Hotel Agreboun is the only budget option in town that hence attracts most backpackers, but besides the chance of meeting other travellers, it’s rather bad value.
Most rooms only contain a bed, are not especially clean and the fans are rarely working at full speed. At night it gets exceptionally hot inside the mud brick rooms and it’s hard to choose whether to open window and door thus inviting enormous quantities of insects, or to have a sleepless night in a terribly hot closed room.
The shared toilet and shower had broken locks and are filthy, as women seem to prefer to urinate in the shower rather than using the sit down toilet. With three boys – apparently staff – hanging around here all day, it’s hard to understand why things don’t look better.
At EUR 6/night, you would wish for better value, but there’s no other option in this price range. If you stay in Agreboun, it really pays to compare several rooms as standards vary greatly.
On the positive side, you can take drinkable water here from the tap and the area is safe and very pleasant.
For about EUR 15, you can have a very decent room with fan in the legendary Hotel ‘L Air or Hotel Ténéré, while their aircon rooms start at about EUR 25. These hotels are the main choice of tour groups.
The absolutely fantastic brand new Hotel de la Paix has everything that you could wish for (incl. swimming pool and watchtower – nice at sunset), but single rooms start at EUR 65/night and I thought it was a bit over the top if you regard the local living conditions.
There are 3 or 4 more hotels in Agadez to check out if you like. One of them is Hotel Tidene, which is only EUR 9/night and worth checking out (thanks "Titti" for the up to date info!).
Moto taxis take you to the hotels for about EUR 0,35 per ride.
The on the main road signposted tourist office in the Old Quarter is a private initiative. Its best quality is the rooftop with superb views over Agadez.
I went their to inform about independent travel in the region, but the friendly young man, educated and all but not well informed about the region, couldn’t give me any advice other than offering me a brochure from one of the most expensive tour operators in town.
Still, you can buy some postcards there, study detailed maps of the region and read some magazines and photo books. But the best of all is the rooftop, that offers brilliant views in all directions over the old parts of town. Just climb the stairs next to the entrance of the office.
Since Agadez has the region’s most important market it has quite a rich market visited by all kinds of people.
The main market is a good place to buy tailor made desert outfits if you plan to travel in the desert.
If you plan to visit remote villages, you may like to buy local tobacco, Tuareg tea or medicines here, which makes excellent gifts.
Also you will find a lot of delicious fruits, such as pomplemous (grapefruit), oranges, mandarins, pomegranates, mangos and grapes (depending on the season). Maybe surprising, but it all grows in the nearby oasis in the Air Mountains.
A big part of trade however is manufactured stuff imported from Libya or Nigeria, such as plastic stuff, prayer mats and radios (that are not especially cheap for local standards of course).
If you’re interested in crafts products like silver and leather ware you may like to take a look in the workshops around the market and the tourist hotels.
Finally, even if you’re not interested in buying, you may like to visit the colourful camel market, where you can also buy cows, goats and sheep, just 15 minutes away from the main market. Here you can see and meet traders from different tribes in traditional outfits.
To be honest, I didn’t bother much the main attractions in town, but I did visit the former residence of Sahara explorer Heinrich Barth.
The German Heinrich Barth travelled in the early1850’s from Tripoli to Lac Chad and was the first European to traverse the Air Mountains, Tuareg land, before arriving in Agadez. He resided here in October 1850.
The residence in the Old Quarter has a sign on the wall, but otherwise it’s impossible to find without asking for directions. The room where Heinrich lived has been converted to a small museum these days where you can see several original items from that time, as well as old maps that displays his route.
The caretaker of the house is one of the oldest men I’ve seen in Africa, reputedly over 90 years old (no he didn’t know Heinrich Barth personally). He is blind, but two rather uninviting women living in the house took care of opening the door of the room and negotiating the entrance fee (I gave 1000cfa = EUR 1,50), which must be considered very generous.
The Old Quarter is a fascinating maze of small sandy alleys and certainly worth a visit.
Some of the traditionally built century old mud brick houses have nicely decorated street facades, and you can sit down at one of the numerous small street stalls to enjoy tea and see the world (slowly) go by!
It’s pretty easy to get lost in this area; all houses and streets seem to look the same after a while. That’s why it’s best not to go here in the hottest hours of the day (11am-4pm), but in early morning or late afternoon, when the streets are busiest anyway.
Unlike in Zinder, you won’t be a novelty here; the people of these neighbourhoods are used to tourists wandering around and many of them don’t bother you until you start to raise your camera.
Perhaps the most striking, and certainly the most well-known structure in Niger is the 15th century clay mosque in Agadez.
The remarkable minaret is 27m tall and spiked with wooden sticks, according to Sudanese tradition. The mosque has been an important centre of Islamic teachings for ages and is still in use. You may like to climb the minaret for great views over town (not possible on Fridays) if you request and pay a good tip.
When you walk around the mosque you will see a unique three storey sand brick building, which is the Sultan’s Palace. Again, tours here are not formalised, but on request you may look around and meet the Sultan.
Agadez has large quantities of guides, wanna be guides and professional tour agents. Your choice should largely depend on reputation and recommendations.
As I came to Agadez in the off season and just a week before the cure salée festival, there were no other independent travellers to join for a trip into the Aïr Mountains and/or Ténéré Desert. So the hired 4WD option would be far too expensive.
Moreover I was not much fancy to take such a tour spending most of the days in a hot and cramped car just to see one so called highlight daily.
Instead I wanted to join an ordinary truck to the Oasis town called Timia, some 250 km in the Aïr Mountains, as I heard that a truck regularly went there to pick up and deliver market trade.
On the first evening I met Moussa Touboulou, a friendly Tuareg man, at his residence. At that time I had never heard of him, but then he showed me a box full of recommendations he had collected since he started guiding in 1966 (!). He showed me an excerpt from the Lonely Planet guidebooks too, that explicitly mentioned him as the one to take on your explorations. Besides that, I liked him immediately.
I was convinced and his fees were very reasonable, so I decided to take him as my companion on my way to Timia. He proposed an alternative way to reach Timia, by a combination of truck and camel. I liked that, although it included a lot of uncertainties and it was not sure that I was going to be back in time for the Festival.
To be short here, I had a fantastic time with him, he was a friend more than a guide and he seemed to know everyone even in the most remote places. I benefited so much from all that! In other words, I can really recommend Moussa, especially if you have low budget and want to organise “something different”!
*** All about this trip to Timia on my Timia page (u.c.) ***
Internet is still a novelty in Agadez and – if you’re lucky enough to connect to the server in Niamey, it’s expensive at EUR 0,27 / minute.
As far as I was aware, there are two outlets in Agadez. The worst of the two is the communication centre along the main street next to the Italian restaurant and opposite the Tunisian restaurant. They have one old computer from the 80’s and I didn’t hear of anyone getting connection there.
The more reliable choice is the communication centre near Hotel de la Paix (about EUR 0,50 by moto taxi from the centre). I used it once, had connection in one try and spent 10 minutes reading 5 messages on Yahoo, so reasonable value.