Adventures in Mali

Africa evokes a primal sense of adventure that fans the embers of wanderlust smoldering in the souls of travelers to flame. The rhythm of African life moves to a sensuous, captivating beat that will awaken your senses and lead you through doors where imagination becomes reality.

Dogon Country: Pays Dogon - Bandiagara Escarpment, Mali

Visiting the Dogon area is truely facinating and a cultural experience not to be missed.

Dogon Country, or Pays Dogon as it translates in French, encompasses the Bandiagara Escarpment known as Falaise de Bandiagara that rises above the flat landscape of the Sahel on the fringe of the Sahara Desert and stretches for a distance of 150 kilometers. The escarpment is the home of the unique and fascinating Dogon people.

The cliff faces of the escarpment reveal small ancient cliff dwellings which are said to be the remains of the homes of the Tellem. The Tellem are said to have been very diminutive people and are reputed to have been a race of magical and mysterious beings. The remnants of their civilizations high up in the cliffs are reminiscent of some of the cliff dwellings thought to have been the home of the fabled Anasazi race in the Southwestern United States.

Old Dogon dwellings also perch high on the cliff face for in less peaceful times the Dogon people retreated from the lower elevations to escape their enemies. As the threat of attack from other tribes lessened over the years, the Dogon slowly moved their dwellings down from the cliffs. Many modern day Dogon villages are at the foot of the escarpment close to their fields which are planted in the lower elevations.

The Dogon are renowned for their traditions, legends and mythology in addition to their artistry and craftsmanship. Their hereditary astronomical knowledge, which relates to their religious beliefs, includes reference to a star they call Po Tolo; tolo meaning star and po being the name of a tiny plant seed. The western world knows this star as Sirius B, an obscure companion to Sirius, the Dog Star. Historical evidence makes reference to the star’s suspected existence in 1844; however it was not until 1970 that western astronomers first photographed the star. It is interesting to note that the Dogon conveyed their knowledge of Sirius B to French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen in the 1930’s. The Dogon’s astronomical knowledge continues well beyond the existence of Sirius B. Their traditional mythologies include an awareness of the four moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn and they believe that they were visited by extraterrestrials from another galaxy who taught them about the universe.

To the Dogon, whose myths and legends are learned through oral transmission, the adventures and actions of the gods are examined and characterize the behavior and actions of humans on earth. Their myths represent the entire universe with the world as a microcosm reflected in everything, including the surrounding stones, water, trees and man himself. Dogon rituals encompass the decorating of objects with symbolic designs and patterns which reveal their meanings to the initiated through encoded messages.

In addition to the symbolism found throughout Pays Dogon in the form of static objects including carved statues, household objects and jewelry; the Awa or cult of the masks plays an integral and important role in Dogon traditions and religion. Spectacular representations of the dances of the masks are performed for visitors in many of the larger Dogon villages.

Although Dogon beliefs center on cults, totems and ancestor spirits a good number of Dogon share Muslim beliefs and mosques can be found in the larger villages.

As is the norm in Mali, the Dogon people are friendly, welcoming and polite hosts to visitors to their villages.

