A fisherman poles his canoe, or pinasse, down the Niger River at sunset. Not even ten minutes from the heart of Niger’s capital, Niamey, the feeling along the riverbanks is of a time far older and simpler than the quaint, bustling Sahelian town. During the painfully brief rainy season, the Niger- West Africa’s longest river- floods to over a kilometre wide here in the city, with a steady, weighty flow behind it. During the crippling dry season, which lasts from October until June, the river all but dries up, and herders drive their cattle across the bed, and it’s narrow enough that you can cross all but a channel a dozen metres wide without getting your feet wet.
This author has, in fact, been silly enough to swim across the Niger while its waters are not in flood. And, hippos notwithstanding, quite enjoyed the experience.
This shot was one of my favourite to come out of my time in Niger, and captured the serene beauty of the river which, in turn, turns Niamey from a dry and dusty outpost on the edge of the desert, into a restful and characterful watering hole in the midst of a land wracked with poverty and desolation. Watching the sun set over the Niger River, cold beading beer in hand, was one of a handful of simple pleasures in that country where simple pleasures were few and far between- making them all the more precious when they came.
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