Sahel, Where the Green Melts in the Desert.

Niger

by Edson Walker

I never thought of travelling to the Niger. In fact, I always wanted to visit Mali because of its music and history. In Bamako, someone from Timbuktu told me that it was safe to go there, even though the entire region was called “red zone” by the Western world. This was in September 2011. So, I made up my mind, got my Niger visa in my passport and went for an adventure. From Timbuktu I arrived in Gao by boat and from there took a bus to Niamey, the capital of Niger.

It was really hot at the bus station where I arrived and I had no idea were I was going to stay that night. The prices of the hotels around were too expensive for my budget but I finally got a room for one night in the Catholic Mission. There I met Erick, the friendly driver of the mission and asked him if I could pay to stay at his house. He said “of course” and I had a great experience living with his family in the suburbs of that dusty town.

From Niamey I travelled to the famous city of Agadez, where the army took my passport when entering the town and asked me to come to the main office to fill up the forms the next day. I hardly slept that night, because I thought there was trouble in the air. But as it turned out, it was just another case of “normal procedures” and I got my passport back.

Agadez was great but totally empty of tourists, which makes life there even more difficult for those who used to depend on their money. I saw ancient mosques, the camel market and Tuaregs walking with their big swords around their waists. I chatted and drank beers with many Nigerians, who waiting for the end of the war in Libya to finally finish the last part of the adventure of the European dream, since Libya was a country that needed to be crossed.

I received such great hospitality in Niger and met so many wise people. It was a great trip but sometimes hard to cope with all the poverty that seems to expand year after year as the desert takes over the green lands in the South.

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