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Travel to Niger: colourful villages and lively markets

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile
Those who wish to travel to Niger will discover the Aïr Mountains and the sand of Ténéré, a south central region of the Sahara desert. An ethnically transitional country between Sahara and Black Africa, this country can be discovered in the company of Tuaregs and their dromedaries or in a 4x4 (which is becoming more and more frequent). In Niamey, on the banks of the Niger River you can enjoy pirogue (a type of flat bottomed boat) rides. The Sahelian bush gives an early taste of the landscapes of Black Africa. You will see the beautiful and colourful villages and lively markets - an excellent opportunity to discover the melting pot of different ethnicities.

Our Editorial team's advice

Staying in Niger requires good preliminary preparation such as information on security conditions, a guide on desert crossings and contacts with a local agency.
When visiting a mosque, adhere to the traditional protocols. Women are not admitted inside the mosque, and men have to cover their legs.
Finally, buy some sugar before leaving Agadez if you are heading for the desert as it is a gift much appreciated by the Tuaregs who will be hospitable in return.

pros

  • +The two faces of the Sahara: sand in the Ténéré and mountains in the Aïr.
  • +The kind and friendly population.

cons

  • -It is scorching hot almost all year.
  • -The political situation has improved but remains unstable and unpredictable.

Food

Do not come to Niger for the food. Even less so if you go into the desert, where you have to take your own supplies. Millet is cooked into every possible form: as pancakes, gruel or mixed with milk and sugar. In the north, the basic ingredients for most dishes are yoghurt, mutton and rice. Up until Agadez, you will find small places to eat in the villages. Those of you who will miss western-style food will have to wait until they reach Niamey, Agadez or Zinder to find restaurants offering rudimentary dishes such as omelette and steak. In other words, what matters in Niger is the scenery.

Souvenirs

Purchases will often be limited to your personal consumption needs on the spot. Large centres are well supplied, but at markets in the north you will only find a strict minimum. In Niamey, you will find magnificent fabrics, which tailors will be delighted to transform into any model of your choice. The capital city is specialized in gold and silver work, and you will find jewellers around the markets. It is best to wait until you are in the Aïr to buy Tuareg handicraft (jewels, swords, etc).