The Mighty Kanem Borno Empire; El-Kanemi Dynasty!

The history of the Kanem Borno Empire dates back as far as the 18th century and will never be complete without tracing the unforgettable role played by the great Rabih of Sudan who came to invade and capture Kukawa. The dominant language is Kanuri also known as the Bare Bari; spoken by some of the people of Niger, Chad, Cameroun, and Libya; other spoken languages include ShuwaArab, Hausa, and Fulfulde. The lifestyle of the great people of Yerwa Fato is that of a very rich tradition, strictly religious with a tinge of culture; An agrarian community whose livelihood consists of farming, fishing, and animal husbandry. Borno state is a multi-religious state mostly 90% of her people are Muslims residing in the North, East, and West of the state whereby the Southern part of Borno state is predominantly Christians. Nowhere in the whole of Nigeria will you find a culture as rich, vibrant in diversity yet inclusive of other people’s norms, values, traditions, and religion with amazing historical artifacts, stories, and events as the El-Kanemi Empire. 

LEADERSHIP AND EDUCATION; The great Kanem Borno Empire is ruled by Emirs, Princes, and Princesses, Village heads, Wards-heads know as the Bulamas. Buildings in the villages are mostly made of mud houses with thatched raffia roofings, while the very rich Kanuri living in the city goes as far as importing building materials from other continents adorning their homes with rich marbles #Deribe family. Home decorations consist of beautiful and colorful rugs, raffia home crafts such as round weaved Kendai (round cute basket), Feifei, and raffia mats popularly called (Taburma or Biji) and every home has pet Cats as many as 10 Cats are found in some homes. The city of Borno is a great citadel of knowledge, students and scholars alike from all over the world visit Borno in search of Islamic knowledge and her rich culture. The people of Borno are lovers of education, traveling and canvassing regions, nations, and continents in search of Islamic education as young as age 3 a child is enrolled in a quranic school and will go as far as achieving the highest laurel in seeking western education, a very intelligent and resilient people in all they set out to achieve. Borno is a home of peace, people of real warmth and hospitality, accommodating, nice, friendly, unassuming, and easy-going people. The throne of the king of the El-Kanemi Dynasty popularly known as the Shehu Of Borno is absolutely by inheritance alone with the appointment and staff of office presented by the sitting Governor of the day; there is a graveyard within the palace courtyard where all the ancestors of the great empire were buried. The Shehu’s responsibility is aided by first-class Emirs and Princes of all the villages in Borno state.

FESTIVALS: Sallah celebrations and anniversaries; during such festivities, an expensive array of lavishly decorated Horses adorn in Golds and Silvers are on display to run the race of majesty called the Durbar a horse race at the Shehu’s palace, with important dignitaries from all over the country in attendance including invited Foreign Leaders. It is customary for the Royal Father the Shehu Of Borno to mount and ride his Stallion Horse first to signal the Durbar kick-off; participants must represent their community or village and the Rider must be a member of the royal family or a traditional title holder, the first place winner takes away winnings comprising of An Arabian Horse with full adornment, Cash, and a Golden Trophy. A special delicacy is served on such occasions called Denderu which is a delicious recipe of Ram slaughter for Sallah skinned, marinated in hot spices, and baked underground for a day until flaky soft, and juicy served with Senasir (rice pancakes), NDaleye(A sophisticated millet starch meal, cooked and mold into balls) served with rich vegetable soups and sauces with sweet tangy drinks called Charmani (Rice drink) spicy fruits juices, and tamarind drinks. The queen mother known as the Yaa’Mira plays significant roles during special occasions and festivities; The Queen mother is responsible for preparing a special meal to herald the beginning of the fasting days of Ramadan when Nobles and Notable dignitaries are invited to dine on varieties of the Kanuri cuisine called (Cika-Ciki; filled up) after which is generally accepted as a mark to begin the Ramadan fast on the following day. On the night of the dinner party after the sighting of the new crescent moon of Ramadan, the palace guards are instructed to fire gunshots formally informing everyone to begin the fasting and the same is repeated on the last day of Ramadan. Another notable and significant duty of the Royal Father The Shehu Of Borno is during the Eid-El-Kabir the feast of sacrifice, the Shehu must pray first and bless the Rams for sacrifice giving the go-ahead for citizens to perform the rites of the sacrifice. The Shehu beautifully dressed-up in his Kanuri regalia with a golden sword by his side seated on his throne in his beautifully decorated, well perfumed and colorful palace awaits his invited guests, the palace princes, and Emirs of the Kanem Borno Empire will then come into the presence of the Shehu of Borno to pay homage, walking in “shoeless” one after the other, kneels down or prostrate before the Shehu for his royal blessings and divine prayers. While the Shehus royal band plays on at the courtyard, a band popularly called GangaKura (large drum); and the trumpeter blows their very long trumpets all over with loud sounds vibrating in the winds sending out the message of peace and hope. Dancers mostly elderly women and the palace guards vibrantly dressed in multi-colored attires majestically dancing and swaying to the rhythms of the music while brandishing their long and shining swords in the air. On hearing the sounds of the GangaKura the populace will dress up to visit the palace to watch and be entertained. Religious worship during Maulud celebrations is headed by the Shehu and the Ulamas(Islamic Schoolers); The Shehu of Borno will then invites notable Islamic schoolers all over the World for the complete recitation of the Glorious Quran overnight, praises and salutations are recited to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); Which then marks the take-off of the Maulud-Nabiyy all over the State. A vital role of the Royal Father the Shehu of Borno is to settle rifts between disputing Villages and Towns; organize special prayer sessions for peace during security challenges and prayers for rainfall during droughts which are always so magical with immediate results of rainfalls before leaving the prayer grounds.

