A little sightseeing in Kano

Okay, finally I safely arrived in Maiduguri – with my bag, nothing missing, nothing broken. And what do I have to report: Lazy me could not resist to take a day off after the long journey - roughly six or seven hours squashed into an old-ish van without air conditioning, four where three were originally meant to sit. But, this is my first chance to look at my notes from the last trip (they were in the bag) and everything I have read since, and I really thought that was a good idea before I run off to the university and make a fool of myself by confusing names and asking the same old questions I already got answered again. And, in any case, I think I used the time productively putting together a questionnaire I attend to distribute among the department’s students and began to put together the materials for the group interviews I want to follow the survey. Not sure, maybe I’ll post some of this at a later date … For now, as this is also kind of a travel diary meant for those who can’t follow my every move on facebook here a short anecdote to give you an idea of my last week in Kano, because, I wasn’t completely lazy:
I did some sight-seeing. Including climbing Dala Hill another time.

Dala Hill, I might need to explain, is generally regarded as the original site of the settlement that eventually developed into the town Kano. Unfortunately, nobody so far has actually carried out some proper archaeological survey and excavation, at least not that I know. – So, if some archaeologist not really knowing what to do next reads this: that might be a worthwhile thing to do!!! But I actually wanted to tell the story of my little trip there and I have to confess I rather went for the beautiful views over Kano then the history of Dala Hill.

Anyway, I was fortunate to secure a ride right to the foot of the hill with a nice Lebanese based in Kano, who, on a side-note, apparently also has some interest in local history and arts, and thus entered the site from the official entrance. On the left there was a little round hut but as I couldn’t see anyone I just made my way towards the staircase uphill. I passed through another gate and followed the pathway until the bottom of the stairs. Suddenly an elderly man turned up, shouting excitedly in Hausa and gesturing towards me. I know some Hausa, but this guy was just talking far to quickly for anybody to understand anything. And, anyway, upon me looking what’s going on he exclaimed: “Go ahead!!!” So, I shrugged and carried on upwards. But he continued running into my directing and shouting at me – so much now became clear. So I stopped again, looked at him, told him “I’m sorry, I don’t understand!?!” He answered: “Go Ahead!!!” So I did. And he got ever more excited. I had almost reached half-way up the hill. There on the stairs a young boy was sitting. He told me: “He’s talking to you.” So, I stopped again, looked towards the old man who was still running after me and yelling an ever quicker succession of Hausa sentences at me. And, I told him another time: “I don’t understand you!” Again he answered “Go Ahead!!!” But by that time he had already reached me and as he went off into another of his tirades as I turned to move on I decided to stay were I was. Turned out, or rather that’s what he claimed, he was the security guards of the site. Supposedly, I figured out from his talk, there are young boys on the top of the hill who just wait around to snatch the bags and cameras of innocent tourists and this probably 70 year old fellow was here to protect me against them! Now let’s not get distracted by the fact that I had been up there before and found the local kids to be rather charming then threatening, but that was probably just the stupid tourist I am not noticing the danger I was in. Anyway, thanks to him I made it safely up to the top where he proceeded to give me a tour, meaning, quickly stopping in every of the four main cardinal directions, shouting “Gidan Sarki”, “Kasuwar” etc. at me and off he was towards the staircase to get back down after not even five minutes. Well, that’s what I call a proper tour guide! That’s ironic. Had I followed him immediately I wouldn’t even had time to take one picture. So, I stayed and took my time. Which must have greatly annoyed him judging from the continuous “Madam, Madam, go down!” Well, mean as I was I also took my time on the way down and shot some more photos – Its not a big hill, but its from sandstone and has some rather picturesque formations with trees sprouting here and there. Anyway, in doing so I quite clearly endangered myself. My bodyguard even had to throw some stones after some ten year olds to demonstrate how important his presence was. Yeah, couldn’t have dealt with that on my own! But the best was still to come. Once, down he requested in no unclear tone I pay him 200 Naira for his services. Let’s be clear, that’s less than a pound but a quite a chunk of money in the local context. You can quite well eat out for this, some pounded yam, sauce with meat and vegetables and some drink. Apart from that, I had neither asked for nor required his services. So I offered him 50 Naira. Which he refused to accept. Then 100 Naira. Again, not enough. Instead he started into another of his tirades, explaining to some young Hausa fellow who had come along. Apparently, he told him what a wicked ungrateful person I was, having spent over an hour on the hill and now not being willing to reward him for his services. At the translation of which I almost exploded. I had spent a maximum of ten minutes up there, just the time it took to take five or six pictures and all the time had him harassing me to hurry up, not having asked of his services in the first place! And now I was wicked and ungrateful! Well, he was annoying me, about to spoil what had started as such a nice day, so I just threw the hundred Naira at him and left, no thanks, no greetings, nothing. Was that stingy and arrogant? Of course, 200 Naira is not much money in the British context. But am I really meant to encourage him to harass other tourists who come after me? There was no sign indicating a fee when I entered the site, he wasn’t even visible at this point and instead of being helpful in any way he just shouted and, I’m sure, insulted me, and even lied in order to get a third party’s sympathy when I wasn’t willing to pay the requested amount. No, I still hold that me being a tourist from the, I admit as much, far richer West does not justify his behaviour.

However, why do I put this here … well, on the one hand, the last few sentences, that’s my constant headache. Yes, compared to London its not expensive but does that mean I have to allow people to charge me double and triple of what locals pay?! On the other hand, Malam Ibrahim had a big laugh when I told him this little anecdote, so maybe you also find it amusing.

P.S. Finally, a few days belated: Here are some pics of Dala Hill.


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