Wonderful photo safari of architecture and people
Harassing, too many tourists...
The best place to meet the history of Mali
The most fascinating, and famous, thing to do in Djenne is to check out the mud structures. These massive buildings were constructed with only basic earth materials such as mud and clay. They did not use any "solid" materials such as metal or even stone to build or support them. It's quite impressive and also beautiful!more
Finding a guide speaking english in a francophone country like Mali is rare though due to the increasing number of non french speaking tourists some local guides try their best to learn some english. We were lucky enough that Alhousseiny Sininta, a local guide from Djenne speaks adequate english, enough to show you around for a 2 hours guidetour in...more
The villages contrast quite radically in traditional practices. In a Muslim village, the women covered their hair and were quite modest in their dress. In another village, the women were topless and basically unashamed of their beautiful black skin. Regardless of gender or cultural practice, the exposure of genitalia is not to be found, except...more
The stunning costumery that market goers wore impressed me a lot. I found both men and women in exotic tribal dress and others creatively using the castaway garments from American Good Will industries. Watching market place transactions, and the movement of animal pulled carts was pure entertainment in Djenne.more
I should also note that contrary to popular belief among those who have not traveled here, the vast majority of the children and adults I found in the villages were happy, healthy, and fed a good diet. Tribal children were as energetic, happy, and healthy as I've ever seen anywhere in the world, despite their obvious lack of material wealth. Among...more
Taking portraits of tribal people is not easy because they misunderstand or mistrust the gadgetry of the camera, not knowing exactly what the tourist will do with their image. So, I took a portable printer to facilitate an exchange of gifts of sorts--a printed image for the subject for each good photo. With some practice I was able to capture...more
The largest mud building in the world, the Djenne Mosque needs to be maintained every year with a coat of mud plaster, which is applied during a ceremony. We weren't there in time for the ceremonial plastering, but I made every effort to capture images of the exterior from all angles. The interior of the Mosque is not open to non-Muslims, so we...more
I had a shirt made from some fabric made at the market, but it is ill-fitting and I don't wear it often. So, most of the marketplace attraction is not the goods for sale, but rather the people selling them. I took images of the strange pile of dried fish and the huge calabashes, but mostly I looked for interesting images of people. The villagers...more
I've discussed this elsewhere, but basically there are various tribal villages within a long walk outside of Djenne, which are easily visited with the help of a guide. It's best to visit them during an off market day when everyone is hanging around home. Some tribal villages are Muslim while others are Animist. Some villages earn their living by...more
As the first clients, we could choose where to sit. Outside is nice but too many insects fell in our plates. Moreover it was too dark with only a small candlelight.Inside there was too much rumour because a big part of the village was looking at a footballmatch..Fish with fries, rice or couscous for2000 CFA.Not very tastyNo beer.more
You can sit inside or outside in the big courtyard.Not many possibilities: the menu differs every day and is written on a chalkboard. Fixed prize: 2800 CFA (not very cheap)Mostly only chicken with or without rice, taboulet, fries or couscousGood food and plentyBig Castel Beer for 8500 CFAmore
Since Djenne is a tourist and market town, the evening entertainment can be quite good. There are various festivals throughout the year, the most notable of which includes the plastering of the great mud mosque. But, on any given night, hotels will allow drums and dancers to entertain an audience. This entertainment is informal but very exciting to watch. All one needs is a drum in an African band, and the dancing of the women is energetic.
Dress Code: No dress code. This is a hot part of the world, so forget the tie. I'd wear shoes and it's always worthwhile considering whether or not the mosquitoes will bite.
