The Jewel of West Africa
MALI is considered the jewel of West Africa and a visit promises a variety of exciting destinations. The ancient history has always been a story of desert and rivers. Since centuries the ancient trade routes were either the caravans through the Sahara or transport by traditional wooden boat on the country’s water way and major lifeline, the Inland River Niger Delta. Life is much the same today.
To the north of the river lies the seeming endless Sahara desert, home to the Tamashek (Tuareg) nomads since ancient times. To the south is the Sahel, Arabic for fringe or edge, where desert gives way to semi-desert and the Inland River Niger Delta. The country is populated by black Africans, with agriculturalists sharing with nomadic cattle herders and settled riverside fishing communities; all trying to eke a modest living.
Historically the two regions are very distinct, linked by the trading city of Timbuktu. This legendary city at the edge of the desert is known as destination of ancient salt caravans crossing the Sahara desert. Further south surrounded by the Inland River Niger Delta lies the town of Djenne famous for the largest mud-brick building in the world, its famous mosque. Once a week tribes of the surrounding areas gather for a colourful and bustling market; a feast for the senses and a spectacle for the eyes.
Travelling on a slow traditional wooden boat from Timbuktu to Mopti along the small communities in the Inland Niger River Delta is a unique experience and one of Africa’s greatest enjoyments.
Quite close to the river banks of the Niger River is the Bandiagara escarpment, home to the most interesting people – the Dogon, who live in many little villages clinging to the cliffs of the escarpment and still live with their ancient traditions, and animist belief.
These are only a few facts of a complex country, with a fascinating mix of peoples, each with their own fascinating traditions, rituals and ceremonies, resulting in a wealth of handicraft, art and world famous music.