Mali - Facts and Factoids

  •  This is a landlocked country. The majority of Mali is located in the southern part of the Sahara Desert. The Senegal and Niger Rivers make the south of Mali the country’s most fertile region.
  • French is Mali’s official language, but Bambara is the most frequently spoken language in Mali. There are a dozen other national languages.
  • The religion here is 98% Moslem.
  • Mali’s Ghana Empire was West Africa’s first black empire.
  • The empire’s wealth came mainly from the country’s position in the cross-Saharan trade routes, but Mali is sometimes known as the 'Land of Gold', due to its rich history of gold mining - for centuries. This was a major source of riches for its rulers, as early as the eleventh century.
  • Sundiata, Mali’s Lion King (or Lion Prince) was the founder and first ruler of the Mali Empire from which the country today takes its name. In his reign from 1235 to 1260 the empire stretched all the way to the western coast of Africa.

Who Colonised Mali?

France seized control of Mali In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa, making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. after Senegal's withdrawal, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. 

Is Mali a Poor Country?

Mali is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world. The average wage in Mali is $1.25 per day, and more than half of the population currently lives below the international poverty line. Two-thirds of Mali is desert, and much of the soil is too poor  to grow crops they need and due to low wages, many people suffer from malnutrition. The average birth-rate of six children per Mali woman is the third highest in the world. 

Is Mali Safe to Visit?

Mali is currently a scary prospect, as it’s nearly all coloured red on the FCO advisory map. The southwest corner which includes Bamako is orange (essential travel only). Jihadists have closed once thriving tourist routes for several years now. Sadly, the infamous Timbuktu is as off limits as “He’s Off to Timbuktu”  has always implied. So sadly, is Dogon Country. I’ve been advised that Djenne, Mopti,Segou and 'original Dogon country' are all safe to visit, but it seems that this is not entirely true!

Mali’s president requested aid from France in 2013 as Islamist fighters captured many of the main northern cities, including the city of Timbuktu, and began destroying many ancient shrines. United Nation peacekeepers were deployed that same year and more than 100 have been killed in Mali since then. It is considered one of the deadliest United Nations assignments. A new Islamist group linked to the Fulani tribe has emerged in central and southern Mali in the last two years. It recruits by protecting local villages from bandits and corruption in the government.

The Capital, Bamako

The traffic in Bamako is horribly heavy, there seem to be roadworks, but no evidence of any work (a familiar story) and the pace is excruciatingly slow.

Dinner in the most beautiful restaurant, in my hotel. It wouldn’t look out of place in London, Paris or Moscow, gorgeous crisp tablecloths, lamps and the wall covered in framed prints. There are five waiters all sporting bow ties. It’s a shame the cooking doesn’t measure up to the promise of the surroundings and the (very expensive) menu. The turbot fillet is definitely not turbot and is badly overcooked into the bargain.

Getting Into Mali

There's currently no consular representation in London, so visas have to be obtained from Paris. It's expensive and time consuming. Once you have the visa it's straightforward. I flew in from Niger.

Where Did I Visit in Mali?

I made visits to:

Getting out of Mali

I’m flying out on ASKY to Lagos today. As ASKY have cancelled half my flights booked with them so far, I’m not holding my breath. Or rather I am. But all is well. Though the departures board lists my flight as going to Conakry and not to Lomé, where I’m supposed to be changing planes. ‘It’s a mistake, ignore it,’ says a man in a yellow vest.

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