Republic of Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. It shares its boundaries with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cote dIvoire, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal. Mali, formerly a confederation of two French colonies, Sudanese Republic and Senegal became free in 1960. When Senegal left the federation, the name of Sudanese Republic was changed to Mali.
Mali was under dictatorial rule till 1991. The first elected President came to power in Mali in 1992.
Mali is a poor country. 65 percent of its land area is desert about 70 percent of the population is employed in farming and fishing.
Malian has a low life expectancy of 48 years high infant mortality and low adult literacy 17 percent of the adult population are HIV positive.
The country has stunning desert landscapes, lovely mud buildings from mosques to granaries decorated in a uniquely raw but exquisitely artistic style, colourful, relaxed, pleasant people, extraordinary hikes along the magnificent Bandiagara Escarpment and camel treks from the ghost town of Timbuktu.
If you can be there in December for the cattle crossing festivities or April for the mask dancing festival, all the better.
Cities to visit include some of the following.
Bandiagara Escarpment is one of Africas great cultures, with fine, primitive woodcarving, superb mud architecture in a bizarre setting, curious farming methods and some truly strange customs.
Mopti is a busy tourist town with a good port for river cruises, short or long, though long trips will be possible only August November.
This is a convenient stepping stone to Bandiagara, Timbuktu and other northern towns. Djenne is difficult to get to but the town has terrific mud architecture and a sensational mud mosque, though you cant go inside it has a great Monday market.
Segou a greener, faded colonial version of Djenne, including the terrific mud mosque and the Monday market. And the especially good news is its a lot closer to Bamako, a mere 200km.
Timbuktu is not much there except the name and lots of sand, but interesting in a defunct sort of way. Camel trips to Tuareg Blue Men camps are popular around here.
Its possible to travel there by boat if the river is high enough, though pick your transport with care.
Bamako is Malis capital is a dusty, noisy, unattractive mess, but has plenty of exotic sights, particularly local people and markets, and a terrific National Museum loaded with tribal carvings.
Dont travel independently to the far north or east of Mali unless you fancy a close encounter with heavily armed bandits that captured tourists in 2004.
The Bandiagara Escarpment is one of the worlds best hikes both beautiful and fascinating, but be very careful when choosing a guide and expect facilities en route to be primitive.
You really need a reliable guide for Dogon area walking but 80 percent of self proclaimed guides will simply be ignorant opportunists who may become aggressive when exposed, so take the time to check out candidates thoroughly. Best of all would be to get recommendations from other travellers.
A river trip down the Niger will be a memorable experience, but only possible at limited times of the year. Camel riding out from Timbuktu with a Tuareg guide should satisfy your lust for sand.Wildlife birds in Dogon country beside the Niger River and frequent hippos are worth a look.
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