On monday's (marketday) a bus leaves around 7 am Mopti 2500 CFA, returns around 3 pm.If you want to go from Bamako to Djenne there is a ocasional direct buses, otherwise take a overnight bus (with daytime buses you don't get a connection to Djenne) to Mopti until the turnoff, you will have a connection there.more
Read first chapter first...(the mopti transportation tip)if you decide to go by pickup(bear in mind that bamako is around 600kms away)However there is one direct bus to bamako every thursday at 8sharp and I wasn't sarcastic.Comparing to pickups this is first class transport, however even though the bus was bigger the amount of people present inside...more
The market in the old city is fairly common. Usual mix of local food and craft along with the imported household items from China. The spice markets are always fun for me even if I end up getting more than a nose full of the scents Best thing to do is look around. If you really need something then be prepared to bargain them down a bit. I go in...more
Browse the market area outside the Mud Mosque and you'll soon find a row of mud buildings that are stocked with masks and other souvenirs. Everything is dusty and dirty, except maybe the jewelry which is kept covered, but that's OK. The wood masks are made in large numbers and hung up on the mud walls, so dust and dirt is part of the...more
Golden ears and nostrils rings: another Djenné’s speciality. They are traditional Peul (Fulani) jewels.Of course, not easy to wear for shopping in an Occidental supermarket…!They make smaller ones. And the nostrils rings can be adapted to ears…If you buy big earrings and especially old (antique) ones, ask for a bill clearly showing the name of...more
In the Djenne market, one sees piles of dried fish. Much of the fish undoubtably comes from the water immediately surrounding the town, and so watching the fisherman work is of some interest. At the time we arrived, the dry season hadn't quite finished and much of the wetland areas were bone dry. Nevertheless, some puddles did offer up a catch of...more
The transportation problem for Djenne is that it's actually off the main highway between Segue and Mopti. So, the means if you take a bus to Djenne, the bus will ultimately drop you off on the way to Mopti. We arrived around midnight at the crossroads, which was pitch black except for the lights of the bus which was motoring to leave us alone in what appeared to be nowhere. Hungry bachee drivers wanted horrificly high prices for the 20 minute drive to Djenne, and by the looks of their vehicles, we wondered whether vehicle could survive the trip. Also, the drivers wanted to wait and fill up the vehicle, which meant that we might wait an hour or longer, something we didn't want to do considering we hadn't booked a hotel yet. Given the late hour, we decided to pay the price (which in terms of American dollars amounted to about $30- as I recall) and to our surprise cargo and people from everywhere suddenly loaded into the old rusty Peugot. The driver needed a push start and a knock on his headlights. Eventually, we reached the ferry and the town of Djenne. Arriving anywhere is always the hard part, but in the dark it's especially spooky. But, in the end, the personal danger doesn't seem to have been as great as we had feared.
Arriving at Djenné by bus or bush taxi is a fight. They let you on the large square in front of the mosque.
There, a real horde of fake guides grabs at everything that looks like a tourist… Almost unbearable.
No danger at all of course: simply worrying. But so much worrying that I still wonder if the whole city is not a tourist trap...
Don't misunderstand: I'm used to this kind of things and I usually don't bother. But up to this extend, I've seen this only twice: in Djenné and in Dori (Burkina).
Unique Suggestions: Better to hire one of the fake guides to get rid of 30 others. Select him intuitively or at random, it does not matter…: anyway, they know almost nothing about their own city’s history, architecture, etc…
The one we chose (Malamy) was a good boy, 20 years old, good company, funny and even moving… but completely incompetent as a guide!
At least, we had peace.
Fun Alternatives: It’s probably better to come to Djenné with a group than as an independent tourist.
As Seratonin remarks, the best day on the week to visit Djenne is on thursday; you then add to the fascinating mosquee view the lively experience of a typical african market. For photographs as well, the market view adds a good perspective to the mosquee pictures.more
If you`re in Djenne, it is well worth to climb on a roof to have a nice panoramic view of this town. If you`re not invited to tea in someones house who has access to a roof terrace, you can also ask a shopkeeper. Often they like it to guide you on the roof of their house. Of corse the hope that you`ll have a look on their shop afterwards ;-)more