Around Katsina 1966-68

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Katsina lies less than 30 miles from the border with Niger Republic. Traditionally, trade and cultural ties were to the north, even reaching across the Sahara. A sign outside the town gave mileage to Timbuktu, Gao, Sokoto, Algiers and more.


Photo courtesy of Ken Johnson, Nigeria XXV

Trips to some of these would have taken weeks in 1966, as routes in the Sahara were, in some places, just tracks marked with the occasional empty oil drum.

Camel trains led by Tuaregs still brought traditional goods from the north.


A Bit of History

According to legend, the seven original Hausa city-states (the Hausa Bakwai) were founded by the descendants of Bayajidda, an exiled prince from across the Sahara, and Magajiya Daurama, the Queen of Daura, who married him after he killed a snake which had been preventing the people from using the town well. In 1966 the well had a memorial plaque and could be visited.


More about Daura and its history is at

Katsina had been a center of learning for many years. , and this accounts for its choice for the first modern school in the North, on a site that became Katsina Teachers College (KTC). By 1966 there were the KTC, GSS Katsina (Government Secondary School) and the WTC (Womens Teachers College).

Most of the city's 13.5 mile wall was still intact in the late 60's.


Inside was the famous Gobarau Minaret, a ziggurat.


More recent photos and description at It appears from the modern photos that the spiral ziggurat feature is gone now.

The minaret was easily the tallest structure in town. Most compounds were single-story made of sun-dried brick, formed by hand into balls.


The mud came from pits, many of which were inside the city wall.



The Harmattan

In the winter, a fine dust blew in from the Sahara, covering everything and drying the skin, nose and eyeballs.


Katsina in the late 60's was still very traditional. Modern goods were appearing and some streets were paved. There was municipal water in many locations, including some houses, but water was still taken from hand-dug wells, as the water from pipes was subject to electrical outages. A "cold store" (meaning there was a freezer) opened in 1967. There was one gas station.


It was not unusual to see cotton being spun by hand into yarn and then woven into cloth. There were traditional dye pits to create indigo cloth.


Neighborhood merchants provided most necessities. This is Alhaji Dankwamma, a native of Zaria. His first price was always fair, and then he would add a handful of rice when he wrapped your purchase in newspaper.


Wood was cut in the bush outside town and brought in by villagers. It was not common to see Hausa women doing this.


The Katsina market was dwarfed by the Jibiya market to the north. Though Jibiya was a much smaller town, it lay on the border with Niger Republic, where the opportunities to avoid customs duties made for lots of business. Here is the parking lot at the Jibiya Market:


The Hausa text used in training had a little dialogue;

Ina kasuwa? (Where's the market?)

Wurin da ungulu su ke. (Where the vultures are.)


Vultures performed a great service and there was a stiff fine for killing one.

Ground nuts (peanuts) were hugely important, and at the end of the harvest the railhead in Kano had enormous pyramids of them. They were trucked from Katsina to Kano by lorry, as it was said the emir opposed bringing in the railroad with its attendant modern influences and outsiders.

This is the house of an obviously well-to-do person


Away from the main streets.


Many PCV's lived in government housing. There were two basic models, the "Cosely" and the "Matchbox". This is a Matchbox after one of the monsoon storms took the roof off.


Some volunteers received permission from the emir to live in town – this is a compound recently finished (note the screens) and owned by the emir's carpenter. There were six rooms opening onto a courtyard, and electricity and running water for parts of most days. Hard to fit in one photo.


Ken Johnson has included additional pictures taken in 1968 in Katsina among his Group XXV photos:

Modern Katsina

At the time of these photos (1966-68), Katsina was said to have about 50,000 people. Modern Katsina (2007) is said to have 460,000, so obviously a lot of other things have changed as well. More information is at

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