LIFESTYLES AND DRESSING: The traditional Kanuri mode of dressing from days of old is a beautiful, multi-colored embroidery hand-knitted, male styles are sewn into flowing gowns called Baban Riga, with a cap known as Zawaa commonly called Zanna and a turban but for the modern men of today the young men mostly prefer embroidered kaftan and slip-on shoes. The female style is called “Borno State” a knee-length blouse with wrapper and veil. The married females are dressed just like the Sudanese adorn in Laffaya popularly known as Saris, which is tied around the waist cross over the chest and the edge is daintily placed on the head or shoulder(Indians/Sudan). And then pieces of Gold or Silver jewelry and coral beads adorn to finish off the look. Kanuri female hairstyles are tiny hair weaving, intricately arrange perfectly on the scalp according to the pattern requested which design depends largely on the female marital status and educational qualifications. The young ladies dressed up in long gowns known as the hijabs and veils. HENNA is an important female beauty routine married or unmarried; to designed the palms and feet with flowery henna designs popularly called Lalle. A most for every female is a body treatment which consists of total body hair remover with sticky sugar mixture called Hallawa to make her skin silky smooth, a body perfume is rubbed all over her body known as the popular Humrah (a mixture of 5-10 designer perfumes mix together in a bottle for that unforgettable signature scent of the Kanuri lady). Perfumed Incense (Turaren wuta) consists of a combination of assorted musky fragrance gotten from musks, flower buds, branches, concentrated liquid scents in an airtight bottle stored for months to infused a unique scent, which when placed on hot red coals or incensed burner gives a sweet soothing smoke that perfumes the air, this perfume is found in every home.

MARRIAGE: Marriages are contracted mostly between families; giving the head of the household right to choose a wife for his son or a husband for the girl child. An agreed dowry is paid during the wedding Fatiha which depends on the affordability of the groom. Clothing materials and gifts are then exchanged between the two families. A wedding celebration can take as long as a week or just a day which depends on the family’s choice. The family set-up of the Kanuri is a polygamous home where the man of the house marries as many as four wives, with children and the extended families all living together in the same households. The Kanuri’s relish the grain meals such as rice, millet, corn, and guinea corn with vegetable soup and sauce. A special traditional dish of the Kanuri’s is Barbisco and Miyan Kuka; a steamed millet or rice meal just like couscous usually eaten together on a large tray consisting of 5-6 family members on each tray laden with food heaps, soup on top with meat, fish or other garnishings arrange all around the meal. Males eat separately from females. The man is the supreme head of the family having the first and final say on all family issues, the females are totally submissive to the head of the household.

THE KOLANUTS (GORO): A symbol of hospitality, friendship, and love by the Kanuri is the presentation of kola nuts to guests, and to get the love and acceptance of the Kanuri; give a gift of kola nuts. The kola nut raffia baskets are beautifully decorated with shells, old coins and filled to the brim with large red and white kola nuts kept moist in a wet bowl; sits noticeably in the center of most homes. The kola nuts play a very important role during celebrations. The groom must present the dowry of his bride with bags of kola nuts. At naming ceremonies kola nuts and sweets are brought to be shared amongst invited guests and family members; it is expected to often gift the elderly kola nuts. The Kolanuts completes any successful celebration and of course, it is a booming business in Borno State. Kanem Borno Oasis Of Islamic Knowledge; Welcome to the Home of History, Hope, and Hospitality!