What You Need to Know About Durbar Festival (Hawan Sallah) in Northern Nigeria

What You Need to Know About Durbar Festival (Hawan Sallah) in Northern Nigeria

Durbar Festival which is known in northern Nigeria as ‘Hawan Sallah’, is a historic horseriding fiesta celebrated by traditional rulers particularly the Emirs in northern Nigeria. It involves assembly and consecution of traditional rulers comprising the chiefs, district heads and other traditional title holders in an emirate alongside their cabinet members in a public square, usually in front of the emirs’ palaces or a designated place for that purpose.

The Hawan Sallah festival usually takes place during the muslims’ Eid festival periods (Eid el-fitr and Eid Al-Adha). It is marked by an exhibition of horse riding techniques by the Emir and his entourage, in the company of hunters, bodyguards and traditional musicians. It is celebrated yearly in cities across Northern Nigeria. The cities include Katsina, Kano, Sokoto, Zaria(Zazzau), Bauchi, Daura, Hadejia, Gumel, Bida and so on.

During the Hawan Sallah event, there is usually a full demonstration of traditional war strategies and instruments under the watch of the chief cavalry officer known in Hausa as ‘Madawaki’. Madawaki in the ancient Hausa kingdoms is responsible for taking charge of war activities, especially that it has to do with horses. He is the person under whose shoulder emirs based their military might.

Origin Of Hawan Sallah

Though the word ‘Durbar’ was said to be of Persian origin, relating to the ceremonial assemblies marking the proclamation of Queen Victoria as the Empress of colonial India in 1877, ‘Hawan Daushe’, ‘Hawan Daba’ and ‘Hawan Sallah’ are the phrases often used to describe the event in Hausa land. ‘Hawan’ is a Hausa word that means ‘mounting onto something’.

History of the origin of the longstanding horse-riding culture has been in existence for over 500 years in Hausa land and can be traced down to the era of Muhammad Rumfa, the 20th Emir of Kano.

During and after Fulani Jihad, horses were used in warfare to protect the Emirate. Each noble household was expected to defend the Emirate by forming a regiment. Once a year, the regiments would gather for a military parade to demonstrate allegiance to their ruler, by showcasing their horsemanship, readiness for war, and loyalty.

How Hawan Sallah Is Celeberated In Kano

The Hawan Sallah in Kano is assumed to be the largest durbar procession in the world. It is a procession of colourful horses which evolved with the history, culture and tradition of the people of Kano over a period of time.

The procession is strictly men only who usually dressed in magnificent turbans many with one ear or two sticking out denoting their royal linage.

After the Eid prayer from ‘Masallacin Idi’ in ƙofar mata, Makama of Kano leads the Durbar procession through some of the notable gates of Kano. They pass through Kofar Wambai to Zage, Sharifai, Yola, Satatima and then to Kurawa Quarters before terminating at the ground in front of Gidan Rumfa (Palace) near the Central Mosque.

As the Emir passes through these notable gates and quarters, he receives greetings from people living in those places. He stops in some locations where some senior citizens come out and pray for him.

One of such locations is the Sharifai Quarters where the Sharifai (descendants of the Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him) led by the Sarkin Sharifai, Sidi Fari pay homage and pray for the Emir and the society.

The Emir passes through important quarters that make up the nucleus of the pre-colonial Kano leather and textile industry this area includes Kofar Wambai, Dukawa, Darma and Zage.

The former Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II during Hawan sallah
The former Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II during Hawan sallah

The Emir acknowledges greetings from these merchants and craftsmen. He then passes through and acknowledges greetings from people in the nucleus of Kano aristocracy covering Yola and Satatima Quarters then to Kurawa Quarters which has the highest concentration of the royalty in Kano.

The Emir then moves to Gidan Shatiman Kano or the Chamber of Kano State Council of Chiefs. At this juncture, the Emir greets the State Governor in the company of his Executive Council, leaderships of the State Legislature and Judiciary and Chairman of the Kano Municipal Council.

