Mali on the road

It’s my first time visiting this beautiful land, and every single time I end up spellbound. Scents, flavors, vibes, people. Every time I see new shades and make new discoveries.

I’m in Bandiagara, the Cliff of Bandiagara, an impressive rocky spree that rises about 500 meters above the sandy plateau.

The archaeological, ethnological, and geological characteristics make the Bandiagara escarpment one of West Africa's most impressive sites.

Several peoples such as the Tellem and the Toloy settled in this region. At first they lived in the caves on top of the cliff, but later on they started to build houses and granaries using distinctive conical shapes, still visible today in some parts of the escarpment.

Over time, the Dogon people took hold of the land and built their villages in the lowest part of the cliff, clinging to the rocky mountainside. The Dogon now live in huts made of mud and use the Tellem caves as cemeteries. They love to study the stars. They are keepers of a glorious past that was never written but was handed down from one generation to the next.

Bandiagara is located south of the Niger River, a river that overflows with life and people. Lonely fishermen sit on ancient canoes, overloaded pirogues that defy the laws of gravity making you wonder how they stay afloat, children hang onto the canoe to look at you, find out who you are, get to know you.

Several ethnic groups coexist in the city: the Fula, the Dogon, the Bambara, and the Mandinka. Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims, Animists. They peacefully coexist, a real utopia in other countries.

I arrive in Timbuktu, an ancient Malian city located south-east of the Sahara Desert. The city rises on a desert and sandy territory, far away from other urban areas.

The city used to be a cultural center for the Arabic world and it was so incredibly laden with gold that people considered it as a modern El Dorado. Foreigners, who saw the city as a target destination for which they would gladly risk their lives for, were forbidden entrance.

Because of its inaccessibility and its marvelous treasures, Timbuktu is seen more as a legend than a physical place.

I meet the Tuareg people in one of the desert areas. The Tuareg are a Berber nomadic people from North Africa who live in the Sahara Desert. They’re very tall and brawny with black hair and eyes, and long and narrow faces.

The Tuareg practice Islam even though women have more freedom compared to other Islamic cultures. They can in fact divorce their husbands.

Their hands are painted with henna powder, which is obtained from drying up the leaves and branches of a thorny shrub. The powder has a yellow-greenish color but turns more red or brown depending on the mixture of branches (red) and leaves (brown).

I’m bewitched, watching the women begin their litany, a form of prayer consisting of a number of petitions and invocations sang by a leader and repeated by the congregation.

The thing that fascinates me the most and hypnotizes me is gazing up at the starry sky in the middle of the desert, millions of stars turning even the darkest of nights into light.

Mali used to be a peaceful country, but things have changed now.

In 2012 the Tuareg rebelled against the Mali government to obtain the independence of the northern region of Azawad in the Sahara Desert. Azawad became independent.

However, after the end of hostilities with the Malian Army, the Tuareg nationalists and Islamists struggled to reconcile their conflicting visions for the intended new state.

Mali is a wonderfully multiethnic land: Tuareg and Bambara merchants, the Bobo cotton farmers, the Dogon cosmogonists, the Mandinka farmers, the Soninke travelers, the Fula shepherds, and then… the Minyanka, the Songhai, the Senufo.

The most authentic way to discover new things is on the road. Discovering people, peoples, Mali.

It’s my first time visiting this beautiful land, and every single time I end up spellbound. Scents, flavors, vibes, people. Every time I see new shades and make new discoveries.

I’m in Bandiagara, the Cliff of Bandiagara, an impressive rocky spree that rises about 500 meters above the sandy plateau.

The archaeological, ethnological, and geological characteristics make the Bandiagara escarpment one of West Africa's most impressive sites.

Several peoples such as the Tellem and the Toloy settled in this region. At first they lived in the caves on top of the cliff, but later on they started to build houses and granaries using distinctive conical shapes, still visible today in some parts of the escarpment.

Over time, the Dogon people took hold of the land and built their villages in the lowest part of the cliff, clinging to the rocky mountainside. The Dogon now live in huts made of mud and use the Tellem caves as cemeteries. They love to study the stars. They are keepers of a glorious past that was never written but was handed down from one generation to the next.

Bandiagara is located south of the Niger River, a river that overflows with life and people. Lonely fishermen sit on ancient canoes, overloaded pirogues that defy the laws of gravity making you wonder how they stay afloat, children hang onto the canoe to look at you, find out who you are, get to know you.

Several ethnic groups coexist in the city: the Fula, the Dogon, the Bambara, and the Mandinka. Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims, Animists. They peacefully coexist, a real utopia in other countries.

I arrive in Timbuktu, an ancient Malian city located south-east of the Sahara Desert. The city rises on a desert and sandy territory, far away from other urban areas.

The city used to be a cultural center for the Arabic world and it was so incredibly laden with gold that people considered it as a modern El Dorado. Foreigners, who saw the city as a target destination for which they would gladly risk their lives for, were forbidden entrance.

Because of its inaccessibility and its marvelous treasures, Timbuktu is seen more as a legend than a physical place.

I meet the Tuareg people in one of the desert areas. The Tuareg are a Berber nomadic people from North Africa who live in the Sahara Desert. They’re very tall and brawny with black hair and eyes, and long and narrow faces.

The Tuareg practice Islam even though women have more freedom compared to other Islamic cultures. They can in fact divorce their husbands.

Their hands are painted with henna powder, which is obtained from drying up the leaves and branches of a thorny shrub. The powder has a yellow-greenish color but turns more red or brown depending on the mixture of branches (red) and leaves (brown).

I’m bewitched, watching the women begin their litany, a form of prayer consisting of a number of petitions and invocations sang by a leader and repeated by the congregation.

The thing that fascinates me the most and hypnotizes me is gazing up at the starry sky in the middle of the desert, millions of stars turning even the darkest of nights into light.

Mali used to be a peaceful country, but things have changed now.

In 2012 the Tuareg rebelled against the Mali government to obtain the independence of the northern region of Azawad in the Sahara Desert. Azawad became independent.

However, after the end of hostilities with the Malian Army, the Tuareg nationalists and Islamists struggled to reconcile their conflicting visions for the intended new state.

Mali is a wonderfully multiethnic land: Tuareg and Bambara merchants, the Bobo cotton farmers, the Dogon cosmogonists, the Mandinka farmers, the Soninke travelers, the Fula shepherds, and then… the Minyanka, the Songhai, the Senufo.

The most authentic way to discover new things is on the road. Discovering people, peoples, Mali.

 

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