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Overview

The most culturally absorbing destination in West Africa, Mali is a vast and arid country that spans the Sahel and Sahara, bisected by the mighty Niger River. The country's most famous town is that byword for remoteness: Timbuktu. This ancient trans-Saharan trade outpost started to slide into decline hundreds of years ago, but it retains enough relics of its medieval heyday to justify a visit. It's also a good base for Tuareg trips into the Sahara. The most beautiful of Mali's ancient cities is Djenne, whose curvaceous adobe architecture reaches an apex in the form of Djenne Mosque, the world's largest mud construction, overlooking a weekly ...

The most culturally absorbing destination in West Africa, Mali is a vast and arid country that spans the Sahel and Sahara, bisected by the mighty Niger River. The country's most famous town is that byword for remoteness: Timbuktu. This ancient trans-Saharan trade outpost started to slide into decline hundreds of years ago, but it retains enough relics of its medieval heyday to justify a visit. It's also a good base for Tuareg trips into the Sahara. The most beautiful of Mali's ancient cities is Djenne, whose curvaceous adobe architecture reaches an apex in the form of Djenne Mosque, the world's largest mud construction, overlooking a weekly market mosque as colorful as any in Africa. Predominantly Islamic, Mali is also home to West Africa's best-known enclave of animism in the form of the beautiful Dogon villages that run along the base of the scenic Bandiagara Escarpment. The area is best explored over several days, hiking between different villages facilities are rudimentary but the culture is unique. A constant feature of travel in Mali is the thrillingly varied and unique homegrown music that blasts from cassette decks and radios. The musical highlight is the Festival in the Desert, held every January.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: In Africa, landlocked in the West, and 7th largest country, bordering Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south.
  • Language: French, Malian French
  • Currency: CFA Franc
  • Research: Mali
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall