Niamey is not choke-full of top sights, but one of the things not to be missed must be the National Museum. After buying my entrance ticket, I still think I will be out in an hour or so. A guy tells me that the exhibition halls will close in less than an hour. It turns out that the collection of the museum is actually housed in several separate pavilions constructed in Hausa style, blue and white paint with decorative elements on the outside. The exhibits turn out to be very interesting. There are utensils, weapons, clothes, and more on display from the various ethnic groups living in Niger: the Tuareg, Songay, Hausa, Fula, and more. There also is a giant cow skull. The next pavilion houses musical instruments, but is already closed, so I hurry to the next one, passing cages with animals on my way.
The pavilion about the history of the country turns out to be very interesting, and then I see the petrol section, a relatively new undertaking for the country, controlled by the Chinese. When I reach the uranium pavilion, it is already closed well ahead of the official closing time. I now turn to the animals, which I have only seen in passing before. I normally avoid zoos, and I am reminded again why. Not only does seeing the wild animals in their natural habitat not even compare to seeing the same animals in too small cages, but it mostly feels sad to see lions, birds of prey, hyenas, and many more animals in a minuscule cage where you know they need large areas to actually have a worthy life. Of course, for a large majority of local people it is perhaps the only occasion to see these animals for real: some of them don't live in Niger, while others would require an expedition to find. Seeing them for real hopefully fosters some concern about the species surviving in the first place. But still, seeing a crocodile covered in blue paint, the colour of the bars of his cage, inevitably leads to the question: is this poor croc constantly trying to escape?
Apart from the zoo section, there is an extremely interesting shack with the full skeleton of a dinosaur on display in the middle of the National Museum grounds. Right next to it: a crocodile; according to a drinks selling guy, taken recently from the Agadez region, but I strongly have the impression that this is also an ancient monster, like its neighbour. There is a building where a lot of artisans create and sell their crafts, and it is interesting to see how they work the silver, leather, cotton, and other materials to produce the souvenirs of Niger. I come back after a few hours to still see the uranium exhibition: Niger is one of the major uranium producing countries in the world, and I realize I know next to nothing about the chemical element. The information in the museum stops in 1984, and I wonder what has happened to the production and export of uranium, which used to contribute to over 30% of the GDP of Niger. Close by, I find the Arbre du Ténéré, the Ténéré Tree, which was considered the most isolated tree in the world, in northeast Niger, until 1973 when a drunk truck driver knocked it over, and its remains were transported to Niamey. Where it is now, it has its own small building protecting it against potential attacks.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from National Museum of Niger (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to National Museum of Niger.
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