Last week I shared my story of escaping Lagos and traveling far North to Kano to experience the ancient city. You can read about the Day 1of my trip HERE.
After my adventures the previous day, I woke up early, pumped and completely eager to see more of the town. I had missed my sister’s calls that morning. I returned her call and before I could even say “Good morning”, I was greeted with heated questions.
“Makuo, you’re in Kano? Doing what? Please be careful o, you know how tribally tense Nigeria has been lately...”
I smiled as I replied her questions calmly, in truth the call unearthed a buried fear I had for long associated with the North; a fear for my life, of its "volatility", of violence and bombs. Several messages from friends on WhatsApp and Telegram reflected both surprise and subtle fear about the trip. As I had my breakfast I wondered, ”What is the worst that can happen?”
An hour later, we were out in the streets and all my fear fly out the car window. My friend and host drove me first to Jaiz bank, an Islamic bank popular in the region. On our way to the bank, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful architecture around town, how busy and how vibrant it was with trade, commerce and culture.
At the entrance of the bank, I was greeted "As-Salaam-Alaikum" (An Arabic greeting meaning "Peace be unto you"), the teller at the bank greeted me with "As-Salaam-Alaikum," strangers at the bank did same. This was the accepted greeting in Kano, at least every part of Kano that I went to. This got me thinking about the strong, clearly inseparable marriage between religion and culture in the town. I had learned to reply “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam" (meaning and “peace be unto you too”) the previous day. In the bank, I noticed even more the beauty of Kaftans as almost every male who walked in and out of the bank was donned in the apparel. Many well starched, some made of plain bright colours, others patterned and all mostly worn with the characteristic Hausa cap. I coveted this culture, its wealth and the pride of its display.
We left bank for the State managed Zoo. Entering the Zoo, we met a young attendant and for a rather small fee of N100, we were admitted into the Zoo. At first, I was sure it was going to be boring experience, but the welcoming sight of a baby Ostrich with white geese dancing around it slapped that notion off my mind. The zoo was big, decorated with tall trees, short shrubs and cleared road paths. There were park seats around the entire zoo. The zoo was alive, a reality that surprised me intensely. School kids lined up to see the Python beyond us, I spotted families enjoying the peace of the Zoo under tree shades. There were other visitors taking photos of some wild jackals, Hyenas, Tortoises, porcupines. There were Giraffes, Elephants, Crocodiles, Zebras, Bigger Ostriches, Monkeys, apes, Chimps, some Birds whose names I don’t know, and lions. Yes! Two big lions (which sadly were asleep at the time of visit). Walking around the big Zoo was a marriage for me, Nature and I becoming one in a romantic relationship. I was too in love that I did not know when evening came. When we noticed the deepening in colour of the skies, we picked our bags and left the Zoo.
I was determined to continue my street food adventure so as we left the zoo I asked what was to be tasted around the area. We started out with this super sugary, super milky snack called Alawar madara and Gullisuwa, one soft and the other hard. My very favourite of all the street treats I had. After that I tried a sugarcoated, bittersweet street snack made with sesame seeds called Ridi. To overcome the bitter taste of the snack I had some dry dates and then a some local biscuits called Greba. It was getting darker and young women were spotted at junctions frying Awara, a Soya bean meal, fried just like Akara. I went out to taste it while my friend said his prayers at a nearby mosque. I loved every bit of it as it reminded me of an old Igbo meal made of melon seed called “Usu”. While we took walk down the street, I reminded my friend of my mission to eat up Kano that very night.
Around some streets I spotted some kids about 7 or 8 years in age, mostly in twos or threes, wearing tattered clothes and carrying plastic plates. I wanted to ask but I didn’t want to be wrong. These kids were unguided and unguarded, playing and pushing themselves into and away from the busy roads, night had come and I saw no urgency to run home. The sight melted my heart but not as much as the Suya I had immediately after we left the junction. If you’re in Lagos and you’ve been buying Suya, I am sorry you’ve been eating lies, disappointment and mediocrity. Eating Suya in Kano was like embarking on a spiritual journey. The Yaji was different; spicier and more alive. The meat was well roasted, N500 could buy you enough Suya for you and your entire family. Every bit of my heart melted away into the meal. To wash it all, I had Kunu Aya, a drink made from Tiger Nut similar to the Spanish beverage Horchata and that was the end of a day well spent.
I couldn’t get enough of Kano but it was my last day and I was already feeling down about it. We went to the museum, a remnant of the old Kano City, standing tall just opposite the Emir’s palace (the guards did not allow me to take photographs).
The museum was impressive, we were assigned a tour guard and in a matter of seconds we were transported to 999AD. The trip was full of from stories of the life of the old Hausa people to stories of how Islam kicked local traditional religion (now viewed as paganism) out to the City. We listen to stories of the building of the walls around Kano down to the accounts of the Northern Emirate. Ancient relics and artifacts accompanied these stories. From the precolonial to the colonial down to the post-colonial and modern day Kano.
We left the Museum and decided to have a drive around town. The sun was out but not hot, the skies were blue and the streets were alive. Hawkers moved around with souvenirs, snacks, mats, utensils and everything buyable. Kano was peaceful even in the street chaos. There was no crazy traffic around town, traffic and street lights worked. We went to the Ado Bayero mall. A giagantic building standing in middle of town. Food stores, big grocery stores, luxury and lifestyle stores had their doors open within the mall, there was a Cinema theatre up the mall, while we considered seeing a movie, we remembered a few errands left. We left the mall and made a stop at my friend’s grandmother’s, she had kept for me lots of local Hausa treats all sweet and extra colourful: Gullisuwa, Dan Tamatsitsi, Charbin malam, Mitmis, Alawar madara and Gullisuwa. God bless her soul. As a souvenir, my friend gifted me a bottle of the infamous “Hausa perfume”, known for its strong, unconquerable smell and surprisingly I loved it. Kano was everything away from the war zone I had imagined and I was grateful I went.