TRAVEL EXPERIENCE IN MALI
In Middle-Africa we are experts in Mali. Our team of Anthropologists and African historians has known this country since the 1990s when it was just beginning to become popular among travel agencies from Europe and the USA. The tours we organize around Mali and neighboring countries visit the ‘must’ places, but also try to avoid the tourist crowds by going to remote rural areas where the essence of Mali can still be found intact.
Mali is an African destination that has all the right ingredients. The country occupies the heart of a territory that once supported Africa’s greatest empires and is rich with historical resonance. This history bequeathed to Mali some of its most dramatic attractions – the legendary city of Timbuktu (Tombouctou), whose name has never lost its allure for travelers, the gloriously improbable mosque at Djenné and the bustling river port of Mopti are simply three among many. Mali’s history has always been a story of its deserts and rivers. The lucrative trade routes of the Sahara once made the region among the world’s richest, and the Niger, one of the grand old rivers of Africa, is still the lifeblood of the country; to journey along the Niger River route (preferably on a slow boat to Timbuktu) is one of the continent’s great adventures. Not far from the riverbank, the extraordinary Cliff of Bandiagara rises up from the plains, and shelters one of West Africa’s most intriguing peoples – the Dogon, whose villages and complex cultural rituals still cling to the edge of rocky cliffs. If you can visit one place in Mali, go to the Dogon Country: it’s utterly unforgettable. But all of Mali is alive with a fascinating cultural mix of peoples, from the nomadic Tuareg people of the Sahara to the Niger fishing societies of the Bozo. As a result, everywhere you go there are fascinating ceremonies, world-famous musical traditions with strong roots in the local soil, and traditional cultures as accessible to travelers as any you’ll find in Africa. In Middle-Africa we organize trips all along Mali.
TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS OF MALI
Bamako is one of Africa’s most vibrant and interesting capitals. Together with its commercial and popular atmosphere the visitor to Bamako cannot miss the Musée National, which displays a wide range of tapestries, masks, funeral objects, and weapons.
Segou, ancient capital of the Bambara Empire, spreads along the riverbank 230km east of Bamako. Segou has a languid slow-paced charm, with its wide avenues, faded colonial buildings and nearby river excursions, it’s a wonderful place to slow down and rest from life on the African road.
Djenné sits on an island in the Bani River, is worth as much time as you can give it. Its incomparable Djenné Mosque – the largest mud-built structure in the world – is like a fairytale apparition. It provides Djenné with a backdrop to its huge, lively and colorful Monday market that has barely changed since the days when Saharan camel caravans brought salt across the sands to the gates of Djenné.
Mopti, is one of Mali’s most lively cities. It is known as the ‘African Venice’ due to its vibrant commercial activity. The traveler in Mopti will find the ideal place to organize the trips to the Dogon country, Djenné, and pirogue excursions along the Niger River.
The Niger River is the life line of Mali, entering at the southern end of the country and running into the interior as far as Gao before doing a sharp right turn and flowing back towards the ocean. Boats ply up and down the river between August and November and it is one of the best ways to see the interior of the country. Most travellers find the journey fascinating, and it gives them a chance to experience the hurly-burly of port life along the river. Conditions on board tend to vary: at best it's still not quite shuffleboard and margaritas aboard the Love Boat. At worst it's a floating hellhole with sweltering cabins, dirty toilets, food shortages and cargo spread everywhere, with the occasional grounding on sandbanks as an extra.
%u2028Cliff of Bandiagara (Dogon country). A hiking trek to the Dogon country, travelling the length of the Falaise de Bandiagara or Cliff of Bandiagara, is likely to be the highlight of any visit to Mali. The Dogon have a complex and elaborate culture and are well known for their art work. The treks are a great way to get a first hand look at the pink sandstone houses and granaries carved out of the cliff face, and to gather tips on gardening in very small spaces. If you are there in April you can see the spectacular five-day Fête des Masques which is the Dogon's major festival and involves liberal amounts of both dancing and millet beer. The other regular event in Dogon life is market day, occurring every five days. Bandiagara, Bankas and Sanga are all popular starting-points for hikers. Bandiagara and Bankas are both about 550km northeast of Bamako, while Sanga is about another 40km further north.
Timbuktu. Until the present day Timbuktu is one of Africa’s most rhythmical names, and is still synonymous with the Black Continent’s mysterious inaccessibility, with and end-of-the-earth allure that some travellers just have to reach. Its main attractions are the atmosphere of remoteness, the old adobe mosques, the Tuareg camps around the city, and the Sahara desert.
Gao, the former capital of the Songhaï Empire, is one of the most important towns of Mali’s illustrious past. Like Timbuktu, however, Gao can feel like the end of the earth, a cluster of nomadic settlements pushed onto the Niger River’s shores by the Sahara Desert that dominates to the north. Expeditions into the desert are a highlight of a visit here, as is the lively port.
ORGANISING YOUR TRIP TO
Middle-Africa organises travel tours to every corner of Mali all year around. Please feel free to contact us at any time.