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Kano’s Oldest Market

Kano’s Oldest Market

Otosirieze Obi-Young
, Kano’s Oldest Market
Medicinal herbs at Kurmi Market, Kano. Credit: Fatima Bukar (2016).

For over 500 years in the centre of the city of Kano, Kurmi Market has flourished. Located near the Emir’s Palace and the Central Mosque, it is one of the oldest markets in West Africa.

Made prominent by Mohammed Rumfa in 1463, during the golden era of Kano, Kurmi Market was central to the economic, social, and religious changes in the city-state. By pulling in traders, it established Kano as a major stop on the Trans-Saharan trade routes. Kano at the time was a centre of the regional agricultural and textile trades, with a reputation for its weaving, leathermaking, pottery, and cloth-dyeing. At the height of the slavery trade, the market was reportedly filled with enslaved people awaiting buyers from across the West and North African markets.

Before colonialism, the market had a set arrangement. Each section was supervised by appointed individuals. The bamboo stalls were organized to form streets, and in the westernmost section, the cattle trade thrived.

The old market was demolished in 1904 and a new one built and opened in 1909, to harmonize income for the Kano Native Authority. The new market, with its 755 clay stalls, had a mosque and a courthouse.

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Crush Rock quarry, Mpape, Abuja. Credit: @PostHumanBoy on Twitter

The market’s paths and turns look like a maze. Lined up are local textiles, handwoven and dyed; sculptures of giraffes, elephants, and ducks, among other animals; and carved stones, silver and beaded jewelries, cow hide leather, ostrich-feathered shoes and bags, and decorative musical instruments.

The paths in Kurmi Market are crowded, the air in the food sections tinged with the scent of fruits.

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