The Gidan Rumfa (sometimes called the “Gidan Sarki” which roughly translates to “Emir’s house”) is the palace of the Emir of Kano, which is located in the city of Kano in Kano State, Nigeria. The palace was constructed in the 15th century and named after Sarkin Kano Muhammad Rumfa who flourished between 1466 and 1499 and established the palace. The campus now covers 33 acres (130,000 square meter). It is a core component of the city of Kano and is regarded as one of the best-preserved examples of traditional Hausa architecture in Nigeria.
Since the reign of Rumfa, the palace has continued to be the residence of the traditional authority in Kano. It was retained by Fulani jihadists (led by Uthman dan Fodio) who took over traditional authority in Kano after defeating and capturing the city in early 19th century. During his time, Rumfa transformed the city of Kano. He was said to be have authored twelve innovations in Kano including the palace and the Kurmi market, according to the Kano Chronicle. Before the erection of the Gidan Rumfa, there was a palace whose south gate now serves as the passage from the Sarkin’s private courtyard to the royal graveyard.
Exterior wall is modestly decorated with shallow arched grooves.
Palace compound is surrounded by a wall of between 20 to 30 feet high from the outside and not more than 15 feet from the inside. Visitors and tourists have commented on the durability of the wall, which was said to have been 15 feet thick in some places. It is elongated inward and surmounted by rounded crenellations. Similar to the exteriors of the buildings inside the complex, the exterior wall is modestly decorated with shallow arched grooves traced in the mud plaster. The eleven-mile wall was once surrounded by a moat with a parapet bridge to the main south gate.
At the main entry gate of the compound is Kofar Kudu, which is located in the southern frontage of the wall. This gate has bronze detailing and is recessed from the line of the wall. Within the walls of the recession are studded loopholes, where a mantelet was hung in front of the gate. According to legends, this southern gate was sealed by Muhammad Rumfa in the 1480s soon after the completion of the palace. This was on the advice of the town’s official Islamic scholar (or malam) who prophesized that as long as the southern gate was sealed, the Rumfa dynasty would remain in power. Not until just before 1806 when the mantelet was supposedly removed that the Rumfa dynasty fell from power. The palace complex used to contain grazing areas for the royal cattle, and the dwellings of the palace retainers, public reception rooms, and the apartments of the Rumfa himself.
The contributions to the transformation of the Gidan Rumfa.
All the successors of Rumfa have in one way or another contributed to the transformation of the Gidan Rumfa, but some have made outstanding landmarks. Ibrahim Dabo (1819-1846) constructed Soron Mallam and Dakin Shekara, both of which are still relevant in the ascension procedures. Sarkin Kano Abdullahi Majekarofi built the Kofar Kudu Gate. Sarkin Kano Bello (1883-1893) constructed Soron Bello and the mosque at Kofar Kudu that was renovated by Sarkin Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero (1963-2014). Sarkin Kano Shehu (1919-1926) constructed Soron Shehu.
Sarkin Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero (1926-1953) introduced modern construction in the palace as he did in other public buildings. He constructed the famous Soron Ingila, which for eighty years remained the court where the emir receives guest. He also constructed Dogon Gida (Tall House, named because of its tall height) and Farin Gida (White House, which was constructed in the Garden of the Ostrich – “Shekar Jimina”) during his reign. Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Sanusi (1953-1963) constructed the Council Chamber and the Court House at Kofar Kudu in the palace. He also made another gate at the northern part of Gidan Rumfa known as Kofar Mota.
Muhammad Sanusi II chose the Andalusian styles of Islamic architecture.
He ascended the throne on June 8, 2014 and immediately realized that the palace needed to be modernized. Influenced by Andalusian styles of Islamic architecture, he ensured that most of the new structures are decorated with Islamic calligraphy and quotations that are similar to those at the Alhambra Palace of Andalusia. He reconstructed the residence of Hajiya Fulani Halima, the daughter of Sarkin Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero, in the Maghribean style befitting her status.
Kano Empire: Website