Niger & Chad

24 December 2016

Near Niamey, Niger, washing clothes on the bank of the big Niger River.

Just visited Niger then Chad, two large African neighbors with lots in common:

  • Both are francophone former colonies of France.

  • Both are landlocked and big, each twice Texas or France.

  • Both ought to be avoided, claim travel safety advisories by UK and US governments.

  • Both have the Sahara in the north, then sahal savanna toward the more tropical south.

  • Both are mostly Muslim but with significant Christian minorities.

  • Both have low literacy rates (only about one-third).

  • Despite natural wealth, both are poor, suffering from kleptocracies.

My visits focused on Niamey in Niger and N'Djamena in Chad. Each is the capital and largest city as well as supposedly less dangerous areas these days.

Kids with a big guy
Niger (top): Boys with hippo at the small zoo.
Chad: Friendly kids from a private Muslim school; eventually each one took a selfie with me. They sure did not have the extreme phobia of photos by and with foreigners that is apparently widespread here.
Advantage: Chad.  In my small sample, people I met in Chad were more friendly.

Grand Mosque
Niger (top): Handsome design with beautiful minaret. Welcomed visitors too.
Chad: Modern dull look. Driver feared my being seen photographing it.
Advantage: Niger.

River view from my hotel
Niger (top): Niger River had a pretty, swampy, shallow bank by my high hotel.
Chad: The hotel was nicer but the Chari River view was less interesting.
Advantage: Niger.

National Museum
Niger (top): This one room is the National Museum of Niger.
Chad: This view shows about one-fourth of Chad's National Museum.
Advantage: Neither. Chad's was larger but mostly pots and paleontology.

Niger (top):  Nice guy, pictured here at the so-called "Grand Hotel."

Chad: Personable chap, good English, good conversationalist, played Gospel music. Says he had predicted Trump's victory to incredulous US visitors and shocked them more by saying he kind of likes Trump. We are here in front of the main cathedral now undergoing reconstruction.

Advantage: Chad.

Grand Marché
Niger (top): Niamey's big market had the classic labyrinth of alleys lined with stalls.
Chad: Taboo for me to take photos anywhere in N'Djamena's sprawling market.
Advantage: Niger.

Traditional transport
Only twice did I see traditional modes amid all the less photogenic cars and bikes.
Niger (left):  Donkey cart
Chad: Camels
Advantage: Tie. 

Favorite "curious" building:
Niger (top):  These traditional huts were on display in the museum/zoo area.
Chad:  Huge new US embassy will open soon. At least it has a little bit more character than the boring, bland boxes the US is erecting elsewhere.
Advantage: Niger.

Chad's government raked in considerable oil money for a few years (until the recent collapse in prices) and actually used some of the revenue to build infrastructure. N'Djamena has newly paved roads and, among other things, this National square.

Niger (top): This pink sunset shines down on the Niger River.
Chad: Higher in the sky the sun gave a golden cast to the Chari River. 
Advantage: Tie.

Overall, while I'm glad I had the chance to explore Niamey, I enjoyed my days in N'Djamena more. As is often the case in travel, the scales were tipped by the people I happened to have encountered.

Onward now to return to Sri Lanka...