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Mali

Sleep underneath the starry heaven in Dogon Country, stay at the home of a local family, take a trip on the Niger river in a wooden boat, visit a local festival or explore the country by donkey cart? We’ll be happy to make you connect with Mali’s unique aspects and with her colorful people and culture!

Visit the page Mali components for more information on where to travel and what to do.


General information

Capital Bamako
Population close to 18 million
Surface 1,240,192 km2
Form of government republic
National slogan Un peuple - Un but - Une foi (One nation - One goal - One belief)
National anthem Pour l'Afrique et pour toi, Mali (To Africa and to you, Mali)
Neighboring countries   Mauretania, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivorycoast, Guinée and Senegal
Cities Bamako, Kayes, Ségou, Djenné, Mopti, Gao, Timbuktu, Sikasso
Time zone GMT
Religions Islam, Christianity and Animism
Languages French and several local languages, including Bambara, Tamacheq, Dogon and Fulani
Currency Franc CFA, 1,000 FCFA is about € 1.50
Voltage 220V, two-pins plugs (as in Europe)
Travel documents passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months upon arrival, visum obliged
Health yellow fever vaccination obliged
Mobile coverage outside of the cities coverages may not always be available
Internet available in the cities


A country of extremes
Once a prosperous kingdom, Mali used to be a well of inspiration for explorers and fortune seekers, attracted by gold and the legendary city of Timbuktu. Wars and colonization made an end to the welfare; nowadays Mali belongs to the countries with the lowest income per inhabitant in the world.
Situated in the heart of West Africa, Mali gained familiarity as a country of drought, heat, Touareg uprisings, military coups and corrupt governments.

Who looks beyond, sees more, much more!

Papillon makes you meet the country beyond the droughts. In theme-based journeys, you’ll experience the unique aspects of Mali and the Malian cultureand you’ll connect to the local people and pace.

Population
Mali has an ancient, rich culture and a welcoming, proud population, who likes to share and make you familiar with their habits. There is a huge diversity in Mali. Bambara, Fulani, Touareg, Bozo, Malinké, Sonrhai, Dogon, Bobo and several other ethnic groups all add their own unique aspects to the palette.
The proud Touareg, the nomadic desert people, known for their salt and trade caravans and their characteristic blue turbans. The Fulani herdsmen, who stilllead a partly nomadic life. The Bozo fishermen in their wooden boats on the rivers and their simple settlements on the river banks. The Dogon, who have kept their cultural heritage and have made themselves a living in one of the most special areas of the country. Mali’s people are a colorful mix.

Geography
The North of Mali mainly exists of desert with sand dunes, mountain ranges and dried up river beds. Baobabs and acacias dominate the open savannah scenery between Ségou and Mopti. The South of the country is mainly characterized by fertile agricultural land.

Climate
Temperatures start to drop in October, leading to the cold season. The period from November till January has daytime temperatures around 25 degrees Celsius and pleasant cooler nights. From February temperatures gradually rise.
The hot season with temperatures going up till above 40 degrees Celsius ranges from April till June, and is followed by the rainy season. Till the end of September refreshing showers make for a pleasant travel season with daytime temperatures in between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. Even though the name of the season may have you think otherwise, rain doesn’t fall every day. When it falls it’s usually in short, heavy, refreshing showers. It hardly ever rains more than a few hours on a row.

Djenné
World heritage city Djenné, located on an isle in the Bani river, has about 24,000 inhabitants and is mentioned as one of Africa’s oldest cities. It’s the mud culture, which gives Djenné its unequalled character. Djenné’s Great Mosque is the world’s largest mud structure and a delight to look at. The mosque, the colorful, lively week market and the buildings with doors and windows with Marrocan/Morish influences are a highlight of the visit to Djenné for many. For the Dutch Djenné came alive through Ton van der Lee, who described his experiences in Djenné and the building of his ‘Sandcastle’ in the equally named book.

Music
Say music and you’ll say Mali! Worldwide Mali is known for its rich music culture. A day without music is as a day without sun for a Malian. Music sounds from transistor radios and from mobile phones. Ali Farka, Habib Koité, Oumou Sangaré and Salif Keita are just a few of the big names of Mali’s music scene. Mali’s Music festivals (the Festival au Désert and the Festival sur le Niger) are well-known by Malians as well as foreigners.

