July 21, 2015

1760 NIGER - Niger River, the islands and the valley (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

The Niger River, the third-longest river in Africa (after Nile and Congo), takes one of the most unusual routes of any major river, a boomerang shape that baffled European geographers for two millennia. Its source is just 240km inland from the Atlantic Ocean,  in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea, but the river runs directly away from the sea into the Sahara Desert, through Mali, then takes a sharp right turn near the ancient city of Timbuktu and descends towards southeast through Niger, then on the border with Benin and ultimately through Nigeria, discharging through a massive delta into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean, after it crossed about 4,180 km.

The name may come from Berber phrase ger-n-ger, meaning "river of rivers". Medieval European maps applied the name Niger to the middle reaches of the river, in modern Mali, but Quorra (Kworra) to the lower reaches in modern Nigeria, as these were not recognized at the time as being the same river. When European ships began to visit the West coast of Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Senegal River was often postulated to be seaward end of the Niger. The Niger Delta was thought to be no more than coastal wetlands. The modern nations of Nigeria and Niger take their names from the river.

The river crosses the southwestern part of Niger, but is unsuitable for river transport of any large scale. It is navigable 300 km from Niamey to Gaya on the Benin frontier from mid-December to March. Thereafter a series of falls and rapids render the Niger unnavigable in all seasons. In the navigable stretches, shallows prevent all but the small draft African canoes (Pirogues and Pinnases) from operating in many areas. As there is only one major bridge over the Niger (The Kennedy Bridge in Niamey: the Niger River bridge at Gaya crosses into Benin), car ferries are of crucial importance.

About the stamps
The first stamp is part of a definitive series. The second, depicting Onion: the viola of Galmi, is part of a series issued on 2011.

Niger River - Wikipedia
Le fleuve Niger, les îles et la vallée (fr) - UNESCO official website

Sender: Holger & Baechir
Sent from Niamey (Niamey / Niger), on 07.03.2015
Photo: Maurice Ascani

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