Niger is situated in the Western region of Africa bordered by 7 countries. It has an area of 1.267 million sq. km making it almost twice as large as the State of Texas in the U.S. Out of the total area only 300 sq. m is water and 80% of the whole country is covered by the Sahara desert.
1. It is one of few landlocked countries in the world
Out of 195 countries in the world, the Republic of Niger is considered a landlocked country in the West African region. Landlocked countries are those that are totally surrounded by land and do not have direct access to any world ocean. There can be rivers or other bodies of water running inside the country but all of the borders around it are land-based. Libya and Algeria borders the north, Nigeria and Benin to the south, Mali and Burkina Faso to the west, and Chad to the east.
2. Niger is one of the world’s poorest country
With a GNI per capita of $990 (est.2018), it is ranked 4th in the list of the poorest in the world. It has a population of 22,772,361 (July 2020 est.) with around 49% below the poverty line. The high birth rate each year is playing a huge part in its slow economic progress. The bigger the family, the harder it is to put food on the table. They rely mostly on agricultural farming as they lack access to maritime trading. However, its frequent climate shocks would result to crop failures.
3. Niger is pronounced as “Nee-Zher”
The country’s name came from Africa’s third longest river, Niger River. It was derived from their Ancient language phrase “gher or gheren”, which means river among rivers. It is often mispronounced as “Nay-Jur”. The correct pronunciation is “Nee-Zher” with emphasis on the second syllable, a fun fact about Niger.
4. It has earned the title, “The Frying Pan in the World”
Niger has one of the hottest and driest weathers in the world. While it is not considered the hottest country, averaging from 31.11°C (88°F) and 41.11°C (106°F), it can experience an unpredictable extreme climate change. In 2010, it recorded one of the highest temperatures on earth with 48.2°C (118.8°F). Raindrops were known to have evaporated before it hit the ground. That too much heat along with an arid, desert environment earned them the title, “The Frying Pan in the World.”
5. Niger is home to the Air and Tenere Natural Reserves, one of the largest protected areas in the world
The reserve is on the Saharan region with an estimated area of 7,736,000 hectares. It boasts of breathtaking landscapes, extensive array of plant species, and wild animals including endangered ones like Addax, Cheetah, Gazelle, and Oryx. A fun fact about Niger is that this reserve was declared as a World Heritage Site in 1991 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
6. Its capital is Niamey
When Niger won its independence from the French colonial rule, Niamey officially became its capital. It is the largest city in the country and lies in the east bank of the Niger River. It is the administrative and economic center of the country. With a predominantly Muslim population, the Grand Mosque of Niamey with a 171-step minaret is a popular tourist attraction in the city.
7. Niger has the largest animal petroglyphs or natural rock carvings in the world
Two towering giraffes and other rock carvings or petroglyphs were discovered in Dabous region in Niger. Christian Dupuy was the first to have recorded the “Dabous Giraffes” in 1987. However, it was David Coulson’s documentation through his several photographic expeditions that attracted the attention of known archeologists. The bigger of the two towering giraffes is about 18 feet tall which made them the largest in animal rock carvings in the world.
8. It is the Gateway to Sahara
Agadez is the largest region in Niger that was once dubbed as the “Gateway to Sahara” during the 15th and 16th centuries. It played an important role in the Trans-Sahara caravan trade, as it is located within the crossroads of North-South and East-West trading routes in the desert. The region was divided into 11 quarters with palaces and houses made of mudbrick. One of the tallest mudbrick minarets in the world can be found there. The earthen dwellings are still intact up to this day and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared it as a World Heritage Site in 2013, an interesting fact about Niger.
Many tourists flocked this part of Niger in the past, making it one of the most visited areas in the country. However, when rebellion broke out in 2007, the people stopped coming. There was a peace agreement but terrorism became rampant in the years after, and today, it is one of the most dangerous places in the country.
9. Niger has endured seven republics and four military regimes since gaining independence from the French in 1958
It was not easy for the people of Niger to create stability just like any other country fresh from a colonial rule. Niger became an autonomous republic in 1958 but was only completely free from France after declaring full independence in 1960. At first, it was peaceful until the early 1970s. However, each time the country encountered economic difficulties and political reforms were not implemented well, a new leader was installed bringing in a new constitution. From the day they acquired their independence up to this day, Niger had gone through seven republics and four military regimes.
10. Cure Salée is its largest traditional festival
The “Cure Salée” also known as “Festival of the Nomads” is a yearly traditional event in Niger at the end of the rainy season. It is also the largest festival in the country where Nigeriens go to the salt pools to prepare their cattle for the coming dry season. It is also believed to be medicinal. The festival also features a spectacular beauty pageant but not of women but of men, a fun fact about Niger. A group of young men will compete for the attention of the husband-seeking women. This is where the men would put on traditional costumes along with fancy makeup and show their skills. Officially, it is a 3-day festival but the celebration continues for a week as long as there are still nomads around.
Archeologists have discovered evidences that humans lived in what is now known as Niger as far back as 60,000 years ago. The Sahara Desert back then was wetter. There was vegetation and animal presence was abundant. Drastic climate changes through the years whether through natural disasters or manmade interventions made it difficult for Nigeriens to prosper. It does not help that Islamic militant groups are destroying what little political and economic stability they have today.
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