Kano City Walls

The extent and formidable nature of the fortifications surpassed the best informed anticipations of our officers. Needless to say, I have never seen or even imagined anything like it in Africa.”
Those were the words spoken by Sir Frederick Lord Lugard, High Commissioner of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, when the British forces bombarded the city of Kano in 1903. Kano was one of the three largest cities in West Africa with a rich culture known for its international trade market. Its city walls were built in the 11th century between 1095 AD – 1134 AD during the reign of Sakri Gijimasu, the third king of Kano, who was known to lay the foundation for these magnificent monuments. The construction of the walls were completed by mid 1300s during the rule of Zamnagawa and was later expanded by 1500. The walls were built primarily for the purpose of defence, with heights of 30-50 feet and about 40 feet thick with 15 gates around them.

The walls are beyond monolithic structures on their own and extend to the Dalla Hill, Kurmi Market and the Emir’s (Kings) Palace. The Dalla Hill dates back to 8th century, while the Kurmi Market dates back to the 15th century. The Kurmi Market, which still exists today, was a well-known international market that is still patronized from far and wide. At that time, the central markets were built close to the Emir’s palace, which was thought to form a bond and proximity between the people and their rulers. The markets, similar to the palace, were considered as a place of unity where people from different castes could meet, so to the people of Kano, the walls were built for a unifying purpose. For a very long time before the Europeans came, the people identified with these walls for these purposes in the oneness of a spiritual, historical, cultural attachment and identity.


Today, Kano city has extended beyond these walls, which no longer serve the purpose for which they were built due to several factors among which are, population growth, European civilization, amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates. The population of Kano has outgrown that of a people who hid behind walls for safety. The walls are now simply monument within the city and it is no surprise why most of the walls are in ruin.

Reports and observations show that the mud with which the walls were built, is being extracted and sold by residents of the city. These walls in their present state, like some of the dying traditions and culture, reflect the negligence and nonchalance to the preservation of history beyond pre-colonial days. The Government of Kano set up a ‘Protection and Preservation Committee’ to preserve what is left of the walls, which now serve as tourist attraction.


These monuments are manifestations of the long history of a pre-colonial communal people with an organised form of Government, structures of living, defense mechanisms and architecture conjured from a relatively civilized society. Although some of the walls are in ruins, they are visual stories of a once great city.


  1. “Surame Cultural Landscape. “UNESCO World Heritage Centre. 08 Oct. 2007. Web. http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5172
  1. “Ancient Kano City Walls.” – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. <https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Kano_City_Walls>.