Kankan (Mandingo: Kánkàn; N’ko: ߞߊ߲ߞߊ߲߫) is a city located in eastern Guinea, about 555 kilometers (345 miles) east of the national capital Conakry. It is the largest city in Guinea in terms of land area and the third largest in population, with a population of 198,013 people as of 2020. Kankan is the capital and largest town of the Kankan Prefecture and of the Kankan Region. The population is largely from the Mande ethnic group. The Kankan region now has more than 6,167,904 inhabitants (2021), making it the most populous region in Guinea. The region has five (5) prefectures (Kankan, Kérouané, Kouroussa, Mandiana and Siguiri), 53 sub-prefectures, 5 urban communes, 53 rural communes, 878 arrondissements, 68 neighborhoods and 1864 sectors.
Kankan has a rich history that dates back to the 18th century when it was founded by the Soninke people. It became an important trading center, particularly for kola nuts, and the capital of the Baté Empire. The town had a population of 6,000 inhabitants and was an important commercial center with a market held three times a week. Instead of having a surrounding mud wall, the town was defended by quickset hedges. The chief of the town refused René Caillié permission to travel along the river to the north as the town of Kankan was fighting for control of the Bouré gold producing area around Siguiri and the Tinkisso River. Instead, Caillié left the town heading east in the direction of Minignan in the Ivory Coast.
Kankan has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen climate classification Aw). The city is located on the Milo River, a tributary of the Niger River. Kankan is home to the Kankan Airport and a river port. It is the terminus of the light-duty narrow gauge railway from Conakry (traffic suspended since 1993). The N1 highway connects the city with Nzerekore in the south.
Kankan is a city that is rich in culture and history. The population is largely from the Mande ethnic group, and their language is widely spoken throughout the city. Among the places of worship, they are predominantly Muslim mosques. There are also Christian churches and temples: Roman Catholic Diocese of Kankan (Catholic Church), Église Protestante Évangélique de Guinée (Alliance World Fellowship), Assemblies of God.
The Julius Nyerere University of Kankan was founded in 1964. The city is also known for its mouthwatering local cuisine, which includes dishes such as rice with peanut sauce, grilled fish, and yassa chicken. Kankan is a city that is often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbors, but it is a hidden gem that boasts a rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and a vibrant culture. Whether you are interested in exploring the city’s history, trying out the local cuisine, or simply soaking up the atmosphere, Kankan is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.