Mali Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by hannette
  • Local Customs
    by hannette
  • Local Customs
    by hannette

Mali Local Customs

  • Participate in a marriage

    Sunday usually is the day marriages are being celebrated . (Hence the famous song by Amadou & Mariam 'Les Dimanches à Bamako, c' est le jour du marriage).If possible try to join such a celebration.... You'll experience the enthusiasm and exuberance of traditional West-African life!

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  • Use your right hand

    Like in many other countries all over the world, eating with you left hand is not accepted in Mali. Very often when you're eating local food in Mali there are no knife and fork or spoon around to eat with, so people often eat with their hands. And since the left hand is considered the "unclean" hand people only eat with right.Of course, if you eat...

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  • Have some tea!

    Malians love their tea! No matter where you are in the country, you'll always come across someone boiling a fresh pot. It's considered a great gesture of friendship to offer tea to visitors, and it's also considered quite rude to decline such an offer!The cups are generally very small, about the size of a shot glass, so even if it's not your "cup...

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  • Soap Operas :-((

    In Mali if you go to lunch in a restaurant at telenovelas' time (soap operas time) you are lost!!! Mexican and Venezuelan telenovelas have invaded Africa too. In Mali people see these telenovelas translated into French and they are very popular, even between men. So if you want to have lunch at telenovelas' time you'll have to wait until the...

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  • Local masked dances

    This could be considered as a tourist trap as well. During your excursion to the Dogon country it will be almost impossible to avoid them. They tell you how lucky you are because these dances are rare to see and oops! just that day there is I don’t know which important event and there will be a performance! The truth is that they do these...

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  • Other constructions

    In small villages it will happen to you to see this kind of constructions (picture 1). They are, together with mud huts and mud granaries, very common in Mali. There are good to protect yourself from the sun but there are used as stalls. The village’s local markets are basically a group of these stalls. Leaving Mopti direction to Timbuktu we found...

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  • Local fabrics

    These fabrics form part of Malian clothes. They are made of natural materials and decorated using natural dyes. We are not talking about simple accessories, something to put some color to their dresses. From these fabrics (the designs, colors, materials) you can understand lots of things about the owner like his tribe, social status and even if he...

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  • Granaries

    I found these constructions very nice, as they look like the smurfs’ huts. Made of mud and slightly elevated from the land by a wooden structure to avoid humidities, each hut corresponds to a family. Sometimes, if the family have more ressources, the man has his own granary and the woman has another one (usually bigger!). Women introduce the grain...

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  • Natural elegance

    Women in Mali are very elegant! And it is not a matter of a good dress or nice accessories; I am talking about a natural elegance. You can see a girl or a lady dressed with very poor clothes but she behaves and walks as if she was the star model in a fashion show. La classe!!

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  • Baobab tree

    The baobab tree ("Adansonia digitata") is very typical in this area. Also known as the upside-down tree (the sparse branches resemble roots) it is very spectacular and some of them can reach 25 m high. Its fruit is called “pain de singe” (monkey’s bread) and its taste is not very different from cola, with a final acid taste. I have read that some...

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  • Cola

    I don't know how to describe this: it's a kind of fruit with a final acid taste that it seems to have the same effect than our cola: if you eat it you cannot sleep at night. Following the advice of our Dogon guide we bought a bag full of cola before starting our trip to Dogon Country. Foreigners use to offer cola to old Dogon people when they...

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  • Local food

    If you wander around the markets in Mali, you'll see lots of stalls with a kind of dried fish (picture 1). This is a very popular dish in Mali. You can also find some fruits like small bananas and big watermelons (picture 2)

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  • Pinasses

    Pinasses are the traditional boats in Mali and they are the main transport on the Niger River. Pinasses are made of wood and they put black tar on it in order to be waterproof. Local people use paddles to sail; tourist pinasses are covered with a roof and they have engine. We used pinasses to do short excursions and visit traditional villages...

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  • Wedding!

    When we were in Segou we were lucky enough to see a Wedding! Very nice, it seemed that all the city was invited to the event!!! Of course people were wearing their best clothes (picture 2) . . . weddings are always very important in the community!!! On the picture you can see the most expected moment: the just married couple going out of the...

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  • Ramadan!!!!!!!!

    Although we are not Muslim-Mali is,and we celebrated along with the population at this local party where of course we we’re the only ones drinking!!!! We danced till the early hours of the morning, from reggae to rap to traditional African music, letting go was a blessing that night:)from left to right is Tina, Jonathan, Crelene and her African man...

