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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.

Imouraren Site

Imouraren Site

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).

One of the two 5* (questionable) hotels in Niger at the time

One of the two 5* (questionable) hotels in Niger at the time

View of the Niger Delta

View of the Niger Delta

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!

Plane from Niamey to Imouraren

Plane from Niamey to Imouraren

Smallest plane I have been in...Between Niamey and Arlit

Smallest plane I have been in…Between Niamey and Arlit

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.

One of the many Military Patrol Vehicles we had at all times surround the site

One of the many Military Patrol Vehicles we had at all times surround the site

On arriving at the site, we had these cabins for accommodation and offices,

"Home" away from Home

“Home” away from Home

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…

Lunch on Camp

Lunch on Camp

Chilling with a Toureg

Chilling with a Toureg

Two of my Algerian Colleagues, Tarek and Houcine

Two of my Algerian Colleagues, Tarek and Houcine

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…

Young boy herding his donkey

Young boy herding his donkey

Camel Shepard arranging feeding time

Camel Shepard arranging feeding time

Family managing their cattle

Family managing their cattle

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Donkey soaking up one of the many water outlets that TSU provide around the area for the local community

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!

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Football in the middle of the Sahara…

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.

Gazelle eating the leftovers left out for the animal and the birds...

Gazelle eating the leftovers left out for the animal and the birds…

As you can see the mosques were very simple and natural structures which added the humbling experience of it all.

Everyday Mosques

Everyday Mosques

Friday Prayers

Friday Prayers

Friday Prayers

Friday Prayers

Man with the Sahara sand on his head from praying

Man with the Sahara sand on his head from praying

Toureg enroute to the mosque

Toureg enroute to the mosque

Nigerien's heading to the mosque

Nigerien’s heading to the mosque

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..

Enroute to the Airport

Enroute to the Airport

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!)

Shattered.com, on my way back to civilisation..

Shattered.com, on my way back to civilisation..

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 .

USA Cultural Centre, example of the influence of the US in West Niger.

USA Cultural Centre, example of the influence of the US in West Niger.

UN Headquarters in Niger

UN Headquarters in Niger

Though I felt very comfortable in Niger and settled in and could even pass as a local in white or black….

Toureg Wannabe

Toureg Wannabe

Toureg Wannabe

Toureg Wannabe

….there were just some things I refused to give a go and possibly make most people turn Vegetarian……

Time to go vegetarian?

Time to go vegetarian?

Hungry?

Hungry?

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