Cure Salée and the unknown Aïr Mountains

Cure Salée and the unknown Aïr Mountains, 14–28 Sep 2024

Niger in West Africa is an extraordinarily diverse country in terms of nature and people. Dozens of different peoples live within the borders of this very sparsely populated country, each with their own traditional celebrations, ceremonies or festivals. This trip is built around the annual gathering of the Tuareg and Wodaabe, the Cure Salée, but also covers a wide range of the ruggedly beautiful nature of the northern Niger, the Sahara! We will also visit the Aïr Mountains, with several peaks reaching 1800 metres above sea level, the highest reaching 1944 metres. The mountains are interspersed with deep valleys where the local Tuareg people practice agriculture and livestock farming. In these areas, in addition to camping, you will find interesting villages, the high sand dunes of Arakao and, of course, the beautiful mountain scenery and the friendly mountain people. The mountains are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we will have them all to ourselves!

Cure Salée means "salt cure", which refers to the festival venue, the Irazer Salt Flat in the village of Ingall, 120 kilometres west of Agadez. Salt has been mined from Ingall for centuries and transported by camel caravans to various parts of West Africa.

The festival attracts hundreds of Tuaregs and Wodaabe, also known as Bororo, who are part of the Fulani people, one of the most widespread in the world: they are found everywhere from Mauritania to Sudan, including here in Niger. Many Wodaabe live a pastoral life, as do the Wodaabe involved in the Cure Salée.

The Cure Salée is traditionally organised to celebrate the end of the rainy season, in early September, when there is plenty of animal food available in the same place - in Ingall! Shortly after the festival, the Wodaabes begin their annual migration to better pastures as the landscape begins to dry out with the dry season gradually creeping in. The Cure Salée lasts for several days, during which time the Tuaregs and Wodaabes meet friends, seek out spouses and propose to them. The event also includes colourful costumes, decorated camels and camel races, and especially decorative face painting and male beauty contests, where young men in fancy dress and face paint dance to impress the opposite sex. The hypnotic dance, known as yaake, can last through the night, as stamina, along with dancing skills, is an important factor in choosing a partner among the Wodaabe girls!

Unlike Gueréwol (also known as Gerewol), a similar ceremony that takes place within two to three weeks, Cure Salée also involves Tuaregs living in the harsh conditions of the Sahara, who present their own culture alongside the Wodaabe.

Day 1 – 14.9.2024

Arrival in Niamey, the capital, which is one of the most peaceful capitals in Africa. In Niamey, depending on your time of arrival, you will visit various markets and the National Museum of Niger. We will also see the Niger, the largest river in West Africa, which flows through Niamey and after which the whole country is named. If your flight arrives so that you don't have time to explore Niamey at all, there is another option before leaving the country. We stay at the three-star Hotel du Sahel, Hotel Terminus or similar.

Day 2 – 15.9.2024

After breakfast we fly to Agadez, the heart of the Sahara, an ancient caravan city and crossroads of trade routes. We explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town and its magnificent clay architecture. We will visit the 16th century Grand Mosque and its 27-metre minaret, the Sultan's Palace, the house of German explorer Heinrich Barth and many other interesting sights, including the camel market. If we are lucky, we will also meet the sultan himself in Agadez. We accommodate in a three-star Hotel Zagado, Hotel Telwa or similar.


Days 3–4 – 16.-17.9.2024

Today we drive to Ingall and take part in the colourful and intense Cure Salée festival, enjoying the hospitality of Tuaregs and Wodaabe. We will stay overnight in tents in Ingall.

The exact date of the Cure Salée will be decided between July and August and will depend on the success of the rains. If the rainy season has been good, the Cure Salée will take place in mid-September. If the rainy season has been bad, the festival will take place around 22 September. Therefore, a visit to the festival may also take place at a later stage of this tour.

Day 5 – 18.9.2024

We return to Agadez, from where we start our journey by off-road vehicles towards the Aïr Mountains.The car is packed with tents for overnight stays, food, drinks and other necessities. The journey will be made privately in a convoy of several cars, as the state of Niger requires military personnel to secure our passage just in case. Security services are included in the price of the trip and their necessity depends on the region and the time of the trip. Because of the convoy and the cost involved, this trip will certainly be made when there are at least six participants.

We set off towards the village of Iferouane on the northern edge of the Aïr Mountains.


Days 6–7 – 19.-20.9.2024

We explore the Tuareg village of Iferouane, before heading to the sand dunes of Chiriet, also known as Adrar Chiriet.


Day 8 – 21.9.2024

Today we visit a caldera on the east side of Mount Aïr, apparently belonging to an extinct volcano. In and around the caldera, the massive Arakao sand dunes have been formed over time and are unrivalled in the Sahara.


Days 9–11 – 22.-24.9.2024

We travel from the sand dunes of Arakao towards the small village of Tchintouloust, with only about 70 inhabitants. The village is in a magnificent setting: to the north is Mount Agueraguer (1730 m) and to the south is Mount Goundaï (1768 m). From the village we continue to Assodé, the oldest town in the mountains, founded in the 14th century, but now mainly a ghost town. Archaeological finds show that Assodé was at its height in the 1500s and 1600s. Today, interesting ruins remain, including the ruins of a grand mosque.

We continue to the village of Timia in the central Aïr Mountains. Surprisingly, there is even a waterfall near the village, with water at least during the rainy season and immediately after it ends. But you can still swim in Timia, as the waterfall drains into the guelta, a pool of water that holds water all year round.


Day 1213 – 25.-26.9.2024

From Timia we travel via the hot spring of Tafadek back towards Agadez. Located in the middle of the hot desert, Tafadek is the only hot spring in Niger with water temperatures of around +50°C. The water has been found to have health benefits and is believed to cure everything from osteoporosis to rheumatism and neurological conditions. We may spend one more night in the desert. In Agadez, we continue our exploration of this ancient caravan town. In Agadez we accommodate in a three-star Hotel Zagado, Hotel Telwa or similar.


Day 14 – 27.9.2024

Your trip in the Sahara ends today and we will transfer you to Agadez airport for your flight back to Niamey. Subject to possible changes in flight schedules, the return flight may also take place on day 13. We will stay at the 3-star Hotel du Sahel, Hotel Terminus or similar.


Day 15 – 28.9.2024

The journey home starts in the early hours of the morning if you are travelling on a Turkish Airlines flight.

General information about the tour

Price: 3290€ (for 9-10 participants), 3790€ (for 6-8 participants). Prices include booking fee 370€ + office fee 25€.

The price of the trip includes:

  • All accommodation in Niamey and Agadez in double rooms in approximately 3-star hotels. Single room at extra cost; 295€.
  • All transfers (including Niamey-Agadez-Niamey flights)
  • All entrance fees
  • English-speaking local guide
  • English- and Finnish-speaking tour leader
  • Security services, if they are mandatory. Around 60% of the cost of the trip is spent on security services.
  • Meals and bottled water
  • Visa invitation letter

Not included in the price:

  • International flights
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses, such as souvenirs and tips

Visa

The price of the trip does not include a tourist visa for Niger, but it can be obtained from the nearest embassy. The passport must be valid for at least six months from the start of the trip.

Other information

Due to the specific nature of the trip, we will follow special travel terms and conditions and the cancellation conditions contained therein (Cancellation terms and conditions A). The minimum number of participants is 6. We reserve the right to make changes to the programme as we will not know the exact date of the Cure Salée until shortly before departure.

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