Niamey, the capital of Niger, is a lively fairly modern city of around 800,000 on the banks of the Niger River in the Tillaberi region in the far southwest of the country. It is the administrative, cultural and economic centre of the country and hence generally offers good facilities for travellers, both budget and upmarket. Niamey offers unique open-air markets that are great for people watching—they’re patronized by members of the Tuareg Sonuri and Fulani tribes, as well as wrestling, one of the finest museums in Africa and the massive Grand Mosque.
The comparably fertile area around Niamey has been inhabited for millennia by tribes like the Gurma also found in Burkina Faso, but the founders of the village would be the Maouri, who settled on an island called Neni Goungou facing the current Niamey in the late nineteenth century, before coming to settle on the left bank of the river. In 1898, the invading French found the village a suitable location for a military base and in 1905 the city, located in a stable region, became the capital of the Territoire Militaire du Niger (Military Territory of Niger). Niamey was inhabited by about 600 people in 1901 when missionaries arrived in the village and increased to nearly 2,000 after the arrival of the French and its estabnlishment as the national capital. In 1911, the capital was transferred to the newly-stable and more hospitable location at Zinder. However, tensions grew with the British colony of Nigeria (very close to Zinder) and in 1928 the status of capital was transferred back to Niamey. By the time Niger became an independent colony in 1960, the city ballooned to 30,000 people. Niamey is the largest city in Niger with a population of 750,000 by 2005.