After the exchange of pleasantries, the Emir moves to Kofar Kwaru, which is in the northern part of the Palace and it faces the West looking towards Kabara and Mandawari Quarters.

He delivers his Sallah Message to citizens of Kano State in this location. This address is usually made up of advice to authorities on poverty alleviation and admonishments to the citizens on various ways and means of avoiding epidemics and wastage of agricultural produce respectively.

Related historic event Hawan Daushe, comes a day after Sallah. It was introduced at the request of a favourite slave of the then Emir Muhammad Rumfa. His name is Daushe who happened to be ill during the Sallah celebration as such he couldn’t attend hawan Sallah. So the emir granted his request, and from then it became a traditional ceremony which is celebrated to date.

Durbar In Zaria (Zazzau)

Unlike the Kano emirate, the Zazzau emirate used to conduct Hawan Sallah, Hawan Daushe and Hawan Bariki to mark its Eid celebration.

Hawan Sallah begins shortly after the Eid prayer at Kofar Doka Eid ground in Zaria. The Emir and his entourage will ride on their horses back to the Emir’s palace. It is a journey of about 10 kilometres. In the course of this journey, district heads and other traditional titles holders will one after the other pay homage and pledge their loyalty to the Emir and simultaneously, demonstrate their equestrian skills to the cheering spectators.

The Emir of Zazzau during his annual Hawan sallah
The Emir of Zazzau during his annual Hawan Sallah

‘Hawan Bariki’ comes a day after Sallah. The Emir in the company of districts heads and his cabinet members depart the palace at 08:00 am to the Kaduna State Government House which is located in GRA, Sabon Gari area to pay homage to the governor of the state or his representative.

During the event, the Emir gets the opportunity to present all the needs and complaints of his people to the state governor.

‘Hawan Daushe’ which is the last of the Sallah events in Zazzau emirate takes place two days after Sallah. It brings people of different types and from different parts of the world to Zazzau emirate.

It is conducted in the evening, shortly after asr prayer. The Emir together with his district heads moves out of the palace on the horseback to rally the ancient city of Zaria and then back to his palace. It is through this event that the residents get the opportunity of meeting the emir face-to-face.

During this event, the palace’s princes engage in a demonstration of horse-riding skills competition and display of royal regalia to outshine one another. The best district head will be chosen at the end of the event.

Hawan Sallah In Katsina

The ‘Hawan Sallah in Katsina begins when the emir enters the event ground under a huge parasol, surrounded by a splendid entourage of ‘fadawa’ (the indigo turbaned horsemen), guards bedecked with ostrich feathers, camels and servants in brightly-coloured robes.

Hawan sallah in Katsina
Hawan sallah in Katsina

The next thing is for the turbaned horse riders to pay homage to the Emir before proceeding to the parade ground. When hundreds of horsemen gathered in the parade ground, the Emir’s procession begins down the centre, including his guards, his sons, riderless horses for his wives, and camels.

The Emir will then ride among his guards and servants. He’ll begin by paying respect to the governor, the horse regiments would then race up to the Emir at a gallop to demonstrate their courage, agility, and respect. Afterwards, the Emir gives an address to the crowd’s approval.

Everything You Need to Know About Sharo Festival

Everything You Need to Know About Sharo Festival

Sharo is a Fulani word that literally means to flog. It is a prominent and long-term practising tradition in Fulani culture whereby two suitors vie for a girl’s hand in marriage through flogging competition. It is performed to prove if a young man has come of age and is mature to take a spouse. A suitor has to withstand the trial of caning in order to eliminate his rival if he happened to vent his vigor. This article will tell you all about sharo festival in northern Nigeria.

Who are The Fulani People?

Fulani people are known to inhabit mainly parts of West Africa with a high population in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. They are also found in some North and Eastern African countries. They speak Hausa, English, Arabic, French, and Fula or Fulfulde language.

The Fulani people are predominantly Muslims and are known to be adherents of Islamic doctrines. They usually have straighter hair and lighter skin in complexion.

