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Mali

By Dmitry Petrounin Dmitry Petrounin Section editor Profile

In the heart of West Africa, bordered by Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Senegal, Mali has a multitude of natural and cultural attractions. As you cross the country, you will come across various ethnic groups whose names recall myths and legends, such as the Fulanis, the Dogons and the Tuaregs. A melting pot of the most influential empires in Africa, Mali's glorious past is reflected in its towns and historic sites like Djenne, Gao or Timbuktu. From the northern Sahara region to the southern forests, this country has strong ancestral traditions that are evident throughout the country.

Security: the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all but essential travel to Mali's Bamako region and against all travel to the rest of Mali. You should not travel to the north of Mali under any circumstances. See full official advice.

Our Editorial team's advice

Take advantage of the sunrises and sunsets on the Niger River; you will see some absolutely fabulous scenery! Don't hesitate to go an extra few miles off the beaten path to discover some of the more remote regions, especially in the Dogon country. If you are looking to bring back some artisanal souvenirs from Mali, go to the market in Mopti; it has a wide range of products that are cheaper here than elsewhere.
Always have a lot of small change on you! Otherwise, even merchants in the most touristy areas won't be able to give you the change you are owed.

pros

  • +The country's great rich culture.
  • +The varied landscapes and means of discovering them (camel, boat, train, bus).

cons

  • -Unrest in the north of the country.
  • -The roads are in very bad conditions and access to the tourist sites is difficult.

Food

The main dish in Mali features couscous, tô (a millet or maize gruel) or rice, served with a meat or fish sauce, for those who can afford it. Some of the beverages you should try include dolo (millet beer) and tamarind juice.

Reviewed hotels

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Souvenirs

Mali is known for its artisanry. Fulani crafts include wool and cotton blankets, sheepskin hats, and various types of copper, silver and gold jewellery. Tuaregs are specialists in the production of arms, but they also make elegant silver jewellery and work with leather to create chests and colourful boxes. The Dogon are specialised in the craft of sculpted doors, statues and masks for rituals. Segu craftsmen are famous for terracotta pottery, while the Bambaras and the Senufos are known for their wooden statues and masks. This regional diversity can be seen all grouped together at the heart of some of the markets, notably the Bamako Crafts Market. The shops are open from 8:30am to 7:30pm from Monday to Saturday.