Along Old Market Road in the centre of Katsina city, a five-minute walk from the Emir’s Palace, is Gobarau Minaret, a 15-metre structure influenced by Timbuktu architecture. The date of the building of the minaret is disputed. While some suggest it was during the reign of Sarkin Muhammadu Korau (1398-1408 AD), others say it was between 1500 and 1700 AD.
Intended as only a mosque, it eventually became a school, famed for its quality of Islamic education in Qur’anic recitation, Hadith, law, jurisprudence, history, mathematics, poetry, philosophy, logic, Arabic grammar, and astronomy. As a university, it is believed to possibly have been affiliated to Sankore University, Timbuktu, from where scholars visited to teach.
It was the Central Mosque in Katsina until the 1800s, when Sarkin Ummarun Dallaji built a new one, which was itself demolished by Sarkin Muhammadu Dikko, who erected the current central mosque, the Masallacin Dutsi.
The Gobarau Minaret is reported to have originally been 120-metre tall. Local craftsmen built it with clay, straw, mud, and conical bricks. The roofing, doors, and windows are made of date palm. The floors, which decrease in size the higher the building went, are connected by an interior staircase. The holes in the walls were designed to help spy on advancing enemies.
The decline of the minaret resulted from the decreasing enthusiasm for Islam in 17th and 18th century Hausaland.
In 1959, the Federal Government took over custody of the mosque and announced it a national monument. In the last decade, there have been renovation works by the Emirate Council in 2004 and the American Embassy in 2009.
Otosirieze Obi-Young is Editor of Folio Nigeria, where he profiles innovators and facilitators in culture: art, business, entertainment, activism, health, food. He is a writer, journalist, curator, media consultant, former academic, and Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Open Country Mag, a new online platform covering African literature. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among "The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians" by Avance Media. Find him on otosirieze.com or on Twitter & Insta: @otosirieze.