Sallah

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The two main holidays in Hausa areas of the Northern Region are Id-el-Fitr and Id-el-Kabir. Id-el-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The two are known informally as "Sallah". more info

Katsina had a particularly elaborate Sallah and was often attended by expatriates from other cities and at least once in the late 60's, by John McConnell, the US Ambassador from Lagos, and members of his staff.

The ceremony began in the morning with prayers held in an open area along the Jibiya Road outside the city walls.

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Following the prayers, the men returned to town and others streamed in from every direction, heading for Kangiwa (the elephant's head) – the name of the the large parade ground in front of the Emir's Palace.

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The Emir arrived with a string of riderless white horses. These meant that, should his horse fall in battle, there would always be another.

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With the Emir positioned at the end of Kangiwa, wave after wave of horsemen would charge toward him, coming up short with their right hand held up, some with dirt falling from it, signifying "the earth is yours".

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Following the horsemen, groups of villagers and others who owed allegiance would come forth. This is believed to be a group of Fulani - the semi nomadic tribe who herded cattle but also had intermarried with the Hausa.

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In 1967, Budd Hall of Nigeria XVII received permission to pay his respects as well, being perhaps the first Bature (lit. European) to be allowed to do so. He rode "Archie", a camel he owned jointly with Gus Schlick, Nigeria V.

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The event was reported in The New Nigerian (clipping photo courtesy of Ken Johnson)

Big News - Bature Rides in Katsina Sallah
Big News - Bature Rides in Katsina Sallah


Following the renewals of allegiance to the Emir, civil servants and others went outside the walls to pay their respects to the Provincial Secretary in a ceremony that no doubt was of recent origin. There were brief speeches and a lot of milling around, but it was possible to get closer to things.

This is one of the Emir's bodyguards. He is wearing, according to an expert who saw the photo, an authentic coat of medieval chain mail.

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There were traditional musicians – these long horns were called kakaki, and, according to Bargery, were only blown before paramount chiefs. See Bargery's English-Hausa dictionary online at http://maguzawa.dyndns.ws/


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One of the students at GSS Katsina, Abdulmumini Kabir, is in the red coat. In this photo, he was a grandson of the Emir. On July 6, 2008, he became the 50th Emir of Katsina: [1]


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The next picture is modern. It shows Abdulmumini Kabir, as the current emir, in the central role at Sallah played by his father and grandfather before him.

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After the ceremonies, celebrations were held throughout the town, consisting of feasts which were shared as widely as possible. The wealthy were expected to provide as much as they could.

It was usually an evening of feasting for volunteers as well, especially if there were visitors and friends from other towns. It could be a challenge feeding a lot of expats. One solution was to roast a goat over an open pit. The pit could be dug, the fire tended, and the goat turned by hand on a spit for 6-8 hours, all for a very reasonable price. One of the biggest tasks was simply boiling enough water ahead of time to supply the visitors - In Katsina this literally was something we kept after off and on for a week!

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