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Published: February 26th 2008
Lunch at Le PilierFebruary 25, 2008
Chris and I standing in front of the restaurant.
It is our last day here in Niamey, Niger. We work for the morning and I complete the pedology map and copy maps we have worked on over the past few days to Amadou’s computer.
We go to lunch at the Italian restaurant. There is a special lunch menu that you can choose between two options for each appetizer, main course, and dessert, for the cost of 7000 cifa’s. We are given a pen to mark our choices, and I have the tomato basil salad, the spinach ricotta ravioli and vanilla ice cream for dessert. It is another good meal. After lunch, we return to the office for awhile and decide that we will go out at 3 to see some sights. The first stop is to the Canadian Embassy, for Amadou. It is neat to see a little piece of Canada here. We sign the guest book. Artisanal Market
We first go to the artisanal market, where there are all sorts of crafters and artisans. There are weavers (we get to watch one work his loom), batik dying, leather working, wood working, and lots of shoe and purse creators. There is
a main store that we stop at, but we do not purchase here. Grande Mosque
From this artisan market, we stop to visit the Grande Mosque. It is a most beautiful building, and I feel quite priviledged to be permitted in to see this building. We are allowed to go inside for a tour. The mosque was completed 20 years ago and took 5 years to build. It is only used for prayer on Fridays. There is a main room inside, an outside prayer area, and room in the yard for additional people. Only the men are allowed to pray in these areas. The women’s area is quite small as younger women are encouraged to do their prayers at home. It is mainly the older women who attend the mosque for prayers. We are also allowed to see the women’s wash up area. The main enclosed area of the mosque is incredible. We take off our shoes to enter and walk upon beautiful carpeting. The walls and columns are tiled. The columns are tiled with an opalescent white tile that is beautiful. Not sure what it is made of. The light fixtures are huge and look like chandeliers, but
The Grande Mosque
This is the covered outside prayer room. The workmanship and the details are amazing.
no crystals, they look like they are heavy round metal composition. The main light is huge and hangs from the dome area. The main dome is impressive, with some stained glass and more tiling. The doors around the building are heavy wood and intricately carved. As well, inside we are shown the area where the main man sits up on an elevated chair and I think talks to the people. Then, he will come down from there and stand in a little alcove that is pointed in the direction of Mecca. Right in front of his chair, the first two “rows” are reserved for distinguished people/guests. The outside prayer room is open to the outside, with a roof, and I am allowed to take pictures here. Again, another huge space. It is a fascinating tour! Grande Marche
Next, we head to the Grande Marche (the Grand Market). This is another fascinating activity. Amadou leads us down paths and around corners, and everywhere, there are people selling everything and anything. All this is inside a big building. Amadou speculates it would take 2 days to see everything and we only see one corner. There were men sewing outfits (see mainly
Another view of the grande mosque
a view from the door near the women's area
men doing the sewing and weaving here), people selling fabrics, clothing, shoes, plastic flowers, even bras, personal supplies, belts, jewelry - probably more selection here than at the West Edmonton Mall! The aisles between ‘shops’ were narrow, just wide enough to have 2 - 3 people pass one another. Amadou warns us of pickpockets before we enter, so we are ready. It is fun to walk around and I buy a beautiful scarf for about 2500 cifa’s (about $5.00 CDN). Museum
From the Grande Marche, we head to the museum. It is a large grounds area with museum style buildings located on the site. These informational buildings are closed, but we can go to the artisan market here and look at animal in pens. There are a couple of hyenas, lions, baboons and even a few hippos. The hippos are well looked after, the others I feel sorry for. The pens are small and are all concrete and fencing.
At the museum market, we buy two small metal items for our house, a brass camel and a decorative piece. We sit and watch a man use his loom. This one is more traditional and are told the one
One of three hippos at the museum. It is amazing how close we can get to the animals.
we watched at the first artisanal market was more ‘high tech’ (it is hard to tell the difference). We then head back to the house to finish packing and prepare for our flight to Bamako. Return to Bamako
The flight goes well and we arrive in Bamako with 2 other flights. The airport is chaotic and it takes awhile to get through the “police” check (passport/visa check). Once through this line-up, one of Pierre’s assistants finds us, grabs our two carry ons, and weaves at an incredible pace through all the people. Almost have to run to keep up with him. We get outside to Pierre’s vehicle, then this man goes back inside to retrieve our luggage. Once past the lineup, it is a very fast process because of the assistant. The next challenge is getting out of the parking lot. There are lots of vehicles and one small exit. Many cars come from all different directions jousting for a position in the line to get out of the parking lot. We learn that there is a two week school holiday in France and that many of the children come to Bamako for a holiday. That would explain the abundance of high school children in the airport with yellow (name?) tags. We arrive at the hotel, sit down for drinks with Pierre, Dani, and a few others, then head to bed.
Tomorrow night, we begin the long route home, I am excited about seeing the family again!
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