Maradi was originally built on a lush flood plain, but after several severe floods, it was moved up to a plateau just above the flood plain by the French colonial administrators in 1946. As of the 2001 census, the official population of Maradi was 148,017. The predominant ethnic group in the city is Hausa, with a few urbanized Fulani and Tuaregs living there as well. Various ethnic groups from Nigeria, particularly Ibo and Yoruba, can also be found in skilled trades or in small shops.
Attractions in Maradi include the Dan Kasswa Mosque, the Centre Artisanal (traditional handcrafts) in the Sonitan quartier and the Katsinawa Provincial Chief's Palace, but much of the rest of the city dates from the 1950s and later and is becoming industrialised.
Entering the city from the west or east means taking a southerly exit off the two-lane highway that crosses Niger. That road takes you up to the plateau-top, past Coca-Cola, Nescafe and "Stop SIDA" signs (French for AIDS), below a large painted cement arch, and onto the main drag through town. The city's market (a full city block, open every day) can be found on the right, less than a kilometer into town, with a wide entry marked by tall painted cement pillars.