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June 2013
By BBC News


The landlocked West African country of Mali -- experienced rapid economic growth after the 1990s, coupled with a flourishing democracy and relative social stability.

For several decades after independence from France in 1960, Mali suffered droughts, rebellions, a coup and 23 years of military dictatorship until democratic elections in 1992.

The core of ancient empires going back to the fourth century, Mali was conquered by the French in the middle of the 19th century.

After a brief experiment in federation with Senegal, Mali became independent in 1960.

Although swathes of Mali are barren, the country is self-sufficient in food thanks to the fertile Niger river basin in the south and east.

It is one of Africa's major cotton producers, and has lobbied against subsidies to cotton farmers in richer countries, particularly the US.

A chronic foreign trade deficit makes it nonetheless heavily dependent on foreign aid and remittances from Malians working abroad.

Music stars

Despite its political travails, Mali is renowned worldwide for having produced some of the stars of African music, most notably Salif Keita. The annual Festival in the Desert has traditionally celebrated this talent.

The Great Mosque of Djenne is the largest mud brick building in the world and is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site.

by Elisabcn

Happily Dogon people have managed to preserve many of their traditional ways, including their mud brick houses, the shaggy roofed-granaries, the tiny markets under the wooden and straw roofs and some ceremonial dances. Nowadays the best way to visit the Dogon country is walking from one village (picture 1) to another. Along the way you can admire mud mosques, beautiful landscapes and have a rest in the shade of baobabs. Other particular constructions that we found were a pharmacy where each hole is used to contain a different medecine and a Christian church (!) They like a lot the wooden details (and they are very nice!) that decorate their windows, doors, stairs or pillars . The baobabs and some cultivated fields between the villages complete the painting. Good panoramas, nice people and, at night, a fabulous 360-degree celestial view less [-]

This is Dogon country, which tradition and tourism once made the most popular attraction for visitors to Mali.
The dance begins with elders dressed in flowing indigo robes drumming and singing out over the sprawling plains below. Thirty dancers appear from between the rocks wearing heavy wooden masks and brightly dyed grass skirts. Each represents a different aspect of Dogon culture - the horned mask of the bull, a snake mask that towers twice the height of the dancer himself. Two men on stilts strut and flap like birds in flight. Furious dancing kicks dust into the air.
"The masks represent the spirit of man and the emblem of Mali, whilat the same time the creation of the world. We organize this dance for celebrations, for funerals, or when there are ceremonies like this, but we can only do this once a year," Atime Sai, the dance organizer, tells DW. "This dance is known around the world. Sometimes when there were tourists here we would perform every day. That was normal. "
The mask dance represents different aspects of Dogon culture.


After leaving the busy cities of Mali, the Bandigara Fall is an excellent place to forget the world for a while and do some nice trekkings. This landscape of cliffs and sandy plateaux (picture 1) is very interesting from many points of view: geological, ethnological, archaeological, naturalistic . . . It is very impressing. There are also some cultivations and women irrigate them with empty (well full of water) pumpkins, still following the traditional techniques . Bandigara Fall is also the land of Dogons, grouped in different villages and settlements. 



Djenné is situated on the shore of Bani River so you need a ferry to reach it. Djenné is probably the most ancient and most impressive city in all West Africa. Placed on a little hill, it's also known as the "Niger's Venice" (keeping the distances, of course :D) because during rainy season it is all surrounded by the water. Djenné was founded in the XI th century and has always been a very important commercial point between the sabanah and the desert. You can find there a nice blend of different ethnic groups too. All Djenné is built with mud from the Niger River and it's considered "protected city" and World Heritage by Unesco. All Djenné is very interesting: wandering around it is like going back 50years in time! The main spots are its giant Mosque and the big and colorful market (on Monday!) just in front of the mosque.Djenné was definitely the jewel of my trip to Mali! 

If you walk along the Niger River shore in Segou you never will be bored! It’s like a film of popular traditions and funny street scenes. Apart from the busy port you will be able to see potters and craftsmen, people working on the cultivations
 and women using the Niger's waters to wash the dishes and the clothes (picture 1). And you won't be alone either because kids as soon as they see a ”tubabu” (white person) will come to you to greet you with their smiles. All of them loved our cameras and were happy to be "models for one day" (picture 2); There was a little boy that went with me during all the walking holding my hand and waiting for me patiently every time I stopped (that means every five minutes : to take a picture to hold my hand again; What a cute Cicerone! At the end it was hard to say good

Bamako is the capital of Mali and the busiest and richest city in the country. Situated on the shore of Niger River, it was founded in 1650. If you visit this city you'll find a pleasant blend of colonial buildings and busy African markets. It is 
the terminal of the train that arrives from Dakar too.Bamako is full of life! It's nice to visit its markets, the craft center (nice wooden sculptures to buy and lots of souvenirs), the national museum and the "point G", which is the viewpoint of the city. Bamako is interesting for its nightlife and live music too, with lots of pubs and terrac

I've visited different markets in Morocco, Tunisia, Peru' . . . the big market of Samarkand, the grand bazaar in Istambul . . . but nothing can be compared to Djenné's Market.The grand marché of Djenné is a real sight of colors, life and 
activities! It's a good place to see all the different ethnic groups in Mali as well: Peuls, Bozos, Bambaras, Malinkes, Markas, Rimaïbes . . . ,wearing traditional dresses and speaking different languages, that come to the market from different points of the country to sell, buy and exchange their products. It's too crowded, smells are very strong and the temperature is always high so be careful because it's easy to feel sick . . . The market is situated in front and all around the big Mosque. You can take good pictures of it from the roofs of the houses. Every Monday

A thousand-year-old and mythical city. Its name comes from the guardian "Buctú" that watched over the well "Tim" that was situated in that area. The city was built around this well and was named Timbuktu. Founded during the XIII th century and 
now in decadence, it was the old location of Touareg people. It was an important Islamic center in the middle of the desert too. During its bests times it had 25.000 inhabitants, it was crossed by caravans and people from lots of different places that came there to do business. In Timbouctou you will find some interesting places to visit:-the Ahmed Babá center, where some experts classify and restore manuscripts in Arabic from the XIV th and XV th centuries -some mosques-the old university-the museum and the market-the house of the first European explorer, Major Laing . It is a mythical city and so on.