About the food of Niger

Dunes de Temet. Photo by Jacques Taberlet.

If Niger were a woman, her tiptoes would be in the tropics, her body in the savanna, and her hair would flow through the Sahara Desert’s rolling dunes. The people living in this hot, dry country favor a combination of north African and west-central African foods.

Market at Maradi, Niger. Photo by annevbast.

Should you happen upon a street vendor in Niger,  you might find fried doughs, various meats on sticks, and baguette sandwiches  [Recipe]. These often come piled on scraps of newspaper (or are wrapped up in it), so – if you’re a neat eater – you just might be able to catch snippets of the latest news as you eat.

Or, instead, you can head up to the Ténéré, the vast “desert within a desert” to read the “writing on the wall,” or rock engravings … something much, much older:

The Ténéré, on the southern flank of the Sahara, easily ranks among the most desolate landscapes on Earth. The Tuareg, turbaned nomads who for centuries have ruled this barren realm, refer to it as a “desert within a desert”—a California-size ocean of sand and rock, where a single massive dune might stretch a hundred miles, and the combination of 120-degree heat and inexorable winds can wick the water from a human body in less than a day. – National Geographic

Ancient rock engraving. In the Southern Sahara near Tiguidit, Niger. Photos by Dan Lundberg.

Another time you might eat a simple meal of sauces and stews like Gumbo served with stick-to-your-ribs wheat dumplings or porridge. The stews might include lamb, beef or chicken, although fish from the Niger river is also popular.

Near Diffa in eastern Niger. Photo by Roland.

There is a great love for hot tea, especially towards the north. You’ll find regional specialties, like the north African Green Mint Tea [recipe] which we tried for Mauritania, and even a tea made with wild sage leaves [Recipe]. In the north you’ll also discover more couscous (in the south it’s all about cassava and millet). One particular treat, called caakiri turns leftover couscous into a yogurt based sweet treat  [Recipe].

Zinder Old Town in Niger. Photo by diasUndKompott.

There’s a common saying in Niger – “water is life.” In the midst of her harsh, dry conditions, this truth rings out over the rolling sands. Everyone – from the nomads to the north and the bustling cities to the south – respects this truth.

And, so, today I drink my water with ever more appreciation – feeling the fullness of life I’ve been granted.

Maps and flag of Niger, courtesy CIA World Factbook.


  1. Brian S. says

    Ahhh Niger land of my dreams. In a desolate town on the fringes of the Sahara I met a bunch of blue-robed Tuareg nomads and we rode off into the desert. I lived with them for two weeks in their desert encampment. It was glorious! We didn’t have a single word in common. They spoke Tamachek. If you’ve ever read “Dune” you’ll know what it was like.

    Here’s some authentic traditional music from Niger, not from the Tuareg but from the more southern people.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Did you get to the Ténéré by any chance? It looks so fascinating. The music – are those human voices or an instrument? It’s intense!

      • Brian S. says

        The music… I just found out that the algaita is a double reed wind instrument played by the Hausa in Niger and the godje is a one-string violin covered with lizard skin, also played in Niger. Both are played on this track. I’ve never been to Tenere. There used to be one tree there, until a Libyan truck driver knocked it down.

  2. Hi Sasha:

    This is a great country and a varied cuisine. . .

    Doing OK for Pakistan and the Philippines? If you are looking for ideas: Pak is in Silk Road Gourmet vol 1, and I can send some ideas for dishes from the Philippines.

    If you didn’t cover Yassa yet, the Nigerians make a wonderful version.

    The photos of Niger (Knee-jher) really are beautiful!


    • Sasha Martin says

      Hi Laura – thank you for the offer. I made a note to be sure to explore your section on Pakistan, thanks! Philippines seems much further away, although I suppose it’ll be here before I know it. Time flies!

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