Sunsets in Niamey were predictably beautiful, particularly in the months following the rainy season before so much dust obscured the atmosphere that the sun could lose itself in the haze. The near-desert air, tinged with sand particles, and cloud-free in the absence of reliable moisture, gave warm orange dusks while the sun itself showed its true colours as an orb of burning gas melting into the horizon.
The Niger River runs north-south through the city, with the bulk of Niamey on the east bank, from where several vantage points gave stunning aspects of the sun going down behind the river itself. From atop the hill on which was perched the Grande Hotel, we would sit with dew-drops wrapped around our cold beers and nibble on barbecued meat on an open poolside deck watching the sun slip behind a low rise of plateau-like hills a few miles away. Better still, from our favourite little hideaway the Diamangou, an old riverboat-turned-restaurant moored on the eastern bank away from the city centre, we would feel the slow gait of the moored craft beneath us as we enjoyed leisurely drinks beneath strings of fairy lights, watching fishermen pole past in their little pirogues and batting at persistent mosquitoes.
This photo was taken in September 2005, during an evening where most of our team had gathered in Niamey. Myself and several colleagues had spent most of our time in the border town of Maradi, close to Nigeria, which was where a large portion of our famine-relief activities were happening. Maradi was a hot, dusty and frenetic town, with little by way of entertainment and less by way of charm. By contrast, Niamey had excitements such as shops, restaurants and freshly-baked french bread that didn’t have the taste and texture of gritty dough.
The fisherman in this picture presumably came from the nearby village, and spent a few minutes moving up and down the bank close to the riverboat, pushing the canoe along with his pole. I took a few shots of him, but this was by far my favourite, shot just as he framed himself in pose, balanced with the backlight of the sun setting. The quiet lap of slow-moving water against the boat, the plop of the pole in the water, the sound of voices drifting through the bushes from the nearby village, soft conversation and buzzing insects all leant the place an exotic peace. The air was warm, the beer was chilled, and the company was good. While there were a lot of times from Niger I would choose never to revisit, this particular riverside moment is one I continue to cherish.