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  • Bankas: plaiting hair

    At Ben's Bar in Bankas, the African women liked it, to plait not only their own, but also our European hairs.There are many different African styles for plaiting the hairs with different names. My Ghanaian friends have tried to explain me about it.

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  • Bankas: pounding grain.

    Everyhwere in West Africa you see women pounding grain, fufu and other food stuff.Mostly two women do the job together, very fast in an energetic rhytm...I'm always fascinated to see this, because I'm not really able to do this, even after some practising I did in Ghana.

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  • Village deep south: granary

    In the villages near Bougouni in the deep south we saw these nice round granaries.This are the buildings, where the villagers store their grains, high above the ground to protect their food against animals like mice.

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  • Village deep south: kitchen

    In a nice village south of Bougouni, where we had to fetch water at the local pump, we were invited to look around in the small village. So we could have a close look at this very practical open air kitchen ..... and the sleeping dog.

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  • Ségou: laundry at the riverside.

    Life at the Niger River: In the towns and villages along the River Niger you see always a lot of activities at the riverside.If you sit for a while at the riverbank, you will see boats, pinasses, leaving and coming.Also you will see the everyday life as the gathering of the women, doing the laundry.

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  • Washing clothes in the river

    Everywhere at the rivers in the country is a lot of activity like washing clothes, washing dishes...At this picture you see women washing clothes in the Kankélaba River, in the deep south near the border with Cote d'Ivoire.

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  • Snacks along the street

    Everywhere in the towns of Mali you can buy snacks along the street. In the Centre Comercial of Kayes we saw the stall of this lady, preparing fishballs. We could follow the whole proces of pounding, making balls and frying, while we had to wait for something.The lady was selling small breads with fishballs. It must have tasted delicious for sure,...

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  • Herding of cows

    Most of the rural people in the Sahel regions of Mali like in the Region of Kayes are pasturalists. On the dry and dusty plains we saw rather regularly boys and men with smaller and bigger herds of cows.So we saw this large herd of wide -horned cows at the northern edge of Kayes, but most of the times we saw herds, suddenly appearing in the middle...

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  • Baby Slings

    Lots and lots of infants and no such thing as daycare. Obviously, the women do not cease working after they have a baby. It's back out to the fields to collect firewood, to plant onions, to harvest and then pound millet. And of course, there is also the cooking and cleaning. Wherever mom goes, the baby must also go. They just wrap the tots up in a...

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  • Music, Singing, Dancing, Drumming

    Music and rythym is part of everday life in Mali. The only people I have encuntered who are so musically inclined are the Jamaicans. Of course, Jamaica has Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and Yellowman. Mali musicians, perhaps not well-known in the U.S., but critically acclaimed in Europe include: Salif Keita, Toumani Diabate, Ali Farke Toure,...

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  • Manual Labor

    Work. Work. Work. That is the lot of your average Malian woman. And millet pounding seems to be the primary chore. Pound. Pound. Pound. The millet is pounded with the large pestle until it is pulverized so that it can be boiled and eaten with slimy okra sauce. All that work to make a dish that is rather disgusting.I am so glad that I am not 23...

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  • More kids

    When you go into the villages, the kids are everywhere. Mali is still at a stage of development where there is an economic incentive for parents to have as many as possible--more mouths to feed, yes, but also more hands to work in the fields.I've never seen such happy and playful children. They just latch on to you. The little guy on my right...

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  • Weekly Market Day

    Most towns and villages have market day once a week. In Djenne, Monday is market day and folks come from miles around, wait hours at the ferry crossing and then set up these makeshift stalls outside the great mosque in order to sell and barter their goods. Capitalism at work.

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  • Incredible Balance

    Everywhere you go in Africa you will see women carrying tremendous loads on their heads. For example, this bucket on the girl's head was full to the brim with water and she did not spill a drop while manuevering across the rooftop of her home. She poured some of the water into a pot and set about making a soup or stew of some kind.You will see...

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  • My Personal Hero, Cherif Keita

    If it were not for Cherif Keita, I would never have visited West Africa. Cherif is a French language professor at Carleton College in my hometown of Northfield, Minnesota. My wife Becky is the director of alumni relations at Carleton College. Somehow, Cherif convinced Becky that Mali was the perfect destination for an alumni travel program....

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  • Textiles

    I have never seen such vibrant colors. I can only describe African dress as a pageant of primary colors. I love the uninhibited fashions. Everyone seems to think they are like a peacock--nothing to e ashamed of in wearing the most gaudy colors. To my eye, it beats the khakis favored by Americans or the black clothing worn by Europeans and...

