Prayer Mountain Hanwa – Zaria, Nigeria - Atlas Obscura

Prayer Mountain Hanwa

Zaria, Nigeria

This collection of Christian churches are nestled in the cracks of a rocky hill in Northern Nigeria. 


Nigeria is separated by the Christian South and Muslim North. The political structure of the north consists of seven influential Muslim Emirs and other religious leaders working in parallel with the government. 

Zaria, a large town in Kaduna state, is the seat of one of the seven Emirs. However, it also hosts a substantial migrant community from the south. This community is predominantly Christian, speak a different language, and face political and economic marginalization.

Without the land and funds to construct major churches, Zaria’s Christian community designed several hidden places of worship on the outskirts of town. Many are located along a rocky crag known as Prayer Mountain Hanwa.

From the top of the hill, a surprisingly diverse collection of religious spaces reveal themselves. These range from established brick churches and simple metal shacks, to caves spray-painted with crosses. Worshipers can be seen climbing the hill at any time of day. 

On a Sunday, the hill and community at its base reverberate religious music that creates a surreal feeling of being transported to the south of the country. The worshipers are very welcoming to the few out-of-town visitors who make it to this little-known region. They are more than happy to show visitors the magic they’ve created on this rocky hill. 

Know Before You Go

The location listed for "Prayer Mountain Hanwa" on Google Maps is correct. If coming from the main Kaduna-Kano road, turn right just before the Conoil Petrol Pump and the mountain will be clearly visible. Ask locals to point you to one of the many paths up. Come on a Sunday to experience the most activity and music. 

Finally, all travelers must be conscious of the current security situation in the Zaria area and Kaduna state as a whole before making this trip.

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October 12, 2020

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