The men are mostly nomadic and pastoral herdsmen as they are known to move around with their cattle. They are known to be brave, courageous, and hard-working. One of the events to examine bravery in Fulani culture is through Sharo festival.

Who is Eligible to Participate in Sharo Festival in Northern Nigeria?

Sharo is usually organized between two male adult suitors seeking for girl’s hand in marriage. In the event of the competition, the forthcoming groom will be accompanied by friends and family who at the same time would be nurturing him to withstand the brutal process to ensure that he did not sob or shed even a drop of tears, and if he unfortunately does, he is then being considered weak and would instantly be rejected by the bride’s family.

Sharo is also observed by some Fulanis during the dry season when guinea corn is ready for harvesting and it is also celebrated during the Eid-el-Kabir Sallah festivals. In such cases, it is usually held in open places such as fields, village squares, and marketplaces.

The occasions are usually graced by prominent people from within and outside the Fulani nation and Nigeria as well.

The Sharo Tournament

The sharo festival in northern Nigeria begins with various forms of skits from maiden dancers and tricksters, though, the central focus of the festivity only begins with the arrival of bare-chested, unmarried young men who are accompanied to the center ring by beautiful young girls. Enraptured spectators cheer on in anxiety as contenders and challengers set the ball rolling while families of the contenders watch and pray not to be disgraced by their sons because it is shameful for a family whose son cannot endure the pain from the flogging.

On the flip side, conscious of the fact that pain has its edge, candidates usually recite mantras during the flogging rite which serve as some form of traditional fortification in preparation for the festival. These severe floggings often leave scars on the proud contenders who believe the scars are marks of courage and a successful transition to manhood. Other youths acting as referees observe the proceedings closely, ensuring that the strokes are fairly struck.

The contestant puts up his whip and flogs his rival at least ten times. He must by any means endure this without wincing or showing pain, lest he is branded a coward.

Families of the competitors watch the Sharo event with bated breath, hoping that their son makes it to the end because it could be quite humiliating for those who fail. While this happens, contenders recite mantras during the flogging. If a suitor however gives in and can no longer withstand being flogged, he instantly loses to the stronger competitor.

Photo: travelhubnigeria.com

The Reward for The Winner

At the end of the festival, the survivor is celebrated into manhood and is permitted to marry the girl over which the competition was carried out or any girl of his choice. If he desires to and can withstand more pain in other competitions, he can marry as many as four wives, as long as he can maintain balance amongst all the four wives.

This is per Islamic law which allows a man to marry more than one wife.

During the Sharo festival which is done to demonstrate bravery, not only should a prospective husband be able to win, but he must also show no sign of being in pain or crying during the flogging.

The Prestige of Sharo Flogging

When the tournament is over, players are left with numerous scars on their bodies, but this is seen as a sign of vitality. The scars prove that the individual underwent a true test of bravery, virility, perseverance, and survival.

Is Sharo Tradition in Conformity with Modern Civilization?

Many people consider this tradition uncivilized and their reasoning may not be far-fetched because it can be viewed as a form of torment or infliction of bodily wounds.

In worst cases, things have gone wrong and a young man once lost his life to serious flogging when the cane hit the back of his head, rather than his back, in line with the rules of the game.

The Sharo festival is still celebrated by some Fulani ethnic tribes to this day and for them, it remains a show of strength and adulthood.

What do you think about sharo festival? Will you partake in one for the person you love?

How 500 Year Old Kofar Mata Dye Pit Is Slowly Dying

How 500 Year Old Kofar Mata Dye Pit Is Slowly Dying

Do you know that the prominent, notable, and only surviving dye pit which is located in Kofar Mata Kano has been in existence for over 500 years and is still functional?

Research has it that textile production dates back to the early 9th century and was well known for the rich variety of designs, colors, materials, and production techniques. Of the craft used in production and processing are the tie and dye: the fabrics were formed by the weaving process using raffia, silk, and cotton and then dyed in blue indigo.

The first documented note about fabric dyeing dates back to 2600 BC. Dyes were naturally spin-offs of vegetables, plants, trees, lichens, and insects. Some of the dyes that have been used in ancient times were indigo, alizarin, Tyrian purple, yellow, and logwood.

