There have been no foreign tourists in this area since 2002.
When you think of the Sahara desert, you probably think of vast sandy plains with nothing but dunes and solitude.
But in northern Niger, abandoned fortress cities break up the horizon.
What are Niger’s fortress cities?
Fortress cities, also known as ‘ksars’, such as Djaba, Djado and Fachi were built hundreds of years ago as protection from raids by Tuareg, Arab and Toubou nomads.
They are usually set in oases of palms or date trees, providing shade and food for inhabitants. The cities are built from salt and clay and usually sit high up on a rock, providing a look out point.
These days many of the fortress cities have been abandoned. Though they were ravaged for centuries by raids, once the first Europeans arrived in 1906 the ‘ksars’ were no longer of use and were left to ruin. Some parts have now been covered by the Saharan sands.
Kiari Sidi Tchagam, a local traditional chief in Fachi, hopes the cities will soon be recognised by UNESCO.
“It is part of our culture and, more than that, it is part of our entire history,” he explains.
Is it safe to visit Niger?
The current travel advice from the British FCDO and French Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against travelling to Niger.
Due to conflict in surrounding countries, no foreign tourists have visited the abandoned fortresses since 2002.
It is hoped the country will stabilise and tourism will be able to return and develop.
“What’s really missing today is tourism. And as a result, the community does not take advantage of this place [Djado Fortress], given the insecurity that is there, ” explains Abdoulkader Dodo Mamane, Secretary General of Chirfa City Hall.
Watch the video above to see Niger’s incredible lost fortress cities.