Dogon Circumcision Rattles

Used to Announce the Newly Circumcised Boys

Pays Dogon

View from the Cliffs

Pays Dogon

Dogon Village

Circumcision Area, Songho

Painted Symbols on Cliff Face

Circumcision Area, Songho

Dogon Guide Explaining Paintings

Pays Dogon

View from the Cliffs


On the Cliffs of Pays Dogon

Ancient Cliff Dwellings

Dogon & Tellem Dwellings in the Cliffs

Dogon Door

Displaying Symbolic Designs

Dogon Door

Older Door in Wall

Dogon Door

Intricate Door Lock

Dogon Window Shutter

Carved with Lizzard Designs

Dogon Water Spouts

Crocodile Design

Dogon Water Spout

Crocodile Design Water Spout

Dogon Village

Typical Modern Dogon Dwellings

Suzy and Stephie

Riding in Pays Dogon

Riding to Dogon Village

Meeting the Kids

One of Our Horses

Horse at Rest Stop Showing Traditional Saddle

Common Style of Traditional Bridle

Close Up of Nose Piece on Bridle

Riding Through Dogon Village

Making Friends

Uru, the Horseman of Ennde

Uru the Horseman and Two of Our Mounts

Our Dogon Guide, Amadou

Riding to Local Village on Market Day

Dogon Market

Shopping for Leather Goods

Dogon Market

A Meat Vendor

Riding in Pays Dogon

Gorel and Stephanie

Camel at Work

Dogon Village

Horses at Rest

Feeding Time

After the Days Ride

Waiting to Drink at the Well

Horses Drinking at Well

Horses Drink at the Local Well

Dogon Kids

Excited Kids Meet Riders

Dogon Rider

A Dogon Rider Passing By

Dogon Dancers

Dancers at the Village of Ennde

Dogon Dancers


Dogon Dancers

Dancers at Ennde

The Biggest Music Festival in Africa: le Festival au Desert, Mali

Le Festival au Desert, the Festival of the Desert, is held annually in the dunes of the Sahara Desert not far from Tombouctou, Mali. The venue for many years has been the oasis of Essakane, approximately 65 rugged kilometers from Tombouctou. The festival features traditional Tuareg and celebrated Malian musicians as well as groups from other West African countries.

Noted musicians in attendance include Tinariwen, the Tuareg group from Tombouctou that gained international notoriety with their performance during the debut of the festival in 2001. Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Habib Koite, the late Ali Farka Toure and his son Vieux Farka Toure are just a few of the shinning stars who delight the multi cultural international audience.

The idea for the festival took root in 1996 during a time when 3,000 guns were burned in the “Flame of Peace” to signify the end of fighting between peoples of the region. The idea was to combine the festival with the great traditional gathering of the nomadic Tuareg, or Tamashek people to promote the economy and develop the region. The name Tuareg applies to a Berber ethnic group and originated with the early explorers and historians of the region. The Tuareg call themselves Kel Tamasheq which translates to “Speakers of Tamasheq”. For centuries, traditional gatherings of these nomadic people have been celebrated with song, dance, poetry, ritual sword fighting, games, races and other customary entertainments.

For international visitors, the festival offers a wondrous occasion to be immersed in the world of the desert dwelling Tuareg. The three night festival provides a kaleidoscope of smells, sights and sounds that titillate the senses. Daytime activities include sampling delicious traditional food, shopping for treasures at the craft market, listening to impromptu concerts and participating in social interaction with people from local ethnic groups and visitor from around the globe.

The feature concerts begin in the evening and the impressive high tech sound system fills the starry nights with enchanting, rhythmic melody until the wee hours of the morning.

The Festval Stage

The Main Stage at the Festival au Desert

Festival au Desert, Essakane Mali

Tuaregs Arrive for Festival

Festival au Desert

Scene From the Festival

Tuareg Camel Riders at Festival

Grandstand View Tuareg Style

Camel Riders Feet

Close Up of a Riders Feet

Tuaregs on Camels

Festival au Desert

Decorations on a Camel Saddle

Beautiful Tassles Adorn a Camel Saddle

Camels at the Festival

Festival au Desert

Concert Goers

Enjoying the Concert from the Dunes

Enjoying the Concert from the Dunes

Festival au Desert

Faces in the Crowd

These Guys Seem Awed by the Crowd!

