Niger is a landlocked country in Western Africa bordered by Nigeria, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Libya and Chad. The capital city of Niamey has a large Muslim population, making many mosques throughout the region worth a visit. Predominantly a country filled with deserts, namely the Sahara, Niger's inability to have water access makes it a rugged place to visit. For the few that travel there, several monuments are worth a stopover excursion.
The Emir's Palace in Kano was built in the 15th century on 33 acres of desert land by the Rumfa dynasty. The walls surrounding the palace go as high as 30 feet and as thick as 15 feet, making it tough to penetrate. The main entry gate is known as the Kofar Kudu, where legends tell the story of why the gate must remain sealed, so the Rumfa dynasty would remain in power. In 1806, they unsealed the gate, and the Rumfa dynasty immediately fell from power. The northernmost section of the palace is a public space known as Kofar Fatalwa, which remains in its 15th-century form.
In the heart of the Tenere Desert and next to the dunes of the Erg of Bilma lies the Kaouar Cliffs of Niger. Soaring to more than 300 feet in most sections, this escarpment provides easy access to groundwater for 10 different oases, an isolated area of vegetation in the Tenere Desert surrounded by natural springs. Traditionally known for salt and date production, the Kaouar Cliffs ran along the route of the great Bornu-to-Fezzan caravan trail, a main area of contact between Africa and the Mediterranean worlds until the 19th century. Today, the cliffs have been submitted to become a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Tuareg are a Berber nomadic people, and Agadez, one of the largest cities in Niger, is a traditional Tuareg city. The Agadez Mosque was originally built in 1515 but rebuilt in the same style in 1844. Jutting up from the middle of the city is a 100-foot clay formation reminiscent of the ancient Berber culture. Today the mosque is surrounded by markets. When first built, the mosque was designed to attract the Tuareg pastoral nomads. Today it is a center of Islamic studies. The current Sultan's Palace is just next to the mosque, and travelers can meet him on permission. The sultan climbs the mosque daily to do his "muezzins," which are prayers.
Article Written By Susanna Lo
Susanna Lo is an established writer, director and producer who won awards in The Berlin and Montreal film festivals. She is a member of PEN and WGA. Her parents worked for the airline and hotel industries and she's been traveling since infancy. Lo has lived in Europe, Asia, South America and North America and speaks five languages. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication.