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 9 million 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.
Kano has an international airport, the first in the country. Even though It is only a shadow of what it used to be it still has international flights coming in from Amsterdam (KLM), Egypt, Libya and some other airlines.
The train lines to Kano are essentially abandoned for passenger traffic, although the government hopes to change this.
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. 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.
The old Kurmi market sells textiles from around the world.
The Gidan Makama museum is in the centre of town.
The Kano State History Museum at Gidan Dan Hausa house has a collection of artefacts from stone age to present day within the collonial house of the governor from the 1900s. A friendly tour guide will explain all the objects for you.
The Great Mosque is in the centre of the city and on Fridays over 50,000 people will worship there.
Climb the old hill in the centre of the city. It is where the city started and is now an underground water reservoir.
Bayero University Kano has a range of courses.
The state government is investing heavily in the computing industry and has built a new ICT park.
There are a few supermarkets but in the daytime it is more exciting is to buy from one of the formal markets around town. At dusk and until about 2 in the morning 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.
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.
Sharia law means alcohol is hard to find. Most hotels, with the exception of Prince Hotel 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 Sabongeri 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.
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.
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.