Dyeing in Northern Nigeria

Dyeing in Northern Nigeria

In Northern Nigeria, dyeing was carried out in Zaria as well as in Kano. Today, only the well-known Kofar Mata dyeing pits of Kano have survived which now serve as the tourist site.

Founded in 1498, the Kofar Mata pits are said to be the oldest in Africa and are the only survivor of Kano’s dye trade – which once encompassed 13 pit complexes. Located close to the city’s central mosque and Ganuwa at the same time along the emir’s palace road, its colors have adorned the fabrics of Kano’s traditional rulers for centuries.

According to some discoveries, the founders of the Kofar Mata dye pits were the earliest smartest businessmen of Kano city. They cleverly set up this industry in a time when even the western world was yet to be industrialized. The pits have played a meaningful role in economizing the business community of Kano during its time. There are about 100 dye pits at the Kofar Mata dye pits, grounds of about 12 pits below the ground with each pit being about a meter or two from the next.

The purple cotton of Kano was once outstanding throughout Africa’s arid Sahel belt, in the days when the Nigerian emirate was a center of trans-Saharan trade in salt and gold, rivaling the fabled riches of Timbuktu. Now more than 100 pits have fallen into dilapidation and many of them are stymied with refuse and stones.

As patronage dwindles from the dye pits, the tradition started withering with many pit owners seeking greener pastures and very few were interested in practicum.

How The Dyeing Is Done

The dyers use only 3 natural ingredients in carving the dye solution and they are the Indigo plant twigs, ash from burnt wood and potash made freshly at the dye pits. All the ingredients and equipment used are locally obtained and constructed.

The preparation of the indigo dye takes up to a month; then the fabric is soaked for up to several hours for the darkest hues. The men periodically lift the fabric from the pits to drip, saying the process needs to breathe. A dash of potassium holds the color in. When fully prepared, it may last up to a year Many believe the solution has medicinal properties and is sometimes used for traditional remedies.

Role of Kofar Mata Dye Pit As A Tourist Attraction Center

The Kofar Mata dye pits served the purpose of attracting travelers as well as traders across the Sahelian countries to the Kano, thus making it one of the most thriving cities in West Africa.

Traders from all over the country, including neighboring Niger, Mali, and Chad used to visit the dye trunks to buy, among other local fabrics. In the indigo-vegetable dyeing pits, various designs are folded into material before dyeing, and the fabric is often beaten to achieve a decent appearance.

Most fascinating are the techniques employed to achieve colorful looks.

Why Kofar Mata Dye Pit Is Slowly Dying

The historic dyeing tradition appears to have suffered a terrific setback likely due to the economic challenges the country is facing such that the successors of the tradition appeared to have abandoned it for government jobs and or other businesses instead, forgetting the skills passed down through generations.

The near-extinction of the cloth dyeing profession is not only displeasing but also a great impairment to the once blossoming Kano business empire. The heirs of the great profession acknowledged that the founding fathers and predecessors only make a name and not money from the dye profession these days. They lamented that the business activities are not as lively as they were in the past. So the younger generation has no option but to seek subsistence somewhere.

Dyeing Challenges

When the business was booming, there were about 270 dye pits in Kofar Mata Kano with thousands of workers comprising men and women, the young and the old. It was one of the major backbones of the state’s economy. Then, the famous guinea brocade and a good chunk of clothes patronized by the high and mighty were dyed at the pit.


Due to the subsiding demand and high inrush of shoddy foreign materials usually from China into the Nigerian market, more than 100 pits have fallen into dilapidation and many of them are occluded with muck and stone

s. The rate at which the historic practice is being passed to the next generation is very slow as many are looking for more practical ways to make living. If demand does not increase, before long the dye profession may fade away with time.

