In Djenné, it is worthwhile to visit the town with a local guide. The tour will take you through the medieval centre
with its monumental mud houses, Koran schools and craftsmen’s workshops. Of course he will also tell you everything
about the famous mosque, the largest mud building in the world. Djenné is protected by UNESCO and consists entirely
of mud buildings. It is forbidden to build houses from concrete and corrugated iron. The sight of the town has thus,
apart from an occasional car, hardly changed since the Middle Ages. It is not hard to imagine the heydays of this
ancient commercial and religious centre. Monday is market day in Djenné. Around noon, there are so many people in
town, that you can hardly get through the crowds. The usually quiet market place has changed into a sea of colours,
smells and noises. From a roof nearby the market place, you will have a beautiful view over this event with the
mosque as scenery.
As special as sleeping in the desert is waking up in a Dogon village. At daybreak, the village awakens. From the
roof where you have been sleeping, you’ll see daily village activities. Women, on their way to the well greet
friendly, children start their plays, the radio is turned on, you hear the pounding of the millet. Crowing cocks,
braying donkeys and bleating goats join the concert. The escarpment with its clinging houses and granaries form a
beautiful décor. In the villages, you will have enough time to make contact with the Dogon people and their way of
live. The guide will show you the particular places of the village. For example the Toguna, the meeting place,
covered with an immense layer of straw, the Bina temple for the snake god Léwé, the Gina house for the ancestors,
the menstruation hut and the circumcision cave. During the trekking, you will mostly sleep on the roof of small
mud houses. The sanitary fittings are very simple and not always clean. The toilet is a hole in the floor and the
shower a bucket of water, which you should use sparingly. If you dread having to overnight this primitive, you
could also make day tours from a hotel in one of the bigger Dogon villages. The best way to discover the Dogon
Country is by foot. Alternately you will be walking over the plateau, down over the plain and through lush gardens
and climbing or descending the escarpment. The walks in itself are not very difficult, but the weather can become
very hot. That way, a Dogon trekking could become rather strenuous.
Hombori and surroundings:
The road from Mopti to Hombori leads through a beautiful bizarre shaped, mountainous landscape. From the basic
but pleasant guesthouse, you have a beautiful view on the Hombori Tondo. With 1155 meters the highest point of
Mali. The top cannot be reached without ropes and according to the local people, ghosts inhabit it. You can walk
however halfway up the mountain to visit some villages. From Hombori you can make trips to the holy rock
"the Hand of Fatima" or to villages in the surroundings. From the village Dagana, for example, you can walk to
an abandoned village on the top of a mountain. According to the inhabitants, the ancestors still live there,
whilst ghosts inhabit the holy sources. The only living creatures you will see however, are monkeys. The guide
will tell you impressive storeys about legendary Songhai kings with their superhuman powers.
Mopti was a backward village in medieval times when Timbuktu and Djénné were great imperial cities. Now the
situation is reversed and Mopti is an important port on the Niger halfway between Bamako and Goa. Mopti is
surrounded by low areas whose flooding during the wet season is controlled by an intricate system of causeways
and dykes built by the French to transform swamps into usable agricultural land. It is a prosperous place with
a big market and a beautiful Mosque. Mopti is one of the liveliest harbour towns along the Niger River. In the
streets, you will see all kinds of people from all over the region. Bozo, Touareg, Fulani, Songhai, Bambara,
Hausa settled down in this town or just pass by to do business. The town is situated on a crossroad of two
important rivers, the Bani and the Niger. In the harbour large, decorated, pinasses come and go. Traders sell
the merchandise directly in the market at the wharf. From a café, you can let the hustle and bustle pass. In
the old centre, you walk through narrow alleys. Here, live is more relaxed. You can visit the Mosque, the women’s
market, a potters home and crafts workshops.
Segou used to be the centre of the old Bambara kingdom, described in the famous book of Maryse Condé. From
Segou you can visit the old royal residence Segou Koro, nowadays a small village near present-day Segou. You
can also make a tour by traditional boat over the Niger River, which is impressively wide here, to a village
of potters. In Segou itself, it is worthwhile to walk through the colonial quarter with its shady avenues. The
French colonizers constructed small palaces in Malian style. Towards the evening, you can install yourself on a
pavement near the river to watch the sun set.
Timbuktu is renowed as The Desert City whose name has become synonymous with remoteness and isolation. It's
no wonder that it has acquired that reputation for the tracks going out are just as bad as the one coming in.
Arriving by car or boat, after days of seeing nothing but sandy roads or water, barren landscapes and some tiny
villages, you may understand the enchanting effect Timbuktu caused in those days. It’s true, much of the ancient
lustre has disappeared, but you can still feel the atmosphere of the legendary sultans, great warriors and rich
tradesmen. Timbuktu used to be an important intermediate station on the Trans Sahara Route between West and North
Africa. Here the merchandise was transhipped from boats to camels. For months in a row, camel caravans, loaded
with valuable goods, like gold and salt trespassed the Sahara Desert; a dangerous adventure. It was often impossible
to find water and food on the way, getting lost was a serious threat and brigands laid in the wait.
Now the merchants have left and it is only an administrative center for the north, a region of secondary
importance in today's Mali. The brilliant Islamic scholars have also left and have been replaced by the French
secondary school shown here. In Timbuktu, you can visit the inside of the oldest mosque of the town, the houses
where famous explorers stayed, the ethnographic museum and the artisans market. From Timbuktu, we organise tours
by camel from 1 up to 10 days. You can alternately walk or sit on camel back. During these camel tours, you will
sleep in the open air or at Touareg camps. Sleeping in the desert is an experience by itself. When the last tea
is finished and the camp fire is extinguishing, you enjoy the overwhelming starry sky and the immense silence.
Timbuktu was founded around 1100 AD by Tuareg nomads who chose to camp here because of wells. A century later it
was taken from the Tuareg by the Mali Empire and rapidly became a center for north-south commerce. In the late 13th
century, the Mali sultan Mansa Musa built the Djingereyber Mosque in the traditional sahelian dried-mud style. It
has been rebuilt many times since and has this appearance today. In its heyday under the Askia Dynasty of the
Songhai Empire (1468 - 1591), Timbuktu was a brilliant center of Islamic culture and an important market where
gold and slaves from the South were traded for salt, cloth and horses from the North. Timbuktu never recovered
from the Moroccan invasion in 1591 following which it lost control of the trade that had made it rich.