Consisting of mostly desert plains and dunes, Niger is a landlocked country bordered by Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, and Libya. As a former French colony that gained independence only in 1960, Niger’s taking baby steps in building its democratic state. It was only in 1993 that the country held its first free and open elections, but military coups capsized the country every now and then, finally taking power in 2009. For this, Niger seems to be always getting the bad shot from the public with the relentless Tuareg Rebellion and financially deficient state of the nation. But look beyond the bad shots and you’ll witness that Niger is home to a friendly and generous Muslim population willing to take you on a trip through the ancient cities until the depths of the Sahara dessert. Give Niger a shot.
What to see & do
In the capital and fairly modern city of Niamey, you can visit the Grand Mosquée, considered a gift to Niger from Qadafi. Part of the tour includes climbing the minaret to take pictures. While in the mosque, you have to know that you will pay three separate times: the first is a donation to support the upkeep of the mosque and their charitable activities, the second will be considered a small donation for the women’s room, and the last one would serve as a tip to the guide. Take note that the Grand Mosquée is not open around prayer time, and that women need to wear a head scarf. It would also be hard to miss in Niamey the Grande Marché, the largest market in Niger that sells fresh fruits and vegetables. Grande Marché offers a wide spectrum of objects, from retail goods, packaged foods, wholesale boxes of
imported goods, and hot, fresh meals. In the market, there is also a dedicated section devoted to handicrafts and traditional clothes.
You can also visit Maradi, a city in Southern Niger accessible through a three-hour land travel from the capital on Route National 1. The city reportedly has an airport but is being operated by the military government. You can reach Maradi by taking any major bus lines that serve the city. In Maradi, you can visit the impressive palace, located on a huge plaza on the west side of the city. Visually striking from the outside, the palace is actually a private home to the chief and his family, making the area exclusive. However, you can try charming your way in by making an appointment first, coupled with a traditional gift like the kola nuts just to watch the chief hold court,. Take note that you have to know or let someone educate you on the etiquette for encountering a Hausa traditional chief before trying to make your way in. For a more modern experience, you can let your craziness unfold at Party at the Mess, one of Maradi’s best-known dance clubs. A former dining room for a military base, the club is now booming with afrobeat and international pop and hip-hop selections. Getting into the club might be a bit pricey, but this is one of the closest things to a Western-style nightclub in a Muslim town. It’s worth the experience.
How to get around
From the airport, you can reach the city proper by taking a taxi or a bush taxi. You can simply walk out of the airport and head to the main road, the Route National 1, and simply flag down a bush taxi. If you want to reach other cities, simply take a bus that plies to major routes of the country.
How to get there
You can book a flight and reach Niger via Skyscanner, your online source for cheap flights and tickets. Niger has two international airports both situated in Niamey and Agadez. Of these, it is advisable to get into Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, since the level of violence has permeated through Agadez already. Diori Hamani International Airport is being served by airlines such as Air Côte d'Ivoire, Air Algérie, Air Burkina, Air France, ASKY Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Sénégal Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Westair Benin. Of the aforementioned airlines, major carriers include Air France, Ethiopian Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, and Turkish Airlines. The aforementioned airlines fly to destinations such as Abidjan, Algiers, Ouagadougou, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Addis Ababa, Lagos, Lomé, N'Djamena, Casablanca, Bamako, Dakar, Istanbul- Atatürk, and Cotonou.
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