Niger - There ARE things to see in Niamey

A scene of daily life in Niamey

Its one day after Christmas and I arrived at 2am in the night in the capital Niamey. Maybe not the typical Christmas idyllic place to be when thinking of Christmas, cause even getting a Christmas tree (or any tree at all) here can be a tricky thing here in the sub-Saharan Islam country Niger.

Research about traveling in Niger is not comprehensive or reflects actual circumstances. Almost all articles and information I found on the internet didn't really describe the situation for a tourist point of view, because there are not many tourists since the problems with terrorists arisen. But probably the lack of information only reflects the real situation regarding traveling, that even in 2019 there are still very few people coming here because of extended severe travel warnings from western countries.

Security wise, over the last half year I regularly checked the news about the country and there almost always was news about terror attacks, the Niger ambush and 100 million dollar drone airbases which are freshly built by the US army. So yes the media and internet mainly put headlines of a recent ambush on top, where US soldiers have been killed. I almost didn't find any good news and I was curious about this, is Niger really only terror and negativity?


Niamey Map:
Tourist things to see in Niamey




Tuesday, December 25 - Arriving in NIGER

From Casablanca to Niamey there were many French soldiers boarding the plane, all with their square sized beige backpacks. Because of them, normal passengers were taken off their hand luggage as there was lack of space in the cabin. As I only had hand luggage and no checked bag I had an annoying discussion with the airplane staff and luckily was allowed to take my cabin suitcase inside the plane. Didn’t want to arrive in Niger and wait an hour for my luggage in the middle of the night.

With the visa in the passport before arrival, it was no problem to get through immigration, Not one question was asked, stamp, entry granted. Didn’t expect that and also money exchange in the middle of the night with no queue, no problem at the airport. The best currency to bring is although Euro, however, USD is fine too. But in town, it's easier to exchange Euro.

There is no Uber in Niger



Friendly welcome

Asked a few taxi drivers outside the airport and they asked for a skyrocketing price. One person besides (a local from Niamey) overheard the demanded price of the taxi driver and told me I shouldn't care, he waits for his sister and daughter who were on the same plane and I can drive with them, as they live in the same direction. I told him I will give him something of course, but he said:

Listen, when you want to pay you should go somewhere else or take the taxi.


What is happening? They are in one of the top poorest countries, based on the ranking in 2018, and they wanted to give me a free ride even though I already had some money ready to hand over?! During the ride and after arriving at the hotel, I wanted to give them something again one more time, but they totally refused to accept it and even told me that if I need help, information or a ride to somewhere, I should call them. I didn't imagine this will be the first impression of this country. Very surprised!

While being in Niger I got asked a couple of times why I'm coming to Niger and if I am a soldier or something like that.

Welcome, but, why are you coming to Niger? Are you a soldier?

No, I'm not a soldier. Actually, somehow I expected to hear such questions. Asking whether I am a soldier working for the UN, whether I am a doctor or work for another organization. All the more positively surprised they were when I said that I am only a tourist and that I wanted to visit Niger, to see how it looks like and have my own picture about the country.




Wednesday, December 26 - Visiting tourist things in Niamey

Didn’t sleep many hours and went up early. Walked towards the different things to see in Niamey. The streets are all full of Sahara sand and the wind covers cleaned streets within a few minutes with new sand. Sidewalks are intentionally made of sand as it helps to keep cars and motorbikes on the road and not passing the line via the sandy difficult to drive sidewalks.

Niamey has sidewalks along the streets made of sand
Boulevard Mali BeroDaily life in the streets of NiameyThere is no christmas visible in Niger but shopping works fineWear big towels in NigerIn Niger is sand everyhwere. Some say its red because of bloodGovernment is upgrading the lights among the main streets in Niamey


How to pronounce NIGER?

Niger has a difficult name for a country to pronounce these days. Depending from which country one is and what language one speaks, it's not such a big issue but, for other languages, the name "Niger" can easily be misspelled or mispronounced and gets a completely different meaning. Niger people speak French (and other 11 local languages) and so in French, Niger its pronounced something like "Nyshair".

So whenever I had to speak the country's name, I also used the French pronunciation instead of English.


Visiting Niamey

My plan for the next two days was walking towards the many unique roundabouts, the Niamey Museum, Kennedy Bridge, the water towers, Grand Marché, Grand and Great Mosque.

In general there not many monuments in Niamey, but they built roundabouts and a lot of them compensate the issue because they look much better than many monuments.

