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.
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.
What a welcome–it left us breathless!