Before the Dogon tribes drove them out, the pigmy Telem peoples populated the escarpment. Their considerable mud architecture still hangs on cliff side voids in the escarpment, in a way similar to the pueblo architecture of Mesa Verde, a place more familiar to Americans. The architecture hangs in a far more precarious manner than I've ever seen in America though, although many of the buildings appear to be caches for grain storage. We didn't have much time to examine these places close-up, but I got some good telephoto images as we walked by. Apparently, the Telem pigmy people were driven south toward the rainforests of central Africa sometime after 1000 A.D.
African women are the world's leaders for their elegant abilityt to balance loads on their heads. The youngest girl soon learns to carry a load like a woman. On the hike down the escarpment though, we saw the ultimate of this skill. Women carrying milk to market, many in double stacks of bowl shaped calabashes. I am solid hiker, but I had to step gingerly down the rubble of the escarpment. My wife, Belinda, often needed a helping hand. The market traffic was climbing the escarpment with considerable loads. The most elegant though was clear the ability to transport a liter of milk in a calabash without spilling a drop.
The modern Dogon people living in this remote area still live more or less as they have for centuries. The unique conical buildings with thatched roofs and carved doors are particularly interesting for architecture and anthopology fans. The doors have locks, and the many symbolic elements provide protection for the inhabitants.
All the guide books and some of the local tour agencies advise you to bring Kola nuts for the local village hogans or chiefs.....I saw plenty of people doing this. I on the other hand did not.
Most of these villages in Dogon country have tourist camps with an array of amenties. Most also have coolers with water, soda and beer. Some of the cheifs do quite well by selling the stuff. Yes, I know you do not want to contribute to the westernization of the place...guess what you are too late to stop it. Buy a cold beer off them and watch them smile...then you will see what those kola nuts do to their teeth....Reminded me a bit of the qat situation on the theother side of Africa.