Not many monuments in Niamey but big and unique Roundabouts
On the road Boulevard de la RepubliueBoulevard de la RepubiqueNiger bowls decorate the Streets of NiameyView when coming from the Niamey City HallLocated at the General Tax Office in NiameyIts supposed to be an Egg split in half



Some "green" spots

There are a few green spots in Niamey, although the water in there is surely not recommended to drink. People along the small creek are praying and when not praying, doing the "other" silent business.

This creek is against floods. Yes, its true, even tho Niger is mostly dry and hot, there is a season every year where huge floods completely destroy big parts of the country, especially Niamey is in danger every year.

Its supposed to protect against the floods
Niamey is devastaded every year by floodsA positive left over are the green spots in NiameyIndicator that also in this part of the world it sometimes rains well



Day against violence

While walking I passed by the sports area, the 29 Juliet area, and they had an event inside the main hall. It was the day of Nigerien women and against violence. Heard people singing inside and so took a look. They allowed me to get in and take photos and listen to the women singing on their stage. The big audience was sitting there, most of them women dressed in traditional or local dresses and clothes.

Wrestling competitions take part every week in this hall
Women are singing against violenceThere is lot of violence against women in Niger and today they fought against with singingAnti Violence against Women in Niger



Meat from the Museum

Not many restaurants around in Niamey to have clean food. Almost all food is sold outside directly from bbq's around the corner and the streets. The scenery in the street with markets isn’t the typical African market scene, its more quiet and ordinary and not so much hassle and stress and with lack of space.

But didn't want to risk getting sick already on the first day and kept walking until I found a proper restaurant for African standards. There are a only very few restaurants designed to cater to foreign people and such people working for organizations, but all a bit spread out and apart from each other. I continued until I was in the museum, as they also had a restaurant but they only had one meal. Bread and beef-skewers. Well, absolutely fine for me.

The museum itself is a open air museum and has a zoo with crocodiles, hippos and lions, goats and other African (or Nigerien) animals. The most important building it seemed was this blue white house. There are a few others like this.

Boubou Hama is the name of the area
Me in front of the Boubou HamaThe smaller Boubou Hama houseLooks like a covered BBQ grill insideMany students passed by and went praying in the grassA few of them inside the MuseumHippos inside the pool


Walked around towards my pins on google maps and more or less found everything I wanted to visit. There aren’t the typical architectural masterpieces but as in many other underdeveloped countries, it’s the scenery with unlimited different factors that make every place unique to visit. And so it was in Niamey, including its people. Very friendly and interested people, greeting along the streets and no hassle at all.

Busy with many people
Typical scenery in the alleys of NiameyBSIC building in the backgroundLocals selling souvenirs



Among of the hottest countries on earth

Walking was not even uncomfortable any time during the day. Especially in the night, I had to turn off the air-condition and as soon the sun goes down it gets a bit freezing.

Compared to the south pacific, this is very comfortable here. And I'm saying this coming from central Europe where it is deep winter time with around zero degrees.

Due to climate change however Niger is one of the hottest countries in the world and even tho it is in the center of the Africa heat, Niamey, however, wasn't that hot as I expected. There almost always a nice breeze. But probably it is a recovery season. Recent years the was a severe drought these years and the food was scarce. With such a disaster scenario it's getting difficult for locals as being one of the poorest countries, it's almost impossible to buy food.

Entrance to the Grand Marché.
At the Boulevard du 15 Avril
The sun makes the streets more redGrand Marche is near the Grand MosqueMost women in Niger wear burkas, hijab or niqabs



Great Mosque

The biggest and most impressing building which is open for public in Niamey is the Great Mosque and not far from the Grand Marché. However, it's a bit confusing as there is a Mosque called Grand Mosque which also nearby and based on who gets asked along the street they point in one or the other direction.

Located at the Islam Avenue, its the biggest mosque in Niger
Upon demand he shows the whole mosque in detailThe grande mosquéeStands in the middle of a sandy area


Friendly Nigeriens? Friendly Nigeriens!

In the afternoon I went for a coffee but as they didn't have coffee I ordered an ice cold coke. However, as I had to pay upfront, I figured out I had no more money in the pocket. I wanted to bring the coke back in the freezer but she stopped me and said I should keep it, its fine, I can give what I have. Another moment when I realized that these people are not what we always think of when we read the internet or watch the news. These people try really hard to change their reputation of all being terrorists and bad people. These people are the poorest people on earth but that doesn't stop them for helping out and give presents. Well, I returned the next day and paid for the coke as I felt I cannot just go along and exploit.

