Don't Miss Places In Mali
Mali is far from the coast and has few national roads. It relies on the great Niger River, as well as the railroad that runs from Bamako to the port of Dakar in Senegal, for transportation needs. The Sahara Desert covers the North of Mali and is constantly edging its way southward into the dusty scrub of the central region, called the Sahel. The south and far west is a greener area of grassland and forest. Water comes into the fields particularly when the Niger River floods. These southern and western areas are where most of the Malian people live. Most of them are farmers who grow sugarcane, cotton, rice, millet, and peanuts.
Read on to know more about the top ten not to be missed places in Mali.
Bandiagara Cliffs (Dogon Country)
The Bandiagara Cliffs in the Mopti Region consist of small villages of the Dogon people which are known to be one of the earliest inhabitants of Mali. Venture into the discovery of one of the oldest and most fascinating cultures of Africa; the "Pays Dogon" cultural minority.
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The more than a century old inhabitants are situated between a plateau and a cliff that is about 200 km long. This ethnic group has maintained its identity and their animist religion. With the help of a tour guide you can visit the villages of Songho which is famous for its rock paintings and Sangha on the plateau. Explore the scenery and a visit to the villages of Ireli, Amani and Tireli towards the other end of the cliff. The descent takes about two hours and is truly spectacular because of the relaxing sights of nature along the trail.
Beside the walls of the cliff you can see the remains of the houses of the first Dogon settlers that were believed to have existed more than 2000 years ago. The trek is composed of a long walking trail that involves passing among the huge baobab trees, a pond of alligators, a colorful savannah that leads to the village of Tireli where tourists can sleep on the flat roof of a building. Absorb the images of a true living museum and the opportunity of meeting a spiritual community that has a diverse character in a land torn apart by political differences and constant power struggle over territory.
Parc National du Mali Bamako
The National Park of Mali is located near the city center and is very large. Within this huge complex the National Museum of Mali and the Zoological and horticultural attractions of Mali can also be found. The park is well maintained and conveniently located within the capital city and easily accessible from the nearby hotels and residential areas. About two or three restaurants are in the main center and there is also a complete sports facility with a gym, jogging track and children's playground. The part has been renovated and offers free entrance for the people of Mali and an affordable entrance fee for the foreigners. Inside the park there are rivers, lakes and a separate section where they grow different plants and herbs.
The city center is a bit chaotic as opposed to the serene and calm atmosphere in the park. A quick stroll in the center and you will see a city dotted with scooters, a busy market, and a street full of life, color, craftsmanship and devotion to the animist religion. On this green and quiet corner in the city you can also admire a scaled down representations of the national monuments that can be found in Mali. A good stroll is most enjoyable especially during weekdays where there are not many visitors and you can truly immerse yourself in the tranquility and fresh air of the place.
Musee National de Bamako
The National Museum of Bamako displays objects of interest but does not provide a detailed document about the display. The museum holds so many ancient artifacts, potteries, ethnic musical instruments, sculpture, rare African art paintings and interesting textile pieces but without explaining the origin, date and explanation it seems unfortunate that a visit seems incomplete without learning the what and when of each placed exhibit.
Nevertheless, the presented objects are fascinating and beautiful. There is a section of Mali's history from its origins up to today where you can see the undocumented ancient objects. There is also a whole section about tribal masks and ritual objects. There are beautiful replicas both inside and outside. An entire section is devoted to locally produced textiles which is their main industry. One can easily spend half a day to learn the treasured culture and traditions of Mali by just looking at the pictures and the remnants of their troubled historical past.
It is advisable to check out the temporary exhibits which are mostly held during weekends in the small museum. The site is peaceful and quiet and contrasts with the hustle and bustle of the city. It is modern looking and comes with a guide who provides an explanation and a short seminar about the first unknown art forms created by the Dogon and Tellem tribes. Taking pictures inside is strictly prohibited and an entrance fee helps support the maintenance of the museum.
Bamako City Centre Market
The first impression you get when you visit the Bamako City Centre Market is that the city is indeed admirable and can survive life as simple as it should be. There are no tall buildings in the city apart from the central bank and two other "palaces". But you can not visit Bamako without getting lost in the grand market and in the adjacent little shop called the Artiginale. Even the arrangement of fruits and vegetables becomes artistic and represent the colors of Africa. The fabrics bogolan, cotton, batik, traditional instruments, masks, necklaces, artisans at work, are one of the riches of this extraordinary country. But the most impressive part is that of the recycling plant in the old quarter called the "Medina".
