Capital | Niamey
Population | 16,468,886 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 1,267,000 SQ KM
Official Language | French
Holidays | Republic Day, 18 December (1958); note - commemorates the founding of the Republic of Niger which predated independence from France in 1960.
Currency | Communaute Financiere Africaine Franc (XOF)
Time Zone | UTC +1
Best Time to Visit | November to February, when it’s cooler.
Connecting with the Culture | Exploring the labyrinthine old mud-brick quarters of Zinder and Agadez. Enjoying the bustle and colour of Zinder’s weekly market. Searching for wildlife in Parc National du W. Hearing the stories of Tuareg around the campfire or beneath the rock art of the Aïr Mountains. Watching the sun set over the mighty Niger River from a pirogue in Niamey. Seeking out the silent gravitas of deserted villages and vast sand dunes of the Ténéré Desert and Djado Plateau in the Sahara.
Read | In Sorcery’s Shadow: A Memoir of Apprenticeship Among the Songhay of Niger by Paul Stoller—a very readable, often humorous, and detailed account of his fieldwork among the Songhay of Niger.
Listen | to the impassioned vocals and masterful musicianship of Yacouba Moumouni in his album Alatoumi.
Watch | The Sheltering Sky, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, which was filmed in Niger.
Eat | dates, yoghurt, rice, mutton, rice with sauce, couscous and ragout
Drink | tea or a Flag beer
In a Word | Bonjour (hello)
Characteristics | Desert nomads; camels; uranium mining; dinosaur bones; the Tuareg; the Fulani.
Surprises | There are five principal tribal groups: the Hausa, Songhaï-Djerma, Wodaabe, Tuareg and Kanouri; camel racing is a favorite Tuareg sport.