After the popularity of last weeks double edition of Take me back Tuesday. This Tuesday I decided to do another double today, this one will be about my time in Niger both in the Sahara and in the capital Niamey.
So lets start off with some context, around 3 Years ago I was living in Niger, mainly in the middle of the Sahara desert in a place called Imouraren near the town of Arlit. I was working for a french government joint venture, called TSU, it was comprised of the French companies Technip and Areva.
We would fly from Paris to Niamey for a few days and stay in the Grand Hotel Du Niger which was one of the few 5* hotels in Niamey (5* being a very loose description of the property).
We were told to be prepared to wake up in the middle of the night to set off the airport so no-one would be able to track us (I will get onto why this was an issue shortly). So we got to the plane by sunrise, and it was one of the smallest planes I have ever seen, let alone been on in my life!
Upon arriving in Niamey we were greeted with a full on military protection, as mentioned earlier, there was a kiddnaping of employees from the same company a year or so earlier (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11325749) so security was strict and needed.
On arriving at the site, we had these cabins for accommodation and offices,
On the site we had a canteen which we ate all three of our meals, the expats would tend to eat together and the locals would eat together. However as one of the few muslim expats, I managed to befriend a few of the locals as well…
Agriculture plays a big part of the lives of those living around Arlit and Imouraren, so whenever I went around the site or to see the local community I often came across many Shepard’s both young and old…
We also had our own gazelles on site which were fun to watch, although not the most friendly of animals…
On the camp there was a gym, a games room, a tv room and also a football pitch, where I managed to play almost every day. Although as you would expect, the African players were extremely talented and very physical so shin pads were a necessity!
The people I met in Niger in terms of religiousness were the most ‘muslim’ I have probably met, they were so peaceful, spiritual, honest, and pious but not in a boastful manner but more of a simplistic nature. They would avoid wasting water by washing themselves for prayer from a tiny cup, and all food that was not eaten or could be saved was put in a pile for the animals and birds to eat.
As you can see the mosques were very simple and natural structures which added the humbling experience of it all.
The below video is an example of the Friday sermon at the mosque in the native Toureg language
After a few months in the Sahara, me and some of my collogues returned to Niamey. As expected we had the full military protection all the way..
By the time I got on the plane, I was shattered and having not shaved for a few months, my beard had gone rather long (which was kind of fitting considering my next step in my career would be in Saudi Arabia!)
Whilst going around Niamey on my return I noticed the influence of NGO’s and large number of Embassies. As expected there was a large french influence, however I did not expect the large Chinese (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/world/africa/25niger.html?pagewanted=all) and American (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/drone-base-in-niger-gives-us-a-strategic-foothold-in-west-africa/2013/03/21/700ee8d0-9170-11e2-9c4d-798c073d7ec8_story.html) influence .
Though I felt very comfortable in Niger and settled in and could even pass as a local in white or black….
….there were just some things I refused to give a go and possibly make most people turn Vegetarian……
All in all a brilliant experience and one I would highly recommend to people, if not Niger just go to a remote location and experience new cultures and new experiences…
Walaikum Assalam/Au Revoir
Adieu, Adieu …Stormy