Mali is an interesting destination for travellers going to West Africa. It is the biggest country in West Africa that is twice the size of Texas, a state in the United States. Those going here will find that the country has a rich culture as it was the birthplace of the Empire of Ghana. It is also one of the richest as seen in the lifestyle of Mansa Musa, the emperor of Mali in the early 1300s. His pilgrimage to Mecca included an entourage of 12,000 slaves and more than 50,000 men with 80 camels bearing heavy amounts of gold. This marks a great difference in the present situation of the country, which is one of the poorest in the world.
The political climate of Mali had run a clean record until 2012 when the military seized power and the north fell under the control of the al-Qaeda. The country had asked for help from France, its former colonial master. The timely assistance has enabled Mali to regain authority over key cities in the north. This, however, was not the end of the tension between the Tuareg separatists and the Islamists who fought over in the area. Despite this upheaval, Mali maintains its cultural activities such as the annual Festival in the Desert, which has brought to fame notable African talents such as Salif Keita.
What to see & do
Travellers going to see Mali will find a variety of destinations to include in their itinerary. One of them is a hike across the Mopti region in the central plateau to the Bandiagara Cliffs, a 150-kilometre sandstone site that was the home of the Dogon people. As one of the oldest surviving African cultures, the Dogon peoples boast of fascinating architecture and friendly locals who will point out interesting sites one would otherwise miss. Experiencing this village life earns one beautiful memories to keep.
The Great Mosque of Djenné is also a destination to look forward to. It looks like a sandcastle due to its pale colour which is alike with the earth. This is due to the hard-packed mud used in its construction, which made it look like it was made of sand. Non-Muslims cannot enter, but travellers may still appreciate the sight of this large structure that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988.
When one hears about Timbuktu, one cannot help but be curious about it. This lyrical-sounding name features various landmarks such as the Centre de Recherches Historiques Ahmed Baba. This displays a collection of ancient manuscripts and books with topics ranging from religious and historical, as well as scientific texts from around the world. One will also see here the Ethnological Museum which shows displays on clothing, musical instruments, games, and other relics of the community. There are also interesting colonial photographs of the ancient carvings at Tin-Techoun, which were either stolen or destroyed.
How to get around within Mali
Travellers will find a variety of transportation options in Mali. Those in the city can board private buses which ply the routes between the major towns around the south of the Niger River. Those who prefer going on trains can board between Bamako and Kayes, but should be patient as it often does not arrive on time. The last option for tourists is to ride boats going through the Niger River. The ferry ride enables travellers to reach destinations close or on the way, while being a novel experience for some.
How to get there
Travellers going to Mali can board flights heading for Bamako-Sénou International Airport in Bamako. Aigle Azur, Air France, TAP Portugal, and Turkish Airlines regularly transport passengers here with other African airlines such Air Algérie, Air Burkina, Air Côte d'Ivoire, ASKY Airlines, Douniah Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Interair South Africa, Kenya Airways, Mauritania Airlines International, Royal Air Maroc, Sénégal Airlines, and Tunisair.
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