Faces at the Festival

Female Tuareg Performers

Local Photographer

Bedecked in Fashionable Ornaments

A Face in the Crowd

Female Tuareg Performer

A Face in the Crowd

A Woman in the Audience

Goods for Sale

Leather Bags for Sale in the Market Place

Modes of Transportation

Camels and 4 x 4s


Some of the People Attending the Festival


Camels at the Festival

Tuareg Horse

Horse in the Crowd

Festival au Desert, Essakane Mali

Tuareg Saddle on Horse at Essakane

Splendid Tuareg Camel Rider

Festival Attendees Don Their Most Spendid Outfits

Festival au Desert, Essakane Mali

Tuareg Camel

Festival au Desert, Essakane Mali

Fulani Musicians

Traditional Tuareg Tent

Festival Goers Often Stay in Tents of this Style

The Fabled City of Tombouctou

Tombouctou “The Mysterious” is a place of ledgends.

An historical center of trade, Tombouctou of old was also a center of learning. The many scrolls preserved in Tombouctou by the arid climate are currently in the limelight in world news (2008-2010). The scrolls, which are in the process of being professionally preserved and cataloged are said to rival the Dead Sea Scrolls in wealth of ancient knowledge and importance.

View of the Tuareg Peace Monument

A View Through a Window of the Tuareg Peace Monument in Tomboctou, Mali

The Tuareg Monument to Peace

Tombouctou, Mali

House of Scrolls

The Scrolls of Tombouctou are Said to Rival the Famous Dead Sea Scrolls

Woman Working with a Scroll

The Precious Scrolls of Tombouctou are Being Preserved

Architecture of Tombouctou

Beautiful Local Building

Turban Shop

Turbans for Sale on the Streets of Tombouctou


Turbans for Sale in Tombouctou

A Small Shop

A Small Shop Front in Tombouctou

Rugged 4 x 4

The Tough Desert Conditions Reguire Tough Vehicles


Window Shutters in a Building, Tombouctou

Baggage Donkey

Man with Baggage Donkey in Tombouctou

Camels Waiting

Camels Waiting as Tuareg Riders Shop in Town

Camel Parking on the Edge of the Sahara

On the Outskirts of Tombouctou

Suzy and Hama



Tuareg Guide

Heading for the Dunes

Camelback View

Camel Saddles

Camel Saddles in a Tuareg Encampment

Stephanie with Camels

A Ride in the Dunes with Horse and Camels

Camel Caravan

In the Sahara Outside of Tombouctou

Camel Caravan

Man Leading a Camel


Camels Carrying Necessities for Sleeping Out in the Desert

Tuareg Camels

Waiting for Their Riders to Return

Waiting for a Drink

At a Well Near Tombouctou

Cows at a Well Near Tombouctou

Livestock Waiting for a Turn to Drink

Solitary Camel

In the Dunes Near Tombouctou

Horse in the Dunes

Rider Enjoys the Solitude of the Dunes and a Good Horse

Oumar: The Horseman of Tombouctou
Oumar in-Dahoye el Arawanie is a horseman of note. Born to Tuareg nobility, horses are his passion. It is unusual to find a horseman with Oumars talents among the Tuareg in the Tombouctou region, as the camel is the usual Tuareg preference. Ourmar has a passion for horses shared by serious horsemen world wide.

Oumar in-Dahoye el Arawanie

Oumar and His Stallion


In the Dunes Outside of Tombouctou

Horse of the Desert

Oumar Gallops Through the Sands of the Sahara

Traditional Tuareg Bridle

Close Up of Bridle on Oumar’s Horse

Traveling Along the Niger River in Mali

The Niger River flows through the heart of Mali. It’s waters provide an invaluable life source to much of the local population. Farming, fishing and commerce rely heavily on this mighty waterway.

Much of the road from Bamako to Pays Dogon and Tombouctou follows close to the path of the Niger. The fabled Mud City of Djenne, a World Heritage site, Segou and Segoukoro (old Segou) and the bustling river port city of Mopti are destinations well worth visiting that lay on the banks of the Niger. Even Tombouctou is only a few kilometers from the river.

The following photos were taken along the river in Segou, Seoukoro, Djenne and Mopti and from the decks of a local river boat, called a Pinasse, during an amazing river voyage from Tombouctou to Mopti.

