Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The 26th good thing about Northern Nigeria: Experiencing the Kano Durbar

The Kano Durbar is a really spectacular event. You can think of it as a traditional parade of knights. This legacy of ancient Sahara Desert jihads, or holy wars, evokes the proud warrier history of the ancient city. The tradition in general dates back to when each town and household was expected to contribute a regiment to the defense of the Emirate. The festival is a show of strength and homage toward the Emir. But the Durbar practice itself in Kano is an import, as the first one there was staged in 1911 to honor a governor in the British colonial era.

The Kano Durbar was a bit different from the one we saw the day before in Katsina. Kano seemed richer, with more pomp and pageantry. But it was somewhat less enjoyable, only because our view was a bit obstructed with pillars and poles, and we were also too far away to enjoy watching the public observing the Durbar, which we had enjoyed in Katsina. So my pictures are a disappointing. I had some good video clips that wouldn't post here, maybe they were too long. I was able to upload a few very short videos here - so you can get the idea of the experience. But really it's impossible to capture it all on film. It's one of those things that you really had to be there to see how amazing it was.

This is the viewing stand where we sat to watch the Durbar. It's in front of the palace, overlooking the festival grounds.

Here's Brent awaiting the beginning of the Durbar.

Before it started there was a funny kind of clown fooling around with a video camera on the spectators.

View of the parade grounds with the big city mosque in the background.

The Durbar is ready to start. This Durbar was in the afternoon, shortly after 4 PM.

The horsemen start to parade in.

If you click to make this picture bigger, you see the crowds of people outside the gates -- where the general public can view the parade before it enters the palace grounds. The walls and billboards are loaded with people who climbed up to get a better view.

There was a thundering mass of horses and riders preceding the entrance of the Emir.

The Emir came in, under his large umbrella, surrounded by his large retinue with camels and horsemen and marching guards.

The grounds were cleared for a display of shooting with guns and cannons.

Then they cleared the crowd away from in front of the Emir so he could be honored by many regiments, who race their horses toward him to salute him with their swords.

The square in front of us and the large area beside the grounds were packed with horses, costumed warriors, musicians and dancers.

A brief, but interesting article in the Economist quotes Yusuf Maitama-Sule, a writer and former minister, saying “The durbar is the totality of our experience of life, the totality of our culture.

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