Niger is a landlocked country in Africa, bordered by seven countries: Libya, Chad, Mali, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Benin. A sub-Saharan country, it contains a fascinating landscape comprising dunes, deserts, hills and uplands. The general climate in Niger is sub-tropical, though southern areas tend to be more tropical. Devastating droughts occur frequently, since rainfall is minimal and the only permanent water source is the Niger River. This country is one of the hottest in the world, with temperatures ranging from around 31ºC (in August) to 41ºC (in April). Nights are cooler, with an average temperature of less than 20ºC from November to February.
Niger is known for Agadez, its largest city, with architectural sites such as Kaocen Palace, and Agadez Sultan’s Palace. The city also has a lively market where craftspeople sell jewellery and leather items. The Grande Mosque at Agadez, built from mud and bricks, is uniquely beautiful and offers a lovely view from its roof. Niger is home to the 300.000-hectare W National Park, situated between savannah and forest land and known for its rich biodiversity, and the Kouré Giraffe Reserve, where visitors can learn more about this fascinating animal.
Niger has been inhabited by various civilisations, many of which date back thousands of years. Niger was once an important trading post for powerful African empires such as the Bornu, Mali, Fulani and Songhai peoples. In more recent times, nomadic Tuaregs formed confederations in Niger, coming to arms with the Fulani Empire in the 18th century. In the 19th century, Europeans made their first appearance in the area, in search of the mouth of the Niger River. Some of the most famous explorers to make a mark on Niger include Mungo Park (from Britain) and Heinrich Barth (from Germany). The French colonised the country in 1922 and it was not until 1960 that Niger became an independent country. Niger is considered to be one of the poorest countries in Africa, owing to many years of civil war, military coups and famine.
Plant life in Niger varies according to location. The arid desert gives way to grasslands, then trees such as mahogany, baobab, acacia and palms. The edges of the desert, meanwhile, are bordered by olive bushes. Along the banks of the Niger River, vossia cuspidata grows in abundance, surviving occasional flooding. On the shore, there are eight species of mangrove trees.
Some of the rarest and most beautiful animal species call Niger home, including the addax antelope, of which there are less than 300 in existence. Other stunning animals include the African elephant, Saharan cheetah and Niger giraffe. Fearsome hippopotami and crocodiles, meanwhile, rule the banks of the Niger River. African lions survive well in the Niger River delta, as do Preuss’ monkeys, which are known for their non-prehensile tail. The imposing west African manatee, meanwhile, is under threat of extinction, owing to climatic change and the activities of poachers. Some manatees an still be seen in the waters of Niger’s coastal interface.
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