More on Niger

I sometimes feel guilty when I write something negative about a poor country. I’m supposed to be out here to help them and here I am publishing critical commentaries – reinforcing the stereotypes of poor, hopeless Africa. The people may be poor but they are also proud, so they don’t like foreigners focusing on their poverty. Hopefully I do also sometimes convey something of the vibrancy and the fascinating cultures of some of the places I visit.

The cultures that I would like to see in Niger are unfortunately some 1,000km away from the capital, and with the rebellion currently underway they are not in any case safe to visit. & unfortunately they are laying landmines so those areas may remain dangerous even when the conflict ends.

However I did manage to travel just a short distance north of Niamey on my first weekend here to spend a night at a little rural encampment next to the river. I love this river. It is so wide, and the waters flow so fast, yet the surface always seems calm and flat like a mirror so it always gives me a sense of rest and peace.

But I tore myself away from the yellow-headed bishops and pied kingfishers on the riverside to take advantage of a little tourist offering – an hour on a camel to the village of Boubon, a tour of the village, and a trip back along the river in a pirogue. I love riding camels, I find their rhythm very relaxing. The village is well-known for its pottery, and I spent a while watching a woman applying decorative patterns to a lovely big pot. She let me take her photo but unfortunately she didn’t have any of the wonderful facial family markings (tattoos and/or scars) that so many people still have in this region.

On the lovely relaxing journey back we saw a hippo.

What else? Well I also visited two museums – a tiny one in the town of Dosso, and the more famous one in Niamey. The latter had a surprisingly good fashion exhibition – a modern take on the traditional dress of Niger – and a detailed display on uranium mining which would probably have been fascinating had my French been a little better. Sadly the museum grounds also house a mini zoo. How people can imprison wild animals in tiny concrete cages is beyond me, and the sight of chimpanzees in cages smaller than my bathroom left me in tears.

But to get back to the positive note I was trying to maintain, I attach a photo here for the benefit of my Mum – not a great shot, but just to prove to her that I really am seeing kingfishers.

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