Fred and Donanne Hunter returned to Africa after a thirty-year absence.  When he had been a journalist based in Nairobi, he had not really looked at the Sahara.  Now he felt it was something he must do.  So Donanne went along.

Someone who’s never visited the Sahara may suppose that, as Mohammed Ixa himself said, “there’s nothing to see” in the Sahara so tourists are foolish to come look at it.  But we thought there was a surprising amount of natural formations to see and that many of them had a kind of majestic beauty.   So we offer a gallery of photos of the landscape.

Elephant rock art chiseled into the cliff face by ancient artists

Here, too are observations of Donanne’s at the beginning of our journey back to Niamey.  In italics as usual. 

We leave from our view camp — dunes, mountains and thorn trees.  On the drive:  beautiful dunes (some pink), dramatic mountains, blue marble boulders, occasional Tuareg families (the ladies in their jewelry) with small herds of goats (tails up) and sheep (tails down), and no “cadeau” calls.  We stop at one camp and the man of the family, a friend of our driver Agali, warmly greets us.  Some of his young children come over to the car with him.  Unused to visitors, they stand by with smileless curiosity while the two men speak.  As we leave, Agali explains that the two men fought together in the rebellion (earlier in the decade) and that this man was a vrai ami.

We encounter one adorable fennec.  It bolts and then stops to look directly at us.  They are SO cute, with their tallll ears and lonnnng tails and big brown eyes!  Come across gazelles three times – the first gazelles we’ve seen – and several wandering camels, some of which are hobbled, so it is quite a safari.

We arrive at Iferouane at 1:30 pm.  At the Tellit Hotel we down cold cokes on the little terrace after being welcomed by the famous Vittorio in his sand-colored robe.  An Italian banker in Rome during his first career, 30 years ago he came to Niger and has been a restaurateur and inn-keeper ever since.  We think he married a woman from Iferouane.

Later after a lunch of homemade soup and bread, I walk around town.   It’s so peaceful.  The unpaved streets are so broad.   Just beyond green trees rise dramatic mountains.  Friendly people greet me, including a teacher at the local elementary school with 243 pupils and seven instructors.  There’s also a college here with 60 students.  The teacher speaks a bit of English so we communicate in both French and English; he says that he and his family have been sent here from the city of Zinder for a three-year posting.  He introduces six of his pupils, one a little girl with a beautiful smile, and I jump to the conclusion that Vittorio must have a lovely wife.

Sahara fort in ruins

Reproduced larger so you can see the elephant outline

Next post: South Africa, 2001