Meet the First Female Lawyer from Northern Nigeria

Meet the First Female Lawyer from Northern Nigeria

Born on 20th November 1944 in Lagos, The Kano-based Mariam Aloma Muktar, who is also an Adamawa state indigene is the first female to become a lawyer in northern Nigeria. Although it has been said that her father, Mukhtar is a Hausa by tribe and her mother Hajiya Hadiza Ashafa was from Adamawa State, Mubi to be precise, Aloma Mukhtar was said to have been born in Lagos and because of that, she can speak the Yoruba language with more fluency than any of her native languages.

In June 1967, Aloma Mukhtar became the first female to become a lawyer in Northern Nigeria, and thereupon, the pioneer female Magistrate in the Northern region. She was the first female Chief Registrar of the Kano State Judiciary, so also the first female Judge of the High Court in Kano State, and the first woman jurist to be appointed to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria. In July 2012, she was appointed Chief Justice of the federation, therefore, she became the first female Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Read: Biography of the Legendary Gambo Sawaba

Early Education

She had her early education at Saint. George’s Primary School, St. Bartholomew’s School, Wusasa, all in Zaria Kaduna State. She left for England where she had her secondary school education at Rossholme School for Girls, East Brent, Somerset, England.

At the time she attended the Rossholme School for Girls in Somerset County in England in 1960, she encountered some challenges as she was said to be the first Nigerian or rather first black person of African extraction to become a resident of East Brent.

Aloma Mukhtar had completed her studies at Technical College in Berkshire, and then Gibson and Weldon College of Law, England. After completing her law program, Aloma Mukhtar was eventually called to the English Bar in absentia in November 1966.

She was called to the Nigerian Bar in the year 1967, going on to serve in several capacities, She started as a pupil council in northern Nigeria’s Ministry of Justice.

Career and Service to the Nation

After law school, a letter of appointment was already waiting for her as a pupil counsel in a justice ministry. Mukhtar, therefore, began her career in 1967 as Pupil State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Northern Nigeria, and rose through the ranks. She worked in the Office of the Legal Draftsman and Interim Common Services Agency and she was already relishing the practice with no plans to go into the bench.

In January 1977, she was appointed judge of the Kano High Court, and with that, she became the third female to be appointed a judge in the history of Nigeria. Similarly, the first female magistrate grade I in northern Nigeria, and being 32 years of age, she was the youngest judge in the whole country at that time.

During her outstanding profession, Justice Aloma Mukhtar achieved several notable Firsts. She is a woman of many firsts, some of which are:

  • First female lawyer from Northern Nigeria.
  • First female justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
  • The First female Chief Justice of Nigeria;
  • First woman jurist to be appointed to the Court of Appeal
  • She became the first female permanent member at Nigeria’s highest advisory body, the National Council of State.
  • First female judge of the High Court in Kano State judiciary.

Awards and Recognitions

Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar has been recognized and celebrated nationally and internationally for her value-added contributions and the impacts she was able to make on the growth and development of the judicial system. In the course of her extraordinary work, she received countless awards and recognition, and some of which are:

  1. Gold Merit Award for Contribution to the Development of Law in Kano State (1993).
  2. Recognition by the International Federation of Women Lawyers (in 1989 and 2003).
  3. Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Abuja.
  4. Inducted to the Nigerian Hall of fame (2005), conferred with the National Honor of Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) in 2006, GCON in 2012.
  5. She was also honoured during the Centenary Celebration of Nigeria with the Outstanding Contemporary Public Servant award.
You Won’t Believe How the Famous Arewa Knot (Dagin Arewa) Originated

You Won’t Believe How the Famous Arewa Knot (Dagin Arewa) Originated

The Arewa Knot, ‘Dagin Arewa’, or ‘Tambarin Arewa’ like any other symbol is a traditional emblematic delineation of Northern Nigeria, particularly the Hausa dominated areas. The star-shaped structure, Northern knot is an older and traditionally established notion of Hausa identity used in historic architecture, design and cross-stitching.

The notion which is imprinted in many of the Nigerian artistic works is a criss-cross of intersecting knots entwined together that connotes the bonds of the political unity of Northern Nigeria.

