Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mali - the sand will cover you

I've visited Mali a couple of years ago. The recent developments make me sad. After the Touareg rebellion a year ago, tourism ceased to exist. The tourists stay away, but the the people go on living there. Mali is a large country (1.2 Mill. sq km), where there live about 30 ethnic groups, speaking as much languages. The country consists of lots of sand, as the sahara is part of it. Less than 15 Mill. people live in the vast area, so Mali isn't densely populated. Maybe you've heard about Mali because of Amadou and Mariam, Ali Farka Touré, Timbuktu or the cosmogony of the Dogon people.

We went from Bamako, the capital, to Djenné via Ségou by car, a long journey short of 600 km with an exhausted driver, who obviously didn't have any idea how far the destination was ahead of him. The road was nicely paved, but once outside of Bamako there was hardly any traffic. Djenné is a old town with its famous Sudanese mud brick architecture, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Mosque at Djenné, famous mud brick architecture, UNESCO World Heritage Site

From Djenné we went to Mopti by ferry (first hippopotamus) and car. At Mopti we chartered a boat (pinasse) and went on the Niger, camping on the riverbank, passing through Lac Débo (more hippopotamus), looking at Niafounké and Diré, and finally reached Timbuktu.

Pinasse on the Niger

Evening at the Niger


We went to see the old manuscripts, homes of former travellers (Alexander Gordon Laing), a little bit of the desert, not venturing to far outside the city.

Timbuktu - the way into the desert

Museum in Timbuktu

Then went on by jeep, crossing the Niger again, camping in the bush, on to Gourma-Rharous, saw nomads, a well within a range of moon landscape.

Nomads in the bush

Donkey on the moon

Working at the well

Water for the animals

Then via Gossi on to Hombori (Fatima's hand). Again into the bush, where we went to see elephants (a little dangerous as it turned out). Camping too near to the elephants (as I found out the next day).

Dune - not where the Fremen live

Near Hombori

Cattle at the water

Reaching the elephants

The Falaise from dune country

We went via Douenza into the Dogon country. Camping a little off the Falaise on a dune. Banini, Sanga, Bandiagara and on to Mopti. From there we went back to Bamako-Badalabougou.

Dogon architecture

Dogon architecture

Market and boats at Mopti

What will become of Mali? There will be lots of refugees. There will be a guerrilla war, which duration nobody will be able to predict. There will hunger and poverty, even more than before. I hope that peace will come soon. And I hope for a revival of sensible tourism.

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