Kano is a city in Northern Nigeria and the capital of Kano State.
Kano is the largest city in northern Nigeria. It has a population of around 3,600,000 (2016 estimate) giving it a busy atmosphere. It is an ancient trading city inhabited for well over a thousand years. Despite the international airport there is little tourist trade, but there are still surprisingly many attractions to visit and, as with the rest of Nigeria, the joy is in the people and the buzz of the streets.
The city is predominantly Muslim with a small percentage of Christians and traditional religions. Sharia law was introduced around 2001 but only applies to Muslims and punishments are rare. There have been sectarian riots, but this is mainly due to political tensions and is not targeted at foreigners.
Foreign currency is not usually accepted so get some Nigerian Naira at a bank or an ATM.
Electricity brownouts are a common problem and don't expect the cleanest of streets.
The official language is English, but the language of the street is Hausa.
Visitors from outside Nigeria will need a visa. This costs around $70 and you should apply to the relevant Embassy or High Commission at least four weeks in advance. They will need proof that you can support yourself financially and may ask for a letter from your employer.
You will need vaccinations against yellow fever, cholera, medication for malaria and other diseases.
- 1 Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport. Was the first airport in the country. Even though it is only a shadow of what it used to be, it still has international flights coming in from Egypt (Egypt Air), Addis-Ababa (Ethiopian Airlines), Saudi Arabia (KSA), Sudan and some other airlines.
After a long hiatus, passenger services have finally returned to Kano. There's a once weekly train from Lagos via Ibadan and Kaduna amongst others. Travel time from Lagos is just over 30 hours. Tickets starts from ₦1,900 in second class and ₦5,000 in sleeper class. There's also a once-weekly service from Nguru. Delays are common and dates of service changes frequently, always check at the station. 2 Kano railway station is located on Fagge Rd.
Yellow and blue coloured taxis can be hired on the roadside, ensure you agree a price before leaving. More common are the motorbikes where travellers sit behind the driver. There are also some motorised rickshaws introduced for Muslim women who do not want want to sit up close to a motorbike driver.
The dye pits of Kano are over 500 years old and privately owned. Indigo is mixed with potassium and ash and fermented for a month before being ready to dye cloths. The indigo dyes were once used to make garments for Nigerian royalty and they are said to also be usable as medicine. You can get a short tour around the pits and they will be happy to sell you cloths and clothes dyed blue in a variety of tie dye patterns.
- 1 Kurmi market (Kasuwar Kurmi). The oldest market in the city of kano. Textiles from around the world are on sale here.
- 2 Gidan Makama Museum, Emir Palace Rd. Located in a 15th-century historical building, this museum has a significant collections of arts, crafts and items of historic interest related to the Kano area. Galleries include the Zaure in the main entrance with displays of traditional materials, city walls and maps of Kano, the history of statehood, Kano in the 19th century, the Civil War, economy, industry and music.
- 3 Gidan Dan Hausa Museum and Kano State Cultural Centre. Has a collection of artifacts from stone age to present day within the colonial house of the governor from the 1900s. A friendly tour guide will explain all the objects for you.
- 4 Sani Abacha Stadium. The home of Nigerian Premier League champions Kano Pillars FC.
- 5 Great Mosque of Kano. In the centre of the city and on Fridays over 50,000 people will worship there.
- 6 Kano Zoo (Zoological Garden), Zoo Road. Large zoo with mainly indigenous animals. The zoo reached international headlines in 2019 when a lion escaped, evaded 2 tranquiliser darts, and remained missing for over 24 hours.
- 7 Dalla Hill. 24/7. Prominent hill with a significant contribution to the history of the city, it was home to prominent residents in antiquity and important for iron working. Some of the hill has been excavated and used as an underground water storage tank. Free.
- 8 Emir's Palace.
- 9 Ancient city walls. 24/7. Ancient defensive fortifications with a radius of 14 km, most of which constructed in mud and sand, with numerous entrance gates. The expanding population of Kano, exceeding 3.5 million inhabitants, has led to sections of the wall being demolished to make space for residential developments. The walls have been declared a National Monument in Nigeria and their submission as a UNESCO World Heritage site is pending, in an effort to preserve them. Some of the entrance gates have been restored and repainted. Free.
Climb the old Dala or Goron Dutse hill in the centre of the city and get a 360 degree view of the ancient city from the hill top; it is where the city started and is now an underground water reservoir.
