Zinder (locally, Damagaram), formerly also spelled Sinder, is the second largest city in Niger, with a population of 170,574 (2001 census); by 2005 its population was estimated to be over 200,000. It is situated 861 km (535 mi) east of the capital Niamey and 240 km (150 mi) north of the Nigerian city of Kano.
Zinder rose from a small Hausa village to an important centre of the Trans-Saharan trade with the founding of the Sultanate of Damagaram in 1736 by Kanouri aristocrats. The large fortress of the southeast central city (Birini) was built shortly thereafter, and became a major hub for trade south through Kano and east to Bornu. The Tuareg encampments and trade houses of the suburb Zengou expanded with this trade.
In the 19th century, the area was originally subject to the Sultanate of Bornu but was fully independent by the time of Rabah's conquest of that state. The French explorer Cazemajou was killed in the city in 1897. It was then, after a brief resistance, occupied in July 1899 by Lt. Pallier of the Voulet-Chanoine mission. The French barracks was called Fort Cazemajou and it served as the capital of the Niger Military Territory upon its creation in 1911. In 1926, following fears of Hausa revolts and improving relations with the Djerma of the west, the capital was transferred back to the village of Niamey.
Upon Niger's independence from France, the town's fort was renamed Tanimoun, after a native sultan.
In 2003, telecommunications company Celtel arrived in Zinder, building a mobile phone tower and selling prepaid phone cards to residents. This arrival of the mobile phone drastically changed the predominant modes of communication in the city, allowing traders to have a faster and more affordable means of communicating with buyers and sellers. This is an example of how cellular towers in the developing world have begun to transform the market.
Today, Zinder comprises three main areas. Birni, the old Hausa town, is home to Zinder Great Mosque and the Zinder Sultan's Palace, as well as a museum. Zengou or Zango, the old Tuareg suburb, is known for its vernacular architecture. Sabon Gari (the new town), between Birni and Zengou, is the commercial centre, known for its large market. The city now sprawls to the north and west, extending to the Karkada section, in the north. Other neighbourhoods include Garin Mallam and Gawon Kollia. The city has many distinctive granite rocks which can result in standing water during the rainy season, though the city has a long history of water shortages. Recently water was piped by a Chinese-owned company from the north to provide water to most of the city, however, this problem is likely to continue due to expected population growth. In November 2011, Niger Republic's first oil refinery was commissioned in Zinder.
A 250 metres tall TV mast north of Zinder is the tallest structure of Niger.
The city is divided into 5 urban municipalities: Zinder I, Zinder II, Zinder III, Zinder IV and Zinder V.
Zinder Airport (code: ZND) is located a few kilometres southwest of the town.