Niamey, the capital of Niger, is a lively, fairly modern city. Niamey lies on the banks of the Niger River in the Tillaberi region in the far southwest of Niger.
It is the administrative, cultural and economic hub and hence generally offers good facilities for travellers, both budget and upmarket. Niamey offers unique open-air markets that are great for people watching—they’re patronized by members of the Tuareg Sonuri and Fulani tribes, as well as wrestling, one of the finest museums in Africa and the massive Grand Mosque.
|TIME ZONE :||WAT (UTC+1)|
|LANGUAGE :||French (official), Hausa, Djerma|
|RELIGION :||Muslim 80%, other (includes indigenous beliefs and Christian) 20%|
|AREA :||239.30 km2 (92.39 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||207 m (679 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||13°31′17″N 02°06′19″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 50.40%
• Female: 49.60%
|ETHNIC :||Haoussa 55.4%, Djerma Sonrai 21%, Tuareg 9.3%, Peuhl 8.5%, Kanouri Manga 4.7%, other 1.2%|
|AREA CODE :||20|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+227|
Attractions in the city include the Niger National Museum, incorporating a zoo, a museum of vernacular architecture, a craft centre, and exhibits including dinosaur skeletons and the Tree of Ténéré.
There are also American, French and Nigerien cultural centres, seven major market centers including the large Niamey Grand Market, a traditional wrestling arena and a horse track.
The official (but very small) tourist office is located on the west side Ave. du Président Henry Luebke (Tel. 73 24 47) just north of Place de la Fraternité on the same block as the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (visa extensions). Be sure, also, to check out the Niger Ministry of Tourisme (in French), which lists local tour operators [WWW]. InfosNiger.com (also in French) has a list of Niamey tour operators here and the embassy of Niger in Canada has some good tourism info.
Niamey was probably founded in the eighteenth century, but was of little importance to most of the country until the French developed a colonial post in the 1890s. This rapidly grew into an important centre. In 1926 it became the capital of Niger, and the population gradually increased, from about 3,000 in 1930 to around 30,000 in 1960.
The period from 1970 to 1988 was one in which the economy of Niger boomed, driven by revenue from the uranium mines at Arlit. In this period, the population of Niamey grew from 108,000 to 398,365 inhabitants. The city expanded from 1,367 hectares (3,380 acres) in 1970 to 4,400 hectares (11,000 acres) by 1977, in the process annexing peripheral villages such as Lazaret.
By some estimates the population had reached 800,000 in 2000. In 2011, government press estimated the total urban population at over 1.5 million. A major cause of the increase has been in migration for work and during droughts, as well a high population growth. This last factor means a majority of the city's citizens are youths.
The climate is hot semi-arid with an expected rainfall of between 500 mm (20 in) and 750 mm (30 in) a year, mostly beginning with a few storms in May, then transitioning to a rainy season, usually lasting from sometime in June to early September, when the rains taper off rather quickly.
Most of the rainfall is from late June to mid-August. There is practically no rain from mid-October to April.
Niamey is remarkably hot throughout the year. In fact, it is one of the hottest major cities on the planet. Average monthly high temperatures reach 38 °C (100 °F) four months out of the year and in no month do average high temperatures fall below 32 °C (90 °F).
During the dry season, particularly from November through February, nights are generally cool. Average nighttime lows between November and February range from 14–18 °C (57–64 °F).
Covering an area of over 250 km2 (97 sq mi), the metropolitan area sits atop two plateaus reaching 218 m (715 ft) in altitude, bisected by the Niger River. At Niamey, the river, running almost straight SSE from Gao, makes a series of wide bends. The city was founded on the east ("left bank") of the river as it meanders from a west to east flow to run almost directly south. A series of marshy islands begin at Niamey and extend south in the river.
Niamey is divided into 5 communes, 44 districts and 99 Quarters.
The city is divided by the Niger River, which is spanned only by the Kennedy Bridge. The southern side is entirely residential, with the exception of the university by the river (Gamkalle area), and of no interest to tourists. The northern side spreads out in all directions from the bridge. The limits of the "downtown" area seem to be Blv. de l'Indépendence and (further from the river) Blv. Mali Bero. Radiating from the "Place des Martyrs" at the end of the bridge:
- Going left (northwest, Avenue François Mitterrand), you will head past the Hotel Gaweye and Palais du Congrès towards the areas known as Plateau/Issa Beri/Château 1 (Un) which are where the majority of governmental buildings, embassies (most along Rue des Ambassades), and upscale housing can be found. If you turn right at Place des Nations Unis, head straight through Place de la République, and reach Blv. de l'Indépendance, you will see the stadium to the right (opposite Place des Forces Démocratiques).
- Going straight (northeast, Rue de Gaweye/Commerce/Kalley), you will head past the Assemblée Nationale (by Place de la Concorde) towards the Grand Marché. If you head around the GM, you will pass through the areas of Abidjan where the Grande Mosquée (at Place de la Grade Prière), Police, & Centre Culturel Oumarou Ganda are locaed. After Boulevard Mali Bero, you enter the "Dan Gao" area.
- To the East (follow Rue du 1er Pont, Rue du Grand Hôtel, Ave. de l'Amitié) you will find the Nouveau Marché area, then heading NE along Ave. de L'oua/l'Entente you will pass through Sabon Gari & Poudrière areas (the Wadata handicrafts centre is at Blv. Mali Bero). If you continue straight along Ave. de l'Amitié through the Place de la Bienvenue, you will pass the race course and the road becomes Rue de l'Aéroport and leads past the airport and towards Koure
- Going right (southeast, Rue de 1er Pont then Corniche Gamkalley), you will pass the Grand Hôtel and enter the Terminus and the Gamkalle Sebangaye areas.
There are few traffic lights. There are numerous roundabouts where traffic from several directions merge; these are known as "Place _____" and are chaotic during rush hour but calm most other times of the day. A few notable roundabouts are: "Place des Martyrs", "Place de la Concorde", "Place de la République", and "Place Mandela".
Road names change frequently. Names generally stick with a road for only a few blocks. A straight road a 3-4km long might have 5 or 6 sections known by different names. For example, the road which passes over the Kennedy Bridge is known as "Blvd de l'Université" on the south side, "Pont Président Kennedy" over the bridge, "Rue de Gaweye" after Place des Martyrs, "Rue du Commerce" for a couple blocks, then "Rue de Kalley" until it ends at the Grand Marché. And it's length through all those name changes? Barely 2km!
Internet (Slow) modem and satellite connection. Wi-Fi is emerging in the city and can already be purchased on a 'pay as you go' basis with scratch-off cards in the better hotels and in the city center.
Post/Courrier The main post office is located on Rue de la Poste halfway between the Place de la Concorde/Assemble National and Place Monteil. DHL Express is located on Boulevard de la Liberte.
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