Travel Postcard: 48 hours in laid-back Niamey, Niger

Fri Oct 14, 2011 7:15am EDT
 
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By Bate Felix

NIAMEY (Reuters) - Nestled on the banks of the Niger River, Niamey stands at the crossroads of the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa with a population of nearly 1 million people who take pride in their city's reputation as one of the continent's most laid-back capitals.

Unlike the 32 dignitaries of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's regime who have sought refuge here but remain under surveillance with limited movement, you will be able to visit some of the panoramic countryside which surrounds Niamey, enjoy all the local cuisine on offer and hit the nightlife.

Due to kidnapping threats from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, several Western embassies have issued travel warnings limiting non-essential travel to Niger and visits outside the capital especially to the north of the country are forbidden.

But if you are a traveler with some experience in visiting difficult places, Reuters correspondents with local knowledge can help you get the most out of 48 hours in the usually relaxed and friendly city of Niamey with its tree-lined streets despite soaring temperatures.

Friday

5 p.m. Check into one of Niamey's fine hotels on the east bank of the Niger River with a view of river and the plains beyond. You have the choice between four-star accommodation -- the Gaweye or Grand hotel where prices range from about 65,000 CFA francs ($134) per night -- or a budget hotel such as the Sahel or Terminus further up the road for half that price.

6 p.m. Hire a local taxi for about 5,000 CFA francs an hour or 30,000 CFA francs per day and head out to the Kayergorou dune, about 20 km (12.43 miles) outside Niamey, on the west bank of the Niger.

Atop the dune, witness the magnificent orange afterglow as the sun sets on the horizon. If possible, pack a picnic basket with a bottle of bubbly to toast the sunset.   Continued...