Kano Emir Palace as opinions of historian differ as to where actually the kano emir’s palace was located prior to the establishment of Gidan Rumfa, I.e the present Kano palace. Some are of the opinion that the palace was located at Gwammaja, others argued that it was located at Madabo the old Dala settlement.
Gidan Rumfa (lit. House of Rumfa) was built by the innovative Sarkin Kano Muhammad Rumfa (ruled 1463-1499).
When Emir Rumfa became Emir of Kano in 1463, Kano was at its prosperous peak interns of socio-cultural, political, economic as well as religious development. In his desire to facilitate the aforementioned developments, Rumfa decided to expand the city. He resolved to build a new administrative city with the befitting palace on the outskirts of the city.
After about a decade of continuous delibrations between Rumfa himself, local town planners, architects, and builders. The site layout and form of the proposed new city palace were selected.
During the construction period, Rumfa was said to have temporarily lived in his personal residence popularly known as Gidan Makama. A house was built by Sarkin Kano Abdullahi Burja (ruled 1437-1452) and gave it to Muhammad Rumfa who happened to be his favorite grandson and was holding the title of Makaman kano.
GEOGRAPHY OF GIDAN RUMFA
Built-in the 15th Century, Gidan Rumfa is located between latitude 11°57 ` 32.6N and longitude 8°31 `06.02E. It approximately covers 33 acres surrounded by walls of 20-30 feet high from outside and an average of 15 feet from within the palace complex.
FORM/LAYOUT AND SECTIONS OF GIDAN RUMFA
- a) Cikin Gida: This section houses the Emir and members of his immediate family. It is located in the nucleus of the palace.
- b) Kofar Kudu (Southern Section): as the name implies, this is a section that is located in the southern part. It houses some palace officials like Sarkin Hatsi and others. Historically, it was through this section that the British colonial masters entered Gidan Rumfa when they conquered Kano in 1903. Since then, this section continues to be the official entrance and also the administrative section of the palace. It accommodates Royal Court Rooms, police quarters, palace halls, schools, and the Kano Emirate council Secretariat. A massive open space of this section for socio-cultural and religious activities.
- c) Kofar Arewa (Northern Section): this was the official section of the palace before the coming of British colonial rulers. It was designed to face the location of the ancient city. It has two entrances; Kofar Fatalwa and Kofar Kwaru.
Kofar Fatalwa is located in the North-Eastern part of the palace and was designed to have access to the Kano city Central mosque.
On the other hand, Kofar Kwaru is located in the North-Western part. It was designed so as to have access to the famous Kurmi market. Horses stable, palace officials such as Shamaki, Dan Rimi, and Sallama are located in this section.
- d) Sheka(Royal Ecological gardens): Shekar Gabas and Shekar Yamma are located in the eastern and western parts of the palace respectively. They are like mini bush and have been a sanctuary of birds, insects, and many other eco-friendly organisms for centuries.
Ecologically, the variety of shrubs and hedges in the Sheka help in reducing the extremeness of heat, wind, audibility, and glare. They also reduce the effects of Sahara dust to a considerable extent, thereby making the cikin gida thermally comfortable. Parts of them are used for growing some fruits and vegetables for the royal family.
In summary, the layout of the Gidan Rumfa was specially adopted to give maximum security as well as visual and acoustic privacy to the cikin gida.
FUNCTIONS OF GIDAN RUMFA.
Although traditional institutions now, do not have defined roles in the Nigerian Constitution, Gidan Rumfa continues to play Significant roles in different aspects as follows:
- A) Economic Roles: when properly utilized, Gidan Rumfa can be a great source of Revenue for the state. Its unique architectural design, its inhabitants’ dress code, and even language attract tourists and researchers. The economic benefit of the famous Kano Durbar cannot be overemphasized. The traditional tradesmen who are involved in the production and marketing of the materials used in the adornment of horses and horsemen, small-scale traders selling drinks, snacks, recharge cards, and other consumables during the Durba is of immense economic benefit.
- B) Religious roles: The Emir is regarded as Amir (Commander). He is therefore the supreme Religious leader of the emirate. Predominantly, Islam has been the religion of kano for centuries and has made Gidan Rumfa an important focal point for Religious activities such as the appointment of Imams, funeral prayers, Ramadan Annual lectures, etc.
- C) Socio-cultural Roles: Gidan Rumfa being the oldest and continuous seat of traditional authority in Nigeria and the largest traditional palace in sub-Saharan Africa (Nast, 1996), has in no small way placed kano in a good position. It attracts tourists, researchers, and visiting heads of state – including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England, Prince Charles of wales, US Presidents, and many other world leaders. Gidan Rumfa was once nominated to be on the world’s heritage list by UNESCO (Ahmad 2014).
Locally, Gidan Rumfa serves as a local court where people come on a daily basis, all with different complaints seeking intervention.
- D) Political roles: The Emir is the number one traditional ruler in the Emirate, it’s the center for the emirates administration; appointment of district heads, village heads, ward heads, and other traditional title holders and rulers; whose influence is to ensure security and peaceful coexistence.