Tourism & Communications
As in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, Niger is known for its distinctive Sahelian architecture, where buildings are constructed from mud.
Dominating the skyline
The 27-metre minaret of the Grand Mosque towers above the city of Agadez – see History & Politics. As with the other famous mud mosques, the impressive red building is studded with wooden stakes. These not only support the structure but provide necessary footholds for annual repairs.
Like the great mosques at Djenne and Timbuktu in Mali, the Grand Mosque in Agadez has an important status. The mosque is quite literally a focal point in the region as one of the tallest buildings for thousands of miles.
Preserving ancient texts
In 2004, Niger’s Institute of Human Sciences Research (IRSH) received a large grant to help with the preservation and maintenance of its collection of over 4,000 Islamic manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts date from the 14th and 15th centuries and help to reveal more about the early history and traditions of the Islamic faith in the region.
The city of Agadez is a key centre for the country’s long-established Islamic traditions, which were brought to Niger by Arab traders – see History & Politics.
Tourists come to experience the cultures of Niger’s welcoming peoples, particularly the unique and traditional ways of life among some of the nomadic communities.
Visitors often time their visits to coincide with festivals, such as the Cure Salée in September – see Festivals – or the Festival de l’ Aïr. This three-day event is organized by the Tuareg community and includes traditional celebrations and dance, camel races and markets for handicrafts.
Deserts and rock engravings
In 2009, 66,000 foreign visitors came to Niger (according to the World Tourism Organisation). However, unrest caused by Tuareg rebels in Mali and northern Niger has hurt the tourist industry.
As one of the poorest countries in the world, Niger does not attract large numbers of tourists. Many visitors come for reasons of business or as workers with international agencies.
However, adventurous types are drawn to Niger for its dramatic desert scenery. Adventure tourists join caravan trains led by nomadic peoples such as the Tuareg, to experience the wonder and isolation of spectacular desert locations.
On journeys into remote parts, visitors can examine rock engravings found across the country. Known as ‘rupestral art’ (drawings or carvings on rock or stone), these engravings can date back to Neolothic (or New Stone Age) times, from around 10,000BC.
A few examples of early rock engravings are housed in museums such as the National Museum of Niger. But most remain in situ, allowing visitors to see exactly where early man recorded his life on the rocks around him.