Haute Couture Africa Mode

At a Dress Shop in Segou

A Laden Pinasse

A Pinasse Arrives with Cargo in Segou

Off Loading a Pinasse

Loading Goods onto Donkey Carts in Segou

The Riverfront

Activity on the Niger River in Segou

Washing the Mercedes

A Man Taking Care of His Car in Segou

Fulani Boy and Horse

A Boy Takes His Horse into the River for a Bath

Horse Having a Bath

Animals are Well Looked After in Mali

Horse and Boy

On the Waterfront in Segou

After the Bath

Horse and Boy After Washing the Horse in the River

Donkeys and Pirouge

On the Banks of the Niger, Segoukoro

Cattle Crossing the River

Cattle Cross the Niger in Segoukoro

Design on a Pinasse

Blue and White Design on Pinasse in Segou

Detail of Pinasse in Segou

Note Handcrafted Wooden Paddle

Calabashes for Sale

In the Market in Segoukoro

The Ferry Crossing at Djenne

Horse Cart Waiting for the Ferry


A World Heritage Site

Djenne, the City of Mud

A Place Not to Miss!

Mud Cloth in Djenne

Bogolan, or Mud Cloth Originated in Djenne


One of the Fabled Mud Buildings

Mud Architecture, Djenne

Window in a Wall in Djenne

Window in Djenne

Window in a Wall in Djenne

Going to Market

Horse Cart Headed for the San Market

San Market

Horse Cart at the Market in San

San Market

Lady Selling Dried Fish

Color is Everywhere in Mali

Horse Cart at the Market in San

Cart Horse’s Amulet

San Market

Cart Horse’s Amulet

San Market

Close Up of a Donkey

San Market

Donkey in Harness

San Market

Pottery For Sale

San Market

San Market

Man Selling Kola Nuts in the San Market

Pure Shea Butter

For Sale in the Market in San

Lady Weighing Shea Butter

Shea Butter is One of Mali’s Primary Exports

Lady Selling Watermellons

San Market

Calabashes on the Waterfront in Mopti

Calabashes of Every Size For Sale

Salt on the Waterfront at Mopti

Transported from the Distant Salt Mines of the Sahara

The Waterfront in Mopti

The Bustling Port of Mopti

Close Up of Pinasse

Showing Steering Mechanism

Man in Orange Boubou

Reflecting on the River

Ladies in Twin Boubous

Ladies Crossing the Water in Mopti

Man in Purple Boubou

Man on the Waterfront in Mopti

Small Boats on the River

Scene From the Mopti Waterfront

Man in a Blue Boubou

On the Waterfront in Mopti

Bob Marley Pinasse

Everyone Loves Bob Marley!


Boatman in Mopti

Design on Pinasse

Color is Everywhere in Mali

Malian Woman

Colorful Dress on the Waterfront in Mopti

Malian Ladies in Beautiful Boubous

Elegant Ladies Attending Mopti Festival

Young Man in Traditional Dress

Mopti Festival

Cultural Festival in Mopti

People of Diverse Malian Cultures Display Their Finery in Mopti

A Face in the Crowd

Man at Festival in Mopti

Mural on the Wall

Colorful Mural on the Wall of a Restaurant in Mopti

Man With a Blue Blanket

Hand Woven Wool Dyed with Indigo

Blankets on Display

Like Male Peacocks Displaying Their Tails

Blanket Vendors in Mopti

Beautiful Locally Made Blankets on Display

Turban Seller in Mopti

Turbans in the Colors of a Rainbow


Pinasse at Nafunke

Commercial Pinasse

Large Pinasse Stop Along the River to Deliver and Load Goods

Cattle on the River

Children in Pirouge with Cattle Grazing on the Bank

Herd of Sheep

River Dwellers in Pirouge with Sheep

Moto in Pirouge

Everyting Imaginable is Transported by Boat!

Colorful Boatman

Fisherman on the River

Clothing Vendor on the Niger

Local Vendor Selling Clothing from Pirouge

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