From Bamako to Timbuktu, Mali has desert scenery that have you believing you’re on the set of Lawrence of Arabia. And there’s so much more, from the fringes of the Saharan desert and the great Niger River, to medieval mud-brick mosques and pink-hued sandstone villages. Malians are a proud and enduring people who have suffered through drought and famine of biblical proportions. There is a wealth of talented musicians and great passion among the people for their traditional culture.
October to February (before the heat) -or in June 1960 when Mali gained independence from France
Hunting for bargains in Bamako’s pavement market stalls Trekking through the magnificent Bandiagara Escarpment Watching a gorgeous sunset at Gao Photographing the mud-brink houses and mosque at Djenne Buying colourful handwoven fabrics at the market in Segou Making your way through the desert to enigmatic isolated Timbuktu
Read The Unveiling of Timbuctoo: The Astounding Adventures of Caillie Gaibraith Welch, an account of the first Western explorer to both reach and return from Timbuktu
Listen to the beautiful and intimate tracks on Je Chanterai pour Toi by Boubacar Traore; Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Toure’s Talking Timbuktu
Watch Yeleen by Souleymane Cisse, depicting the struggle of a young warrior to destroy the corruption of an older society.
Eat fried Nile perch; poulet yassa-chilli spiced grilled chicken; riz yollof-meat or vegetables cooked with tomato
Drink ginger and hibiscus juices sold in plastic bags
Castellated mosques;desert landscapes; the Bambara and Dogon cultures; bustling markets; archaeological ruins; faded French colonial glory; ancient rock paintings; the indigo turbans and robes of the Tuareg; griot music; desert elephants
The music dance performances held in local Carrefour (cultural centres); the riotous football matches; the villages carved into mountain cliffs
The most captivating event on the Mali calendar is the crossing of the cattle at Diafarabe; Every year during December, in a tradition that goes back 160 years, Diafarabe gears up to cope with a sudden influx of cattle and herders as they converge on the river bank. lt’s a time for celebration and festivities as herders are reunited with friends after several long months in the desert.