Monday, January 21, 2013


My bicycling on Saturday was notable for two reasons.

First, my seat somehow fell apart, meaning I lost my balance very shortly afterwards and buggered up my wrist. But it seems to be coming good.

Second, and much more interesting, my virtual 'Cycle across the Sahara' brought me to Arlit. I make a point of not looking too far ahead on Google Earth, so after 200 km of following a poorly defined track across an utterly featureless plain, was expecting another tiny cluster of houses like Assamakka. But no: it is a great big city of 80,000 or so people, built to service an enormous uranium mine that provides approximately 1/3 of Niger's exports and is critical to the French nuclear power industry.

It seems very tenuously connected to civilisation. It does not look from Google Earth like there is much in the way of a great big security fence around the uranium mine nor the expatriate bits of town. There is nothing but distance separating it from the heartland of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghrib, in the Kidal region of Mali. A lot less distance than there is between Kidal and In Amenas. I think we will hear more about Arlit soon.