Agadez (also Agades) is the largest city in northern Niger, with a population of 88,569 (2005 census). It lies in the Sahara and is the capital of Aïr, one of the traditional Tuareg federations.
The city is also the capital of the Agadez Region, with a population of 347,330 (2005).
The city was founded before the fourteenth century and gradually became the most important Tuareg city, supplanting Assodé, by growing around trans-Saharan trade. The city still sees the arrival of caravans, bringing salt from Bilma.
In 1449, Agadez became a sultanate, while around 1500 it was conquered by the Songhai Empire. At this point, the city had a population of around 30,000 people and was a key passage for the medieval caravans trading between the West African cities of Kano and Timbuktu and the North African oases of Ghat, Ghadames, and Tripoli, on the Mediterranean shore. Decline set in after the Moroccan invasion, and the population sank to less than 10,000.
The city was taken by the French around 1900, who ruthlessly crushed a briefly successful rebellion under Kaocen Ag Mohammed in 1916. Later, Agadez became an important location in the Tuareg Rebellion of the 1990s.
Today, Agadez flourishes as a market town
and as a centre for the transportation of the uranium
mined in the surrounding area. Notable buildings in the city include the Agadez Grand Mosque
, originally dating from 1515 but rebuilt in the same style in 1844, the Kaocen Palace
(now a hotel
) and the Agadez Sultan's Palace
. The city is also known for its camel
market and its silver
Agadez international airport was named after Mano Dayak
, the Tuareg leader who is native to the region.
See: Second Tuareg Rebellion
Due to the beginning of the Second Tuareg Rebellion
, sporadic violence and a serious refugee crisis has gripped the Agadez area. All of northern Niger is currently (December 2007) on the United States State Department
list of areas which are unsafe for travel by United States citizens. Tourist flights are also suspended to Agadez from European airlines for the 2007–2008 tourist season (September - March), and the area was placed under a Niger government State of Exception
(limiting travel, gatherings, political activities, etc.) in October 2007. Roads to and from Agadez are reported to have been mined, and the Niger government has closed the area to international journalists and aid organizations. An unknown number (reported as several thousands) of refugees have converged on the city.