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Niger

Characterized by the omnipresence of the desert, yet Niger is not only reserved to Saharan dunes lovers. In addition to its superb desert landscapes, this country has many surprises to offer to the visitors. High volcanic mountains punctuated by waterfalls dominating green oases and large shady avenues running though cities with superb traditional architecture will enchant you. Niger has multi ethnic population composed by proud desert nomads, skilful craftsmen, jewellers with magical powers and ethnic groups gifted with great aesthetic refinement.

 

Key Facts

  • Capital City: Niamey (666,000 inhabitants)
  • Language: French (official language), Hausa, Djerma
  • Time difference: GMT/UTC +1 hr.
  • Entry formalities: Visa is required
  • Electricity: 220 V, 50 Hz
  • Telephone: +227
  • Health: Yellow fever and cholera vaccines are mandatory

Money

Generalities: If you staying in camping or cheap hotels and shopping in local markets you won’t spend more than 10USD per day. If you stay in higher standards hotels well situated with A/C, and take your meals in restaurants you will spend around 30 USD daily. Finally, if you rent a room in a luxury hotel, and take meals in high end restaurants, plan on a daily budget of 100 USD

Currency:  CFA franc

Daily budget food

  • Economic budget : < 2 USD
  • Average budget : 2-6 USD
  • High budget : > 6 USD

Daily budget accommodation

  • Economic budget : < 9 USD
  • Average budget : 9-14 USD
  • High budget : > 14 USD

Best Time To Go & Climate

Best time to go:  Choose the coolest period (between November and February). You may suffer a little from dust winds during November, but most of the time they are bearable. During that time, you could visit W National Park (the biggest park of the country) which is closed during the rainy season. If you going visit the country during September, you will enjoy the Cure Salee (Festival of the Nomads)

Festivals and ceremonies: Curee Salee takes place just before the rainy season. Great moment of the Niger social life, this festival celebrates the transhumance of pastoralists with their herds towards salted waters and pastures near Ingall. During that period, wodaabé nomads celebrate the gerewol which is and annual courtship ritual competition (young men dressed in elaborate ornamentation and made up in traditional face painting gather in lines to dance and sing, vying for the attentions of marriageable young women). Gerewol takes places in September.

Climate:  Temperatures vary from hot to very hot. Average temperatures border on 30°C but often rise 50°C between March and June. During that period, the heat is so high that the rains evaporate before touching the ground. Temperatures become cooler from December to February and the Harmattan blows in general just before the rainy season. The rainy season lasts from June to October and can considerably disrupt road transport.

Must See

Niamey: The city developed during the last 20 years. The money earned through the exploitation of uranium in the beginning of the 1970’s was used to build many administrative buildings, tarmac the roads, and install lamp posts. The city did not lose the charm of its African atmosphere. During the evening, it is pleasant to sit outside and have a friendly chat with locals. Internet is widely available in Niamey but very less in Maradi, Zinder and Agadez. “Grand Marché” (Big Market) is one of the most impressive in West Africa. This colorful and vibrant site contains over 5000 stalls (1500 of which are enclosed). It is an awesome way to waste a little of time in the hot afternoon. You will be certainly tempted by the profusion of traditional articles: leather products, silver jewelry, clothing, traditional crafts, batik and sumptuous Djerma blankets wall hanging. It is worth visiting the National Museum of Niger.

W National Park: This park is one of the most interesting parks in West Africa. There are many wild animals such as lions, leopards, cheetah, hyenas, and wild dogs hunting their favorite preys: antelopes, duikers, baboons, birds, crocodiles, and elephants. The park is located at the south of the country. It is best to visit the park during the dry season (from March to May), when animals gather around water poles at dawn and afternoon. Park can be visited only by car. It is forbidden to visit the park on foot or motorbike because there are risks of wild beast’s attacks. Camping in the park is also forbidden. The only lodge in the park where you can spend the night will cost you 30 USD per night. It is much cheaper to camp to too far from the park entrance on the border of the river.

