After driving a very long way from Mali, through the entire country of Burkina Faso, I finally arrived in Niamey and was expecting little from the visit as I have a buddy who served in the Peace Corps there for two years and didn’t speak too highly of it. Let me tell you that I don’t know how he did it-goodonya Charlie and by the way I did go to Ziggy’s and it was cool. Not that Niamey was so bad, it was actually much nicer and cleaner than I thought it would be and had a lovely setting on the Niger River. The simple fact was that it was just plain bland. I also spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to get out of Niger as well and that took away from my short time there anyway. Because of its isolation from major airlines and flights generally only leaving once a week along with the utter inability of Nigerien travel agents to get things accomplished-this made it difficult to get down to Ghana without a treacherous 3 day overland journey through Benin and Togo. I had had enough driving for a while so I decided to pay up and fly through Abidjan again and was forced to spend the night there and have finally arrived in Ghana. But back to Niamey…
The city is easily navigated on foot no matter where you are staying in the center and has a few restaurants and the hotels are generally the best places to eat, drink and meet up with other travelers and expats. I have to give credit to the spectacular view and setting from the terrace of the Grand Hotel in Niger which is the nicest hotel in town. I tried to get in there but they were shockingly sold out so I stayed at a place down the street called the Hotel Du Sahel.
It was a simple, normal place that was completely fine except for one thing, none of the rooms had toilets with toilet seats. Yes that is correct, an alleged 4 star hotel (or not) with no toilet seats. Lonely Planet mentioned in its last West Africa edition that the hotel was undergoing renovations in 2006 and should have toilet seats by the time you read this. However, three years later there were still no seats and no toilet seats in Africa is kind of annoying as you might imagine. Anyway, you make the best of it and again have a ‘this is Africa’ moment.
Other than that, there was a restaurant called Le Pelier that was an excellent Italian place that expats swear by and it was really good food but the portions were for midgets. I don’t mean to sound cynical (or make fun of midgets) about Niamey but if you’ve been traveling throughout West Africa for nearly a month then you’ve seen a lot of cities and pretty much eat the same food everyday trying to not get sick. Sometimes when there’s not much to offer you get a little cynical about them when all you really want is some good food with big American sized portions! Haha.
Anyway, Niger was actually pretty well set on paved roads and infrastructure and from what I heard about it, it was much better than I expected. The best sights are up in the north east of the country near Agadez and the Air Mountains. Those were over a 1000 kilometers away so I opted against it and decided to head South to Ghana, which I just arrived in and I already love it. More on that next time as I explore Accra and the Cape Coast beaches.