French is spoken in Niger and the name of the country is pronounced (nee-jair).
Niger was occupied by the French at the end of nineteenth century, becoming part of French West Africa (French West Africa was formed in 1895. The Federation included Cote d'Ivoire,
Guinea (French Guinea),
Mali (French Sudan) and Senegal. Later members were
Burkina Faso (Upper Volta)
Mauritania and Niger. The Federation ended in 1958).
Zinder was Niger's capital until 1926. Zinder and Agadez are traditional market towns.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world.
In the past camel caravans had to pay the Tuaregs for safe passage.
The main diet of the Tuareg consists of milk, millet and dates.
Tuareg and Inadan men wear veils. Although the Tuaregs are Muslim the women do not cover their faces.
Tuareg saddles and jewellery are made by the Inadan, an artisan class of the Tuareg.
Today many of the Tuareg are leading settled lives as small scale farmers or market gardeners.
The Fulani are the second most numerous group of nomads.
A yearly festival called the Cure Salee brings together the nomadic herders. The single men dress in their finest clothes, paint their faces and dance for many hours; the women choose the husband they prefer.
Thousands of years ago rivers ran where there is now desert.
There are many dinosaur remains in an area of the Sahara in Niger.
A dinosaur named Nigersaurus has been discovered in Niger. It had a long neck and a mouth like a hammerhead shark with up to six hundred teeth teeth for grazing ferns.
The River Niger is one of the chief rivers in Africa. It is important as a means of water supply and transportation.
The Niger was explored by Mungo Park, a Scotsman, at the end of the eighteenth century. He disappeared while searching for the river's source in 1805.
Niger's most valuable natural resource is its uranium mines, though their worth has declined in recent years because of the fall in the price of uranium.
International companies are looking for oil in Niger.
The people of Niger have for hundreds of years produced salt by evaporation; circular indentations in the sand are filled with saline water which eventually evaporates leaving salt deposits.
Lack of rain and swarms of locusts in 2004 led to one of the country's smallest harvests. Unfortunately the plight of the people in Niger was not widely known until the end of July 2005.
In 2005 children suffering from starvation in Niger were given "Plumpy'nut", a food for severely malnourished children, developed by Andre Briend the French nutritionist. One foil package of Plumpy'nut contains five hundred calories of peanut butter, milk, vitamins and minerals. As no preparation is needed the food can be fed to children in their own homes.
Slavery became illegal in Niger in May 2004. However this did not stop the practice and many Tuareg nomads were known to have slaves a year later.
In October 2008 Niger's government was found guilty of failing to protect Hadijatou Mani from slavery. The ruling is said to have implications for other African countries where slavery persists.
Floods in 2007 affected countries in Africa, from east to west; a number of people lost their lives in flooding in Niger.