Agadez: With its sandy streets and Sundanese architecture houses, Agadez has a unique style. This city bordering the Sahara desert prospered during the medieval period thanks to caravans and caravanserais, slave trade and gold merchants. Agadez was in the midst of real growth when commercial trading started to decline in the beginning of the 19th century. During the following century, the populations of the city grew significantly when uranium deposits were discovered, and after the great droughts of the 70’s that devastated the Sahel region. You should visit the great mosque of Agadez renovated in 1844, which is magnificent monument of Soudanese architecture. If you like quiet places go hang out in the old quarter and admire Sudanese houses decorated with Haoussa patterns. Agadez is located 1023km north of Niamey.

Zinder: Ancient city of Niger, Zinder is the 2nd largest city of the country. Located between Agadez and Kano, Zinder was a very important commercial city in the 19th century. During that time, the magnificence of the Sultan’s Palace and its harem were coexisting side by side with the brutality and savagery of the slaves’ traders which were no strangers to the wealth of the Sultan. The city is divided into two distinct districts: Zengou in the north and Birnin in the south. Buses connect twice a week Niamey and Zinder, and bush taxis go every day. Zinder is located 909km from the capital.

The South: Located in a perimeter of about 200km, many cities in the south are worth a visit. Dosso is the seat of the Dosso kingdom, a Zarma chieftaincy which rose to dominate the entire Zarma region in Niger in pre-colonial Niger. The traditional ruler is called Zarmakoy or Djermakoy of Dosso. You can visit his palace only with an authorization. Dogondoutchi is a city located in the east of the Dosso Region of Niger. Dogondoutchi is a majority Hausa town on the northern edge of the savanna zone. 200 km further, the 4th larger city of the country, Tahoua is a stopover on the road connecting Niamey and Agadez. On Sundays, its market is frequented by a large crowd. Maradi is the third largest city in Niger and the administrative centre of Maradi Region. Maradi is the major transport trade and agricultural hub of Niger’s south central Hausa region. Attractions in Maradi include the Dan Kasswa Mosque, the Centre Artisanal (traditional handcrafts) in the Sonitan quartier and the Katsinawa Provincial Chief’s Palace.

Tenere Desert: Located 500km northeast of Agadez as the crow flies, the Tenere Desert covers more than 700km. The desert of the deserts is home to the most beautiful dunes of the Sahara Desert. Going east towards Bilma, you will discover the cemetery of dinosaur which fossils are scattered between the dunes over an area of 150km. In the middle of the desert the Djado Plateau holds remains of villages and rock paintings. After the oases of Kaouar Plateau and the villages of Balmi and Fachi you will witness superb landscapes expanding wide on open horizons. If you planning on visiting the Tenere Desert we advise you to make the trip with an experienced guide and you will have also the opportunity to discover the Aïr Mountains or Aïr Massif.

The Aïr Mountains Or Aïr Massif: In the south of Tenere desert, the Aïr Massif (the Land of the Tuaregs), marks the starting point of the caravans of salt. It’s the last stop in hospitable land before the absolute emptiness of the Tenere Desert. Very spectacular, the Aïr Massif has high black rocks topped by impressive peaks. There are also thermal sources in Tafadek, oases in Timia and Iferouane and extraordinary waterfalls just after Timia. The tallest massif of Aïr is located 1163km far from Niamey

Arlit: At the very north of the country, Arlit has been created from scratch by mining companies which were exploiting uranium deposits. The city was lifeless in the beginning but became more and more buoyant thanks to its very dynamic market. You can reach Arlit by bush taxi (1263km long distance)

Sports & Activities

Niger is an idyllic country for visiting and exploring. In the south, it is possible to cruise down the river on a pirogue. In the north, camel treks are organized around Agadez Mountains and the immense Tenere desert.

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