Trip to Niger, a country to be discovered
Niger has always been on our list of countries to discover because the lands of the Sahel are a powerful attraction for us, as they are synonymous with nomadic cultures and hospitality. Being no stranger to the latest news about Niger, nor to its delicate situation, we have made a prospective trip in October 2023 and we are finally in a position to bet on this destination and take on its challenges. Today we present a fascinating trip to Niger.
Why Niger? This vast country, located in the Sahel strip, has a fantastic cultural richness and we would like to invite you to discover it:
- The Gerewol festival of the Fulani (Peul) people of Niger, which a few decades ago was one of the most coveted trips for photographers.
- Agadez, one of the most important cities in the Sahel, a crossroads for caravans and nomadic groups and World Heritage.
- The cities of southern Niger and their imposing architectural tradition in the Sahelian style: Zinder, Maradi, Yamaa, Bouza.
- The arid landscape of the Sahel, dotted with villages where granaries and agricultural activity mingle with nomadic groups.
- The Bori ceremony of the animist Hausa, a trance and possession ritual, will undoubtedly be another highlight of this trip to Niger.
Agadez, the pearl of the Sahara
Agadez was once frequented by tourists, and an essential stop for the organisers of the famous Paris-Dakar rally. Long before that, the famous explorer Heinrich Barth came here in the 1850s and you can still visit the house where he stayed.
At the crossroads of the salt caravans that crossed the Sahara, a link between the Maghreb and Black Africa, its old town built in adobe has been a World Heritage Site since 2013 and should not be missed on our trip to Niger.
In addition to walking through its streets and discovering its great mosque, we can go to the central market and livestock market to learn about Tuareg society, and delight in the handicrafts of jewellery, leather and wooden objects that are so characteristic of this ethnic group.
Gerewol of Niger
From Agadez we will head to the transhumance region where the Bororo celebrate their Gerewol festival. We will visit their camps, observe how they prepare their make-up and how they dance, both during the day and at night.
These will be intense days camping in the Sahel and living with this fascinating ethnic group at one of the most special times of the year for them.
At Kumakonda we have been travelling to the Gerewol festival in Chad for years, but this trip to Niger may be even more spectacular. If you don’t know the Bororo and their Gerewol festival, we invite you to read this article about the Wodaabe of Chad.
Southern cities: Zinder, Maradi, Bouza and spectacular Yamaa
The Sultanate of Zinder is the most important sultanate in Niger. So much so that it still holds a not inconsiderable share of power. The sultan’s representative must be present for any transaction in the region, whether it is for the acquisition of land or other property, or for taking office.
Zinder, also known as Damagaram and a World Heritage Site, has a rich architectural heritage and is said to have some of the most beautiful architecture of the Middle Ages, although it is little known. The palaces whose facades are decorated with intricate engravings and symbols stand out. We will discover their significance with our local guide. Some of the mosques have won the prestigious Agha Khan prize for architecture.
Maradi is another must-see city on this trip to Niger. Here we will attend a Bori ceremony in which the followers enter into a trance and are possessed by the spirits of the pantheon of this religion. We can assure you that we were impressed by the prospecting trip. You can read more about our experience in our blog article.
Our route continues through desert landscapes with rocky massifs to Bouza, a mud village perched on a hill, and then Yamaa, one of the great surprises of our exploration of Niger. Known as “the city of 33 mosques”, it is a spectacular sight.
These days will be spent visiting sultans’ palaces, Hausa villages with adobe granaries, markets where the nomadic Fulani and Tuareg people meet, the plateau of Damergou and the Aderbissante plain, the gateway to the Ténéré desert.
The end of the trip will be in Niamey, where, depending on the time we have available, we will be able to navigate the Niger River by pinaza and go to meet fishing villages. If we are lucky, we will see hippos, elephants and flocks of migratory birds.
We can’t imagine a better introduction to a country as vast as it is fascinating. If you like the Sahara and the Sahel, don’t hesitate, this trip to Niger is for you!