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Niger
March 1992

My trip to Niger was a coincidence, meaning I didn't originally go there to see the country but to visit an Irish mate who had joined his Dutch girlfriend there. Before he left we said "why not celebrate my birthday in Niamey", so in March I headed for a country I knew nothing about except that the Swiss governement strongly suggested not to visit it at that time. (All the more reason for me to do just that!)

The trip was luxurious: From Abidjan to Niger there were about five Africans going home and me in a huge airplane. We had a party with the crew and more than enough space to take a nap.

It would turn out to be my most impressive trip. I spent only two weeks there, when I got back I was a different person. I won't be able to bring the reasons for that accross here, you best go and experience it yourself!

Niger is a country in the desert. When I was there the borders were closed due to the "Tuareg war". I spent most time in Niamey, the capital of Niger.

This may be one of the poorest countries but there is no chaos, it is very clean and real pretty. White people are scarce - the ones who live there are mostly involved in foreign aid projects yet there is no special attention to that. I was warmly welcomed like any guest.

Many houses are built with clay. They look real pretty although ofcourse they're very poor. In 1992 all foreigners lived with their suitcases packed and ready to leave yet I only once saw military in the city and the time I spent there was peaceful. It was illegal though to make photos in Niamey which is the reason why I only have a few. The owner of the bar which we went to every day after shopping (man on the right in picture) went out with my camera and made them for me. He came back and said, he managed to make 10 until he was stopped by a soldier who wondered where he got this camera from. But he brought it back safely and so we can enjoy these pictures.
 
This is my favourite picture. The lady looks as if she's only there to kill time looking pretty. Nothing shows how hard it is to make a living in Niamey.  

One day at the bar a young man asked me how many of those viscose blouses I have. "Two" I replied. "You can give me one then" he said calmly. He was right, actually.

Polio and it's consequences is visible everywhere. But when you see at what speed those people move about on the remaining parts of their bodies and how cheerful they are one is ashamed about our attitude to life and our constant discontent.

There is a big market where you can get absolutly everything you need for daily life but much prettier is the "petit marché", where they sell their wonderful leather-works as well as jewllery. One would say, this is a market for tourists but there were hardly any.

I met a senior Tuareg, a very traditional man.Via my friend Steve he made me a present of three leather bangles. Such a thing never happened before, said the Europeans who lived in Niamey. It was two worlds meeting up, a very special experience for me.

A German friend took me out of the city and through the desert where we were picked up by a boat on the Niger and taken to a little island, where one could have lunch. Oh yeah, the food in Niger is nice and spicey!
Break time for all. "Don't kiss" I was advised by my friend. Now WHY would I do that??
The house of my friends was beautiful, situated in a paradisiacal garden. Just like an oasis in the desert.
Swiss men could learn a lot from Africans, specially where equal rights on the labour market are concerned.
My hosts: Gaby and Steve
meeting two adventure-travellers ...

 


... learning: It can hit you anywhere in the world when you least expect it :-)

The guard dog to be needs help
My charming cigarette-supplier. Had it been up to him I would have smoked ten packs a day ;-)
 
Swimming in the Niger .... my favorite river ever since.

Watching teli in Niger? How's that?

 

On the day of my departure the entire city seemed to be informed. I went up to "my Tuareg" and shook his hand. It was probably an unusual sight (in the moslem society a woman does not shake a mans hand) but he took mine. Later I sent him a Swiss army knife and received - via Steve - an other parcel full of presents!!

It was lunch time when we drove to the airport and all shops were closed. But when we drove through the city, people waved good-bye to me everywhere. Niger is a country, that secured it's place in my heart.