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Welcome to Niger

I'm a flight attendant.... And I must say Niger is one of the most striking places I've ever seen. It's a super-dirty, ultra-poor country but for those that can see beyond the dirt and poverty, and be open-minded and brave, it's a beautiful place. Especially for a cultural travel.

After a 13-hour shift, finally we arrive in Niamey. I knew NOTHING about Niger. So first I google things to do in Niamey, oh-uh, basically nothing. Just a mosque, a zoo which everyone tells to avoid, and a market. Yes, that’s it!

We head to the market first, my gosh! What a chaos! How dirty! How alien! Everybody stares at us as if they’ve never seen a tourist before. Indeed I couldn’t see any other tourists around. Children are lovely as they immediately approach to us and smile. Adults look a bit apprehensive first but once you chat to them they’re lovely too.

After the market, we head to the mosque. It’s quite funny to see a goat grazing in front of a mosque :D

Next day, I go out alone. I go to this zoo that I read about on the Internet. Apparently, it’s appalling. But what else can you do? The TripAdvisor list is finished already ☺ And yes, it is indeed the worst zoo I’ve ever seen. The cage conditions are so bad that it looks like a concentration camp rather than a zoo. I felt so so sorry for the poor animals.

The cages are extremely small, super-dirty with so much trash inside, and the foods the animals are given are already rotting. They look like they’ve not eaten for a long time. They all are skinny and with so many skin diseases and look like either they’ve lost the will to live or so stressed out that they keep doing the same things repetitively and quickly.

As if this isn’t heartbreaking enough, then I see a mother with her small boy whose right leg looks like burnt to the bone. In fact, the burn is so bad that there are huge chunks of flesh burnt to a frazzle, looking like pieces of coal, and hanging from the leg. Flies are sucking the juice from the open areas of the wound.

The boy can’t even stand up and when the mother tries to put him on the ground for a bit, he screams in pain. So she picks him up again. I calculate that I would have 500 Francs left after paying the taxi. So I just approach to her and give the money and take a few photos of the boy. We cannot communicate due to the language barrier but I still wonder what happened to that poor boy and what’s going to happen to him with no medical aid. Did you know that 1 in every 4 children in Niger die before reaching 10? ☹ And literacy rate is only 28%?

After the zoo, I take a walk around, I see so many craftsmen producing amazing products. I talk to them a bit, take photos and move on. Then I discover the entrance of a bazaar nearby. I go in, and I am even more astonished than yesterday. I thought the market yesterday was in bad condition, but compared to this, I think it was like a mall in Dubai, -so glamorous.

This bazaar is the most unhygienic place in the world. Live chickens are being sold right next to meat which itself is being sold with no refrigeration or protection from the flies or dust. Next to it, second-hand stuff seller whose products have been covered in dust and rust. Not just people but bicycles, wheelbarrows, donkeys etc are jostling through the crowd as well. People check out vegetables and fruit with their dirty hands and put them back on, then check out some rotten fish or meat or live chicken with the same hands.

As such, a mishmash of hundreds and hundreds of sellers next to each other in a chaotically crowded, tightly packed bazaar whose floor is just mud and dirt. I feel a little tense as I am surrounded by hundreds of black people in this crazy bazaar and they don’t like me taking photos around. I feel like I’m drawing too much attention as the only non-black person.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a racist or anything. If I were, I wouldn't throw myself into this bazaar. I am just saying that it feels tense to be the only different race and be stared at by all in a huge crowd :). So after going through the bazaar about 500m, I return. I flag a taxi and go back to the hotel to sleep a few hours before the flight back home.

Niger has a wide variety of ethnic groups as in most West African countries. So beautiful to see so many different traditional attires on the streets. Islam is the dominant religion.

Niamey, is the poorest place I’ve ever seen and there is nothing to do there but I am so glad I got a chance to see this part of the world, saw people struggling for every basic need but still dressed beautifully to enchant me, children whose smile just make me smile, adults who break their walls once talked to, food that would make you sick even at sight but people work hard to buy it, weather that’s boiling hot even in Mid December… and finally, It’s great to be reminded once more how privileged I am for all that I have and I had. Not a lot to many, but a dream for many others.

Follow me on Instagram: aydinarium

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