The Emir´s court

Hausa Kingdom


The Emir´s court

The Emir of Katsina in North Nigeria exhibits his royal persona in a spectacular cavalry display called the Sallah. Occurring annually, at the end of Ramadan (the Muslim month of ritual fasting) the Sallah ceremony sees over 200 horsemen in glorious regalia parading before a crowd of thousands of loyal subjects.

Riding richly caparisoned horses, the Emir’s court of Hausa and Fulani chiefs features cavaliers in flowing gowns and bodyguards in chain mail parading along a historic route in Katsina city that links the sacred space of the mosque’s communal prayer ground and the secular space of the palace. Towering over the throng, the Emir and his court in their spectacular livery affirm themselves as being above and beyond the reach of ordinary men, a show of authority dating back to the 15th Century. The route he follows symbolises his dual role as the supreme religious and political leader of the Emirate.

In northern and central Nigeria richly dressed horses are an integral part of state and religious celebrations, reflecting the great equestrian traditions of the Kanem-Bornu empire. Horses are honoured both as status symbols and for their historical contribution to the city’s economic prosperity through both regional and trans-Saharan trade.

The Sallah celebrations consist of two events separated by a period of two months. The Eid-el-Fitr Sallah (shown in these images) is held on the first day of the Islamic month of Shawal. It directly follows Ramandan, starting after the communal prayers that break the fast. The Eid-el-Kabir Sallah (also known as Baba or “big” Sallah) occurs before the start of the pilgrimage season to Mecca. Both are celebrated for two days with an equestrian procession and many ram sacrifices which are performed throughout the city.