History of Arewa Knot

The Knot is such a stirring motif of Northern Nigerian power and political identity that represents unity despite the heterogenicity of tribes and culture in the region. It was adopted by the then prominent politicians of the northern region, under the leadership of the first premier of the north, and the president of the then Northern People’s Congress, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto (The prestigious Sokoto Caliphate traditional title).

The adoption of the symbol came into place in the 1950s when the Nigerian representatives were struggling for independence from their colonial masters. This unity in diversity is encapsulated in the “One North” philosophy that was used to fight for representation and privileges of Northern Nigeria, and to also counter the domination of public services and the northern political sphere by the Southern Nigerians.

Since the Sarduana’s death in a military coup in 1966, the Northern knot has become a stand-in for Ahmadu Bello and his politics of Northern unity. Ahmadu Bello’s approval of the knot for use as a Northern Nigerian coat of arms and seal of authority gives the symbol additional importance. Its deployment in settings of aristocratic power in most of the northern palaces performs both a political act of invoking and recalling Ahmadu Bello’s clout and affirming the authenticity of the palaces’ uniquely Northern Nigerian prestige.

Origin of The Arewa Arewa Symbol

There have been a lot of theories, findings and lots of unanswered questions as regards where did the widely used star-shaped knot originated in the first place. Different people with an interest in history have made researches in order to unearth the origin and the actual meaning of the historic fixture.

Some of the researchers came up with findings that it is of Jewish origin, while others propounded that it is of Christian origin.

Christian Origin of the Arewa Knot

According to some recent findings, Arewa knot origin was traced to Christians living in the region. It was asserted that there were then Christians living in a respectable number in the presently Northern Nigeria, especially in a Hausa state called Gobir. The finding shows that one of the Gobir kings, called ‘Sarkin Gobir Mai Saƙandami’ who happened to be Christian was found to be wearing a cross around his neck which was why they called him ‘mai saƙandami’.

It was affirmed that the Northern Nigerian imprint which is of Christian origin was adopted by Hausas as a political identity under the guidance of Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto.

The number of the Hausas practising Christianity at that time in the region is very small when compared to their Muslim counterparts from the same region. Therefore this will not serve as sufficient evidence to claim or conclude that the Arewa knot represents the Christian cross or it is of Christian origin.

Jewish Origin of Dagin Arewa

Of all the several accounts of the origin of the Arewa knot, the most compelling of the theories is the one citing Judaic presence in Northern Nigeria. Dating back to 500 A.D, the origin of the Hausa people has something to do with the remnants of Jews who migrated from Nubia. It is a region along the Nile river located in what is today Northern Sudan and Southern Egypt.

Nubia or ‘Habasha’ is one of the earliest civilizations of ancient Northeastern Africa, with a history that can be traced from at least 2000 B.C. onward through Nubian monuments and artefacts as well as written records from Egypt and Rome, it was home to one of the African empires.

With Israel coming under Greek, Persian and later Roman rule and dependency, renewed waves of Jewish refugees including traders and artisans began to set up more communities in Egypt, Cyrenaica, Nubia and the Punic Empire, notably in Carthage.

From there, they began to scatter into various historically established, as well as newly emerging Jewish communities in the south of the Atlas mountains nearer to modern-day Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Cameroon and Congo.

Several Jewish nomadic groups also moved across the Sahara from Nubia and the ancient kingdom of Kush towards West Africa. (Uwechia, 2007), and mixing in with the local Northern and Central Nigerian population, established a number of strong states in what is now known as Northern and Central Nigeria.

According to a broad and luminous finding, the arewa knot is somewhat a copy of the historic 6 pointed star Seal of Solomon which is also known as Star of David. By taking a critical look at the two symbols, one can therefore then conclude that either Arewa directly copied from Jews who settled in Hausa land or the Hausas were actually Jews converted to Islam and still maintain their symbol but undergo some modifications with time.


Despite that, the facts stated above are representation of the researcher’s findings and understanding, the theory relating the origin of the Arewa knot to the Seal of Solomon appears to be more conventional and appealing.

What do you think of the origin of the famous Dagin Arewa?