But... the north of Niamey is not so friendly

Now its dark outside and I'm back in the hotel, whereas while writing I'm hearing gunshots from far away. Just reminds me that this country is indeed having terrorist threats and even the country seems to be peaceful, it's dangerous to underestimate the threat and blindly leave the secure cities. Along with travel warnings, and based on discussions with soldiers here in Niamey, I wouldn’t even think of trying to move outside of Niamey towards the north.



Thursday, December 27 - Two days in Niamey

To find out what else is a good idea to do in Niamey I was at the tourist information. Yes unbelievable but its up and running in the center of Niamey. However, they only speak French and there is almost zero written information in form of brochures in the tourist information. Also, they didn't support my idea to go visit some part of the desert just outside of Niamey.

Only a few flyers from hotels are lying around. But no maps brochures available or tour operators contact offering their business. They told me:

These days we have on average about 5 people coming her per week to visit the information center.

Well, summarized I felt a bit sorry for them. But on the other hand I think its a good idea to keep the business open, its an indicator that they are willing to cater tourists, even the security situation seems, doesn't allow it these days.

Continued to walk the streets.
Along the streets its convenient to dry clothes
Random street in the center of NiameyThe chief of the Niger Press Office showed me around in the officeWith the mining headquarter in the background


After visiting almost all places I pinned down on google maps,  I was trying to figure out what else I can do as a tourist in Niger under the given geographical travel restrictions.

Good method for transport
Relaxing in the shadowIn front of Niger TelecomMe in the front of the tourism office



The police is my tourist information

Talked to a few police officers which are plenty all over Niamey along the roads. All told me its strictly not recommended for unaccompanied tourists or visitor leaving Niamey, except when not having some kind of business need or security assistance. They said the city Zinder is normally fine and secure to visit but all other places definitely not good to go.

They explained how difficult it is for the Niger army to keep the country safe, as they have to protect a border with 2000km in length to bordering countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Libya, Chad, which are all under terror surveillance by itself. So yes, protecting a distance of 2000km in length is not easy. So I understand them, they don't want that a tourist disappears and then they have to run after the kidnappers or search for a stupid tourist who didn't follow the security guidelines. However, one more time I had the feeling that the travel advice, in general, are a bit too exaggerated for many places in Africa (yes I know its because nothing happened, but…). It's stated that all travel to Niger has to be avoided and everyone who is there should leave as fast as possible and as long they can. I would understand if it would be outside some specific regions, for example outside Niamey. But, C'MON, not the WHOLE Niger.

I spent now a few days in Niamey and I found it fine. Not once I felt unsafe or threatened or saw something suspicious. Instead, I found that these people try their best to comfort foreigners and visitors. Even taxi drivers are probably among the friendliest taxi drivers on the planet, which is something to be proud of. However, as often the danger isn't visible until it unveils out of a sudden.

The police told that it's absolutely no problem going to the south of Niamey. Unlike the Nile river, the Niger river is clear and not wasted with shit like the Nile.

One of two bridges to cross the River
Along the kennedy bridge in NiameyIn the background is the capital Also contains Hippos a few km from the bridge away


Went on the south side of Niamey, across the Niger River. There are massive water towers visible from many kilometers away.

On the south side, across the Kennedy bridge
Rue du ChinoiseThere is lot of rain in Niger but only for a specific seasonIn traditional clothes in daily lifeNiger had a Dinosour named NigersaurusGreen and blue house in the centerScenery of daily working day in Niamey


Today also I realized I forgot some parts and so spent time visiting the area again with some of their cool roundabouts and then after that there was really not much more I could have visited. Some parts of the street were completely blocked by soldiers.

Especially they make it not so easy to get in and out of Niamey, whereas the focus is more of difficulty getting in Niamey. There are major checkpoints at the borders to the city Niamey.

Impressive Roundabouts in Niamey
Just another example of interesting ArchitectureWalking on the street with good over the headWith nice paintings and souvenirs



Leaving to the Ivory Coast


Now I'm at the airport of Niamey (Diori Hamani International Airport) and wait for the flight to the Ivory Coast. Not much amenities available here at Niamey airport but I didn't expect a lot anyway.

What most surprises me again and again in specific several airports, not just here in Niger, that they do not care about bottles with fluids. Also here I brought two water bottles of 0.5 liters and the officers didn’t worry at all.





4 comments:

  1. Enjoyed the read and the photos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great blog. Truly enjoyed it...

    ReplyDelete
  3. truly lovely post! i am considering a vacation to niger, and you really helped me out. thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for the detailed review.

    ReplyDelete

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