Agadez is the Nigerien sister of Timbuktu in Mali. Their histories are alike, their structures are alike, and the fascination they have on travelers is alike as well. If you approach overland you’ll see it rise right out of the desert.

The town has only 20.000 inhabitants who live in sand-brick houses that blend in with the countryside. Three tribes walk the streets: the Fulani (aka Fulbe, Peluh or Halpulaar) who wear large hats that look like the hats worn by the Chinese; the Hausa merchants dressed in long robes; and the nomadic Tuaregs who give chilling looks from beneath massive turbans. If you go to the outskirts of town to the goat and mutton market, you will catch a glimpse of the nomadic housing creatively constructed from desert twigs and fly away plastic bags.

The main sights are the central market, the 16th-century mosque, the Sultan’s Palace, the camel market and some interesting silver shops; the Croix d’Agadez is famous in all of the Sahel, here you can get the real thing. The Artisan Center is an amazing place to observe the metal work that is done by a couple dozen artists, all sitting cross legged on the floor, tapping away at their pieces.

If the political situation permits excursions can be arranged to go by camel or other conveyance into the nearby Air Mountains, where the Tuaregs live. That will be an unforgettable trip. Also schedule for a one to seven day trip in a four by four out to the sand dunes and oasis.