Kano is also the home to the several times champions of the Nigerian Premier League, Kano Pillars FC. One can join the thousands of their fanbases and watch the games in either of Sani Abatcha Sadium K/Mata or Indoor stadium Sabon Gari for as less as $5.
The state-owned Marhaba Cinema is also located just behind the Immigration office and phone & electronics gadget village of Farm centre
The state government is investing heavily in the computing industry and has built a new ICT park, named after the past emir Alhaji, Dr. Ado Bayero, but due to change of administration, the building (Gidan Ado Bayero) has now been transformed into a state university (Yusuf Maitama Sule University) which will serve as a temporary site for the university.
There are a few supermarkets but in the daytime it is more exciting is to buy from one of the formal markets around town such as the famously known Kantin Kwari Market and Kofar Wambai Market. At dusk and until about 02:00 you can buy from any of the hundreds of stalls along the sides of the major roads. You will also be offered items to buy whenever you stop while driving.
- 1 Ado Bayero Mall. Large shopping mall selling pretty much anything from food to dyes and perfumes.
Buy food from any stall along the road sides. Masa are ground corn buns, they are often dipped into pepper soup.
Restaurants are all over the centre of the city selling African dishes, fried chicken or Chinese food.
- Palace Restaurant (by the racecourse). Surprisingly good Chinese food. Not too expensive and serves beer. No pork, so only try the dumplings if you like the idea of beef in your dumplings.
- 1 Lebanon Club, ☏ . Lebanese fare (hummus, kebabs, falafel, etc). Serves beer. Members only, but visitors can pay N200 to get in, negotiate if you are just visiting town. Dinner outside settings on Friday evenings only.
Sharia law means alcohol is hard to find. Most hotels do not serve alcohol on the premises but for a small fee you can easily get a staff member to buy some bottles of beer for consumption in your room (most hotel rooms in Kano have fridges). The area called Sabon Gari has many bars and nightclubs where alcoholic drinks are freely available and many stores where you can buy wine, or other alcoholic drinks. There are malt drinks in cans with beer branding which are an acquired taste. There are few dairy products in the area but some milk based drinks are available. Western brands such as Coca Cola or Nescafe are common. Do not drink locally made drinks (zobo - sorrel, kunun aya - from tiger nuts) if you did not know the source, as hygiene is not concerned when preparing some of them.
Important warning: Like almost all hotels in Nigeria, you will be required to pay for your room up-front. Typically 125% of the room rate before you get the key. Ask for a receipt. The advance paid will be deducted from the bill on checking out.
- 1 Prince Hotel, Tamandu Rd, Kano, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Prince Hotel is a well run hotel located in a quiet district and is a favourite with expatriates and NGOs. Security is good, and you will find all categories of well kept rooms, chalets and suites, though the Standard rooms are fairly small. All rooms are fully appointed with air conditioner, fridge, satellite television, and en-suite bathroom. Wi-Fi internet is available for about $3 for 24 hours. One of the few hotels in Kano where you can have a decent meal and a drink at their Calypso Restaurant which offers excellent continental and Lebanese cuisine. Laundry and room service is also available. No gym as yet but there is a nice pool for lodging guests only. From US$100.
- 2 Tahir Guest Palace, 4 Ibrahim Natsugune Road, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tahir Guest Palace is a sprawling complex of buildings containing probably the largest number of rooms in Kano. Security is OK. Rooms are all very large, a/c, fridge, easy chairs, large double beds, fridge. The best gym in Northern Nigeria for about $7 per session. Restaurant with buffet service at night, OK but not outstanding. Room service, laundry service and bakery across the road. Small shop and travel agent in the hotel. No alcohol. Good breakfast. Internet free of charge. around US$100.
- Royal Tropicana Hotel. Tropicana is a large hotel similar to the Tahir. The standard rooms are cozy but well kept with a/c, tv, fridge, etc. Internet is excellent and free. Around US$70 per night.
Kano is a largely safe city and theft or violence to foreigners is rare. Keep valuables in a zipped pocket and do not wear overly revealing clothes. When buying outside shops you will probably need to haggle, walk away if you are unsure of the deal. People may try to swindle you so check your prices before agreeing and if anyone asks for money feel free to walk away. Do not use internet banking from anything but private computers.
HIV prevalence is extremely high in Kano, with medical studies reporting over 30% of the population infected. Prepare accordingly.