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  • Children are seen, but not heard

    I don't know how many Malian children we observed in our twelve days in the country--several thousand at least. I heard a grand total of one child scream and cry, and he had a darn good reason after he slipped and fell and was trampled by a couple hundred of his fellow four year olds.Seriously, the children were the sweetest youngsters I have ever...

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  • Life is hard - so take it easy

    Poor sanitation and limited health services are some of the causes of the high rate of disease in Mali. The most common sicknesses treated are malaria, measles, diarrhea, and colds. The greatest causes of infant and child mortality are diarrhea and measles, both complicated by malnutrition. There are few employment opportunities in Mali, and...

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  • The River

    The river is the lifeblood of the villagers who live alongside it: they drink the water, wash in it, cook with it, use it as their toilet, fish from it, wash theri clothes in it, transport their goods along it, build their houses alongside it, irrigate their crops with it, water their animals with it - the list goes on!

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  • Divining table

    Laid out to strict rules, the table is used to get answers to a great many questions: should X marry Y, did Z steal W's sheep, will it rain next week? Nuts, sticks and stones are laid out in carefully marked squares and the village elders return the next moring to interpret the answers, depending on where and how the objects are now placed.It does...

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  • Villagers dancing

    In Tigou village, the young women eintertained us with soem traditional dancing. Not the symbolic masked dances that are performed by a select few men only, this was more social dancing, and we were invited to join in after a while. Not many felt ebergetic enough to take part after a day's trekking in such extreme heat.

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  • The well

    A lot of activity can be found around the wells. Drawing water for drinking, washing of bodies and clothes and a bit of a social gathering. A great way to cool down on those incredibly hot days is to pour water over your head as well as filling your hat with cold well water before putting it on. Slowly dripping down your face and neck, it keeps...

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  • Shopping for dinner

    With the Tabasci festival a few days ago, sheep were at a premium (having been sacrificed by the score) and when we found one for sale in one of the villages we passed we took the opportunity to buy it. Eric, as we named him, walked with us for two days before being cooked over an open fire with garlic in a traditional Dogon recipe. Delicious!

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  • Medicine man

    At every small village we stopped at in Dogon Country, a hoard of sick and injured people would appear from nowhere, assuming that as whites, we must be medicine men! James was a trained first aider and Jan a nurse, and between them they tried to clean wounds, give eye-drops and headache tablets and dress sores. We very quickly ran out of first aid...

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  • Doors

    The Dogon are famed for their carved doors which adorn many of their houses. Some are quite ancient, but unfortunately the Dogon have realised that these can fetch a great sum of money on the tourist market. Do not be tempted! You can buy recently carved replicas in minature, which is better for transporting home and better for the heritage of the...

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  • Village shelters

    In the centre of each Dogon village is a shelter, known as the Togu na, where the village elders hold their meetings and courts, councils and judgements. It is reserved for men and the low roof ensures that they are unable to stand up, thus not capable of fighting. The villages are laid out to a strict pattern, each house representing a limb of...

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  • Sacred Crocodile Pool

    Dogon culture is very difficult to understand, and many objects and places are sacred to them' like for instance this crocodile pool in Amani village.

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  • Table football

    Every small village has at least one common Football Table, which is very popular with the young lads. As with a great number of nations, Mali has a passion for soccer, and their deleight saw no end when their national team finished third in the World Youth Cup in 1999.

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  • Millet

    Millet is one of the main crops grown in Mali. Millet beer is made by the women and drunk by the men. It tastes like alcoholic porridge!

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  • Onions

    One of the main crops of the Dogon peoples living around the Bandiagara Escarpment, onions are harvested when ripe and pounded into a paste which is then formed into balls. These are dried in the sun, and traded at the markets. In fact, they were once so important to the Dogon that they were used as currency.

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Mali Hotels

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  • Radisson Blu Hotel, Bamako

    ACI 2000, Hamdallaye, (formerly Radisson SAS), Bamako, 2566, Mali

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Couples

    Hotel Class 4 out of 5 stars

  • Hotel Mirabeau

    Quartier du fleuve - rue 311, Bamako, BP E 3506, Mali

    Satisfaction: Excellent

    Good for: Couples

  • Laico l'Amitie Hotel

    Now Libyan owned and abandoned by the Sofitel hotel chain, the lobby in the late afternoon and...

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Mali Local Customs

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