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Route taken: Sevare, Mopti, Sevare, Somadougou, Djenne (ferry to Djenne) – 87 miles – Stayed at Djenne-Djenno

Luckily we timed ok to get to Djenne for the Monday market. Before that, Mopti is a bit crazy at the best of times, so after a bite to eat at the Bissap cafe we had a quick look around, avoiding the Tuareg men trying to sell us all sorts of souveniers, and got out of town quickly to make our way to Djenne. Al managed to find a really nice Fulani wedding blanket which you can find in Mopti.

Some blurb –  Djenne is the oldest city in Sub-Saharan Africa and remains the World’s largest mud built structure. It has a fascinating history. It flourished as a main trading centre in the 16th century, taking advantage of its location to Timbuktu which is 220 miles upstream. It also linked all the countries north of the Sahara with central Africa. Moroccan kings occupied the city for a time and this can be seen in the design of some buildings near the mosque in the centre of Djenne.

Being made of mud, the maintenance of the Great Mosque is supervised by a guild of 80 senior masons, who also coordinate the annual spring replastering. Many of the citizens of Djenné work to prepare banco (mud mixed with rice husks) for the event.

We made our way from the main Bamako-Gao highway, and stopped to make a turn towards Djenne. The ferry which would take us to Djenne was working – the water was really high. The ferry couldn’t really stop working during the wet season and it still had a good amount of trade, especially on market day, despite some people staying away because of the rains.

When we finally got to see the market, it was something else. Instantly we were transformed back a few hundred years. It was chaos – there was mud everywhere. We got a guide, more to stop him hassling us than something we actually needed, and he navigated us around the worse patches. He took us around the mosque and then through the market to see what was going on. Some funky smells coming from things we didn’t recognise. There was the usual market display. Fulani women dressed in colourful dresses everywhere. Vegetables, dried herbs, cooking intstruments, tools, large calabashes (great carrying tools, not seen anywhere else, but in Mali, it’s a big thing). We  are starting to see mint for sale as we head slowly back into mainly muslim/Arabic countries. Hibiscus (bissap) is a big thing and that is also sold in the market.

After a long look around we headed back to the cafe for some food and tried to decide if we could bear coming in this weather. A resounding No, so we headed to a hotel in desperate need of a hot shower!

September 2010