Fondest memory: My fondest memory of Niger was the people, definitely. Everyone, from the vendor on the street right up to their Minister of Mines, who came for dinner with our delegation without anyone but his driver in tow... so laid back and chilled out. I liked it! Just wished I had more time to see it all.
Niamey: The Grand Mosquee
Favorite thing: On the outskirts of town is the Grand Mosque, one of the most fabulous modern times mosques I've seen.
The interior consists of two seperate main halls of marble and exquisitely decorated walls and ceilings; pillars covered with amazing patterns of little precious stones in the best tradition of Islamic art. The floor is covered with beautiful colourful carpets. All financed by Libyan Colonel Gaddafi.
The caretaker shows visitors around the main halls for a negotiable fee (ca. EUR 2) and you may be allowed to climb one of the minarets for a splendid view over town. Unfortunately I went there on a Friday, when hundreds of people gathered for the weekly prayer session, and so the minaret was out of limits.
To reach the Mosque just take a taxi, they are extremely affordable, and Niamey doesn't have the climate to walk longer distances....Related to:
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Niamey: visit the National Museum
Favorite thing: If you are in Niamey, a rather pleasant excursion is to the National Museum near the Kennedy Bridge. It is a nice, green area with several little houses that each has displays on a subject related to Niger.
From exhibitions on the uranium mining to displays of traditional dresses and dwellings of all tribes and from engravings of the time of the first inhabitants to the remains of the legendary Arbre du Tenere, which used to be an important marker in the Sahara and reputedly the last tree in an area of thousands of square kilometres of desert (a Libyan truckdriver hit it in 1972).
The Museum complex also has a depressive zoo on its grounds and gives room to hundreds of artists working here. Although in theory a good idea to give these people a chance to promote their products, in reality they annoyed me a bit, since I am not interested in things I cannot carry in my backpack. A dozen of those guys followed me throughout the museum grounds desperately seeking business.Related to:
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- Museum Visits
Niamey: Niger River and Kennedy Bridge
Favorite thing: Niamey is the capital of Niger mostly spread out on the east bank of the Niger river.
I found the city one of the more pleasant African capitals that I visited, despite its severe heat and visible poverty of many people.
I stayed here for 4 days, relaxing, downloading my photos (see under shopping), visiting the museum, the markets, strolling along the Niger river and across the impressive Kennedy Bridge.
This bridge, built in 1970 and financed by the USA (after discovery of uranium in the country), is the major connection with the West Bank and Burkina Faso. Observing the traffic here (a mix of luxury cars, buses, trucks, donkeycarts, dromedarians, pedestrians and whatever else thinkable...) is a major attraction in late afternoon or early morning!
Also you may rent a canoe and go for a sunset tour on Africa's 3rd largest river.Related to:
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Cure Salee festival
Favorite thing: An excellent and enjoyable opportunity way to encounter the rural people and nomads is the annual Cure Salee festival, when they gather to give the animals the salt cure and celebrate together for a week.
The main ,official, part of the festival lasts 3 days and takes place around Ingall, usually in the last weeks of September. The program includes beauty contests, camelraces, various music and dance performances, camelparades, and too many speeches, but most of all it is just amazing to hang around there!!
You can visit the Festival independently or organised.
For more on the Cure Salee check out my Ingal pageRelated to:
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Do not skip the markets!
Favorite thing: Where livestock breeding is most important in the most rural parts of Niger, along the ancient overland trade routes between the Arab world and Coastal Africa is trade a major means of income.
In Niamey and the major towns near the Nigerian border, the markets are rich and varied, the ones at the towns of Zinder and Maradi especially good examples. Great to wander around!!
On these busy markets you can find an interesting mix of people and goods from all over West and North Africa. Trade varies from local crafts products and crops, Libyan packed foodstuffs and Nigerian factory goods to beautiful fabrics (have your desert outfit made on the spot) and animals.
Unlike in other hot countries, the markets in Niger commonly do not start early (traders have often come from far). If you arrive at 8AM, you may be surprised to find the market is just starting up!Related to:
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Visit Timia or other amazing oases!
Favorite thing: Timia is such a very beautiful oasis in the Aiir Mountains! Green gardens full of datepalms and orange trees are surrounded here by spectacularly eroded bare mountains, wild lava fields and endless sand. Worth a visit only for its stunning location and its hospitable inhabitants!!
The main highlight however which is the main reason of most tourgourps to pass by here, is Timia’s cascade, a small waterfall in three stages with deep pools of fresh water! Not that impressive in terms of watervolume, but the whole scene seems to be just a wonder...and very refreshing after not being able to have a decent bath for several days!
Also you can visit the gardens and witness the precious farming methods (and enjoy the fruits).The former French Fort from where you can overlook the village and its surroundings is certainly worth the effort of a small climb uphill!
You may be able to organise a hiking tour in the mountains too, but think twice as the heat can be unbearable and there’s no vegetation! Better idea if you want to explore the area is too hire a camel, although this will not be easy to arrange in all seasons as the animals are used extensively in the gardens.
Other settlements regularly visited are Iferouane (check out Titti’s page!) and Tabelot , all take at least one day to reach.