Dogon Country
Mali’s Dogon truly is a country in a country. Thelandscape, traditional mud-built granaries, historical cliff houses and caves, its unique position along the rock plateau and the holy places give Dogon Country its special atmosphere. From Kani Bonzo, the first Dogon village, new villages have been founded over the centuries, leading to an area that stretches over a length of more than 150 kilometers. Before the Dogon people settled here, it’s said in Dogon tradition that there were the Tellem and the Pygmees.
The cliff houses are no more in use. Villages have been relocated to lower terrain, for practical reasons such as the proximity of water resources and farm land. Electricity and running water are still exceptions in Dogon Country; life is being lived with the rhythm of the seasons, the moon and the light of the sun.

Searching elephants
Douentza’s National Park is home to the northernmost herd of elephants of the African continent; it being also the last herd of elephants in the Sahel. It’s estimated that the herd consists of about 350 animals, who share the area in the National Park with about 100,000 Touaregs and Fulani herdsmen as well as about 400,000 pieces of cattle.
The position of the elephants is fragile, amongst others due to the growing number of people and cattle. Organizations as Save the Elephant and WILD Foundation work along with the Malian government to preserve the elephants and are amongst other things involved in the training of guides.

Mopti
With over 100,000 inhabitants and one of the largest river harbors in Africa, Mopti is a bubbling city. Located at the crossing of the Niger and Bani rivers, Mopti’s harbour is the starting point of many a fully loaded boat leaving for Timbuktu and other destinations. Mopti houses a beautiful mosque and the local (women) market is well worth visiting. Or just stroll the streets and be surprised by the number of shops you’ll find there. Apart from Bamako Mopti is your best chance to buy what you won’t find in the rest of Mali.

Ségou
Till the beginning of the 19th century, Ségou was the capital of an important Bambara kingdom. Up till to today the remains of these times are still visible in nearby Segou Koro. Nowadays Ségou, with over 100,000 inhabitants, is known for its position on the Niger river, its annual music festival ‘Festival sur le Niger’ and Maryse Condé’s books. Its position at the Niger makes it a perfect place for excursions by pirogue or pinasse to nearby villages, such as Ségou Koro. Ségou’s relaxed atmosphere, its colorful Monday market on the river quays, the large range of excursion options and it being relatively quiet in terms of African daily live, make that Ségou often is experienced as a highlight of the journey.

Bird watching
Mali is home to a wide variety of beautiful and colorful birds. Hornbills, colorful bee-eaters, the red bishop, who changes its brown feathers for a bright red and black jacket during the rainy season and not in last place the Mali Firefinch, a bird unique for Mali. With about 650 species a bird lover can nourish its soul in Mali.

Timbuktu*
In times past many an explorer headed for the legendary, almost unreachable desert city of Timbuktu. Only few arrived alive at the city that was bracketed together with gold and even less of them made it back home. At the edge of the desert and close to the Niger, Timbuktu used to be a wealthy trading centre. The historical glamour has faded away. What rests is a city with about 35,000 inhabitants. The Touaregs with their beautiful blue turbans and clothing add color to the city. Who expects to find ancient Timbuktu, might go home disappointed. However, who is willing to take the time to breathe in the city, will feel the special desert atmosphere and find something not yet encountered elsewhere in Mali.
The sleepy desert city turns to life in January, when Malians, tourists and music lovers head for the Festival au Désert in large numbers.

Flights to Mali
Amongst others KLM-Air France, Royal Air Maroc, Turkish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines have flights to Bamako. Ticket prices vary per airline and season.

Last but not least…
Traveling in Mali demands an open and flexible attitude. Comfort and sanitary facilities do not always meet western standards. Running water and electricity may not always be available. Unforeseen circumstances may lead to necessary alterations of the itinerary.

* Due to security risks in the Northeast of the country, Papillon Reizen does not organize any trips to this part of Mali at present. This includes the cities of Timbuktu and Gao.

Take a look at the travel calendar for an overview of our small-scale theme-based group journeys. Or ask us for a tailor-made journey to Mali.

 

If you only visit one country in West Africa, make it Mali.

 

Lonely Planet, 2009

 

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