training.
6. It’s not just about Mosques
As against what we’ve been made to believe, Kano isn’t just a Muslim affair. In fact, I saw as many churches as mosques within my first 2 hours in the state. On a particular street, I saw 2 churches facing one another, while on a busy major road, I saw a pastor’s billboard and banner hoisted elegantly to the glaring eyes of the public.
“Religion is like a pair of shoes, find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.”
― George Carlin
7. Street Food
Kano has so many street foods than I have ever seen since I started exploring Nigeria, and it’s interesting to note that with as little as N15, you can buy a loaf of bread.
Despite the amazing time I had in Kano, I get broken whenever I remember what they all looked like. The closest I’ve been to them was read about them in papers or watch short clips on social media, but I’ve always arrived at one conclusion:
These young boys never begged for this kind of life
Originally, Almajiri is someone irrespective of gender who searches for knowledge at home or on transit and display high moral behavior, but I really don’t know who switched things up North to convert these young boys into Mabaraci, which in Islam refers to a person who begs for assistance on the street or from house to house as a result of some deformity or disability.
Having read this, I’d like to know what you think about Kano in the comment section, whether or not you’ve been there before.
This post is dedicated to late Engineer Olaleye, my very first boss who trusted me so much to manage the company’s project in the North. I was just 17 and I traveled to 4 northern states (which included Burno, Niger, ‘Kwara’, and Sokoto) within the space of 1 year.