In that area, the locals of Mali invents and reinvent and recycle the scrap metal that they have collected from old cars, trash bins, etc. In a beat of hammers, welding, and sparks they transform a piece of metal that seem useless into kitchen utensils, ovens for food preparation, decorative containers of various shapes and sizes. The ingenuity is hard to be missed on the large open air workshop.
Bamako Artisan Market
Getting around the market you can observe countless street vendors rushing in to welcome foreigners to offer their wares. The usual merchandise ranges from handmade leather bags and belts, hand made items made of wood, trunks, chairs, carpets, paintings, spices, etc. But the thing that will capture your attention our attention is to see the shop where the processing of fine leather uses python, cobra, crocodile, camel, and iguana skin.
You will also get to discover that there is still the old tradition to prepare ointments and potions using herbs and powdered animal parts (skulls, horns and tails) that are all available in the market.
Great Mosque of Djenne
The Great Mosque is the center of worship in the town of Djenne located between the regions of Mopti and San. Most Malians are Muslim and Mali was known as a center of Islam from as early as 1324 A.D., when its great ruler Mansa Musa travelled to Mecca as a pilgrim. The beautiful mosque is accessible by public transport (bus and taxi). The mosque stands huge, graceful, and watches over his people. You have to rent a guide who will take you on the roof of a house near the mosque because you cannot visit or enter if you are non-Muslim. Tourists can only admire and imagine the beauty that lies inside, outside it looks stunning and pictures are allowed within the allowed distance. Across the mosque are stalls selling everything you can imagine and maybe even something more.
The mosque built out of a mixture of mud and brick serve as the point of reference for every visitor of the city. Its presence stands proud on a hill and looks undisturbed. It is always there looking and reserve its secrets only to its faithful flock as how it should be. You can sit on the sidelines and watch life go by, be amused by its hard working and enterprising people and try to figure out the exquisite charm of the city's only mosque.
Ndomo Bogolan Textile Market
Spending a day in the Ndomo Bogolan Textile Market is an interesting way to understand how a thriving industry of Mali plays an important part in their daily lives. The polite staff will gladly show and explain every part of how the fabrics undergo a meticulous process in the factory to become an export quality product that Mali has become synonymous for.
There is a tutorial where the participants can choose their material, dye, design and create their own style of fabric. The workshop seminar and training is free and you also have the opportunity to witness the tedious process involved in how to make a beautiful piece of cloth stand out. A different area is assigned to the dyeing, spinning, and the weaving process. There is also a room full of their trademark art gallery and designs used on every fabric. The entire procedure is so impressive it is hard to resist buying a specially made cloth from the small gift shop inside the textile area.
A glass of the refreshing baobab juice can be enjoyed in their snack shop that is located near the serene Niger River. The whole experience is an eye opening realization of the hardship the country must endure and survive despite its politically unstable situation; the people are resilient and continue to find ways to live.
The dusty Old Town of Tombouctou is an ideal place for adventurers who enjoy long trek or walking paths with the view of the half desert savannah. The Sahara desert waits to be explored within its vast expanse of endless golden sand in this region. The view reaches up to the northern part of the Mediterranean Sea and the weather around is extremely humid and arid. The best way to enjoy its splendor is to visit the area after 3 pm when the sun is almost near its dusk and the sunlight starts to go down and the humidity is reduced from the intolerable 45 to 46 Celsius to a light and cool windy breeze in the afternoon.
The presence of the low ceiling homes constructed from mud and protected by doors with lots of intricate wood work reflects how creative and artistic the natives of Tombouctou are. It is an amazing city that is virtually uninhabited and dusty. Enjoying a good walk along the roads remains an incredible experience. The best way to explore is to try the camel ride and meet the fully garbed nomads called the Tuareg tribes of the Sahara desert. A visit to the Djinguereber Mosque is a must. It is one of the oldest (1325) mosques and was the original site of the first library in the city.
Tomb of Askia
Constructed during the height of the reign of the Songhali kingdom, the mud pyramid and Islamic center of the Tomb of Askia is the only tourist attraction that can be found in the city of Gao.
The pyramid also serves as the mosque and only Muslims are allowed permission to stroll and visit its sacred grounds. The place is mostly isolated and away from the main center of the busy city. The place is so quiet, relaxing and the unique design of the pyramid is impressive.
La Dune Rose
The famous dunes attraction in the region of Gao can be easily reached by hiring a rented canoe that will take you on a half hour cruise on the River of Niger. La Dune Rose can be admired even from a distance, as its fine sandy desert holds its won distinction and charm.
The river is lined with small huts and the presence of the shades make the sand dune landscape an amazing sight to behold.