Iferouane is the gate to the Tenere desert. It was always a prosperous town full of artisans and gardeners. The location was one that all tourists would pass by and so a thriving community of jewelers and leatherworkers grew and a small museum was built. In January of 2007, it was the site of the first battle of the latest Tuareg rebellion. Home of a large military presence it became a hotspot and eventually the townspeople evacuated and their possessions were looted and ruined by the military who used it as a base. When after a few years they were able to return they had to deal with the loss of all their possessions, their gardens and the mines that were placed in the region during the armed insurgency. During this time we started buying goats for the women and funded the re establishment of a women’s co-operative with which we had worked before the rebellion. We were anxious to visit them. Three of us, myself, Bob Davis and Larry Beckett, had also been in the group of Rotarians who were the last to visit.
When we got to Iferouane this October, we were the first group of tourists since 2007 to visit the town. It was as if we were royalty. Everyone in town had huge smiling faces, waved and thanked us for returning.
The women’s co-operative made dozens of beautiful bags, key chains, iPad cases (my design) and traditional camel bags. We bought almost everything!
The kids cheered as we came in.
At lunch time we went to a garden to pass the day. Here Bob Davis trained two students to fabricate eyeglasses using a kit and materials he had purchased through Rotary Club. As this is such an isolated community full of artisans who do fine work making jewelry and leatherwork, eyeglasses will be much needed and appreciated and the skill and materials to make them will provide jobs.
In the evening, they prepared a party for us which was attended by the whole town.
They gathered in the central town square and drummed, sang and danced the traditional Tuareg Tegbhus.
Bennie filming and Ned recording the dancers.
What a welcome–it left us breathless!
This town I thought was filled with very artistic hard working people and it is VERY far away but they sure were happy to see us !
The dance moves this community have are the bomb (my favorite) and the villagers were so exuberant when we joined in.
A VERY HAPPY DAY FOR ALL
I forgot to say something about Bob Davis ! This Eyeglass Making kit was brilliant and Bob is so patient with his instruction …of course quietly urged on by wonderful volunteer Hana. This kit had everything in it….nothing needed or extreme to buy or replace…a necessity in Niger.
Bob always had a joke to liven the mood along the dusty roads…he brought tons of stuff to share in camp and with the children in all the villages. A soft heart and great conversationalist.
NOT hana BUT DANA…sorry my sweet travel mate .
I was in Iferouane October 09, 2013 albeit just for a few hours, as I was en route to Timia. My week long trip was an ‘unauthorized’ one through the Air Mountains with a local Agadez guide/driver, so, while you were certainly probably the first group since 2007, unless you arrived before that date you might have being the second tourist/s since 2007 😉
It’s great that tourists are starting to return to that area!