Further away from Agadez, you can visit the traditional salt mining oasis of Bilma. This will take 3 weeks return by camel, otherwise you may save time to take a truck to Dirkou (main stopover on the way to Libya), and try to reach Bilma from there.
Check out my Timia Page for (much) moreRelated to:
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Tour the Aiir mountains and Tenere Desert
Favorite thing: From Agadez you can organise some great tours in the stunning Tenere Desert and the Aiir Mountains that are inhabited by the hospitable Tuareg people.
A tour by 4WD in the remote Aiir Mountains takes at least 5 days with a choice of circuits in which you visit say 2 or 3 interesting places. Typically an oasis such as Iferouane or Timia, an ancient site with ancient rock paintings or ruins and some special spots with amazing scenery.
If you want to see the famous dunes, some 300 meter high, however, you need to travel more remote, beyond the mountains to the Tenere Desert. Calculate at least 8 days.
Finally you can book yourself on a grand tour of 2 weeks, that involves a complete circuit around all known highlights in the region, including the salt mining village of Bilma and the ruined fortified cities on the Djado Plateau.
But do not underestimate these tours. Spending most of the day in the car in the daytime conditions of the desert is exhausting and in my opinion not really enjoyable!!
Alternatively, you can explore the region by camel as well. Of course you will see less so called highlights, but it is at least much more relaxing and approaches more the feel of real desert travel.
In Agadez are several tour operators, some of which you can contact through the internet.
I loved Zinder...
Favorite thing: I arrived in this town a bit annoyed by the heavy rains in Benin and exhausted from a 24 hour journey by local transport. All I wanted was a nice place to settle for a week or so. It turned out to be a perfect choice and the best introduction of Niger and the Sahel possible.
Some people in Zinder recall the stories of the last white travellers who stayed in town. It says it all: not many visit Zinder and those who did would say the same: people that appreciate interaction without any business purpose; who welcome you sincerely and try to help whatever they can.
While much of Agadez depends on the tourist business, Zinder is basically a market town, being on the junction to Nigeria, Niamey, Chad and Agadez / North Africa. Its huge and amazing market is possibly the best in Niger, still Zinder is as relaxed and hassleless as you could wish for.
As for activities, you may visit the Sultan’s Palace, a 17th century mud brick 2 storey building where you can negotiate a guided tour with the guards. Also don’t forget strolling through the friendly Old Quarters (possibly several times), with collections of mud brick houses along small alleys, many stunningly decorated in traditional Hausa style. But most of all: talk to people!
For more check out my Zinder page!Related to:
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The people of Niger
Favorite thing: I found the people of Niger, especially outside Niamey, really great!
Most people live in the South along the border with Nigeria and along the impressive Niger river. People in general are very hospitable and honest, as you would expect in a 85% (moderate) Muslim country.
In Northern rural areas, many families of Fulani and Tuareg tribes are nomadic, travelling with cattle southwards in dry season in search of food and water and returning during the wet season. They have their own identities by culture, language, way of dressing, traditions and the way they manage to survive. If you visit Tuareg communities, for sure you will be invited several times for a cup of strong Tuareg tea!
Approach is somewhat different in the capital Niamey (it's a big city..) and in major tourist spot Agadez (you may feel more like a customer than a guest).Related to:
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Favorite thing: Agadez is a town situated in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the Sahara Desert.
Tourism has become the main source of income here during the last few decennia. It’s not the camel caravans that pass here anymore, but the Sahara tourists coming from Algeria with well-prepared Landcruisers or so called overland trucks. They use Agadez as a base for tours in the Ténéré Desert and the Aïr Mountains with its attractive oases.
Still, while the most interesting places are outside Agadez, the town is reasonably fascinating in its own. The main market, the Old Quarter, the ancient clay mosque; if you consider the remoteness of Agadez and the barren land that surrounds it, it’s really incredible to witness the way people survived here for ages. Besides, Agadez has very good tourist facilities.
check out my Agadez page for moreRelated to:
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Favorite thing: It`s well worth to visit the southern part of Niger too. There you can`t find the stunnung desert scenes like in the north, as the area is more humid. But you will stumble acoss some nice willages like Dogondoutchi ao the pic and you will meet nice people like probably everywhere within NIger.Related to:
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To visit Niger without...
Favorite thing: To visit Niger without reaching Agadez and the edge of the Sahara beyond would be a shame. Beautiful country. Wonderful people. The nomadic Tuareg are faxcinating: Tall, proud, dignified; they epitomize the spirit of nomadic peoples everywhere in making this harsh land their own. An absolutely life-changing experience!
Fondest memory: My fondest memory of Niger is of sleeping in the dunes of the Tenere Desert (a part of the southern Sahara) and watching a sky full of the more stars than I ever would have believed. The peace and tranquility and other-worldliness of the desert and of my Tuareg companions left me forever changed.
Travel to the Air Massif and...
Favorite thing: Travel to the Air Massif and Tenere Desert. The Tenere is known for some of the most beautiful sand dunes in the Sahara. You'll need about 8 days and you'll spend most of the time camping.
Fondest memory: Being alone on sand dunes of 5 - 600-- feet, no one in sight.
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