Top Ten Malian Attractions

Top Ten Malian Attractions

       Mali is a landlocked country in Western Africa that borders Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, the Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal and Mauritania. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with a population of 14.5 million. Its capital is Bamako. Mali consists of eight regions and its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara, while the country’s southern region, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Sénégal rivers. The country’s economic structure centers around agriculture and fishing. Some of Mali’s natural resources include gold, uranium and salt. Present-day Mali was once part of three West African empires that controlled trans-Saharan trade: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire (from which Mali is named) and the Songhai Empire. In the late 19th century, during the Scramble for Africa,France seized control of Mali making it a part of French Sudan. French Sudan (then known as the Sudanese Republic) joined with Senegal in 1959, achieving independence in 1960 as the Mali Federation. Shortly thereafter, following Senegal’s withdrawal from the federation, the Sudanese Republic declared itself the independent Republic of Mali. After a long period of one-party rule, a 1991 coup led to the writing of a new constitution and the establishment of Mali as a democratic, multi-party state. About half the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.

  1. Timbuktu

    Timbuktu, formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated 15 km (9.3 mi) north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the 8 administrative regions of Mali. In 2009, the town had a population of 54,453. Starting out as a seasonal settlement, Timbuktu became a permanent settlement early in the 12th century. After a shift in trading routes, Timbuktu flourished from the trade in salt, gold, ivory and slaves and became part of the Mali Empire early in the 13th century. In the first half of the 15th century the Tuareg tribes took control of the city for a short period until the expanding Songhay Empire absorbed the city in 1468. A Moroccan army defeated the Songhay in 1591, and made Timbuktu, rather than Gao, their capital. The invaders established a new ruling class, the arma, who after 1612 became independent of Morocco. However, the golden age of the city was over and it entered a long period of decline. Different tribes governed until the French took over in 1893, a situation that lasted until it became part of the current Republic of Mali in 1960. Nowadays Timbuktu is impoverished and suffers from desertification. Several initiatives are being undertaken to revive the historic manuscripts still kept in the city. Meanwhile, tourism forms an important source of income. In its Golden Age, the town’s numerous Islamic scholars and extensive trading network made possible an important book trade: together with the campuses of the Sankore madrassah, an Islamic university, this established Timbuktu as a scholarly centre in Africa. Several notable historic writers, such as Shabeni and Leo Africanus have described Timbuktu. These stories fuelled speculation in Europe, where the city’s reputation shifted from being extremely rich to being mysterious. This reputation overshadows the town itself in modern times, to the point where it is best known as a metaphor for a distant or outlandish place.
  2. The Bandiagara Escarpment

    The Bandiagara Escarpment is an escarpment in the Dogon country of Mali. With a length of 150 kilometers, the sandstone cliffs rise 500 meters above the lower sandy flats to the south. The area has in the past been inhabited by the Tellem and Toloy, however today the Dogon people call it home. The Cliffs of Bandiagara are a sandstone chain ranging from south to northeast over 200 km and extending to the Grandamia massif. The end of the massif is marked by the Hombori Tondo, Mali’s highest peak at 1,115 meters. Because of its archaeological, ethnological and geological characteristics, the entire site is one of the most imposing in West Africa.
    Links: Top 100 Masks, Top Ten Cliffs,,
  3. Djenné

    Djenné is an Urban Commune and town in the Inland Niger Delta region of central Mali Administratively it is part of the Mopti Region, which in 2009 had a population of 32,944. The history of Djenné is closely linked with that of Timbuktu. Between the 15th and 17th centuries much of the trans-Saharan trade in goods such as salt, gold and slaves that moved in and out of Timbuktu passed through Djenné. Both towns became centers of Islamic scholarship. Djenné’s prosperity depended on this trade and when the Portuguese established trading posts on the African coast, the importance of the trans-Saharan trade and thus of Djenné declined. The town is famous for its distinctive mud-brick (adobe) architecture, most notably the Great Mosque which was built in 1907 on the site of an earlier mosque. To the south is Djenné-Jéno, the site of one of the oldest known towns in sub-Saharan Africa.
  4. Tomb of Askia

    The Tomb of Askia, in Gao, Mali, is believed to be the burial place of Askia Mohammad I, one of the Songhai Empire’s most prolific emperors. It was built at the end of the 15th century and is described as a fine example of the monumental mud-building traditions of the West African Sahel. The complex includes the pyramidal tomb, two mosques, a cemetery and an assembly ground. At 17 m in height it is the largest pre-colonial architectural monument in the region. It is the first example of an Islamic architectural style that later spread throughout the region. Relatively recent modifications to the site have included the expansion of the mosque buildings in the 1960’s and mid-1970’s, and the 1999 construction of a wall around the site. It has also been regularly replastered throughout its history, a process essential to the maintenance and repair of mud structures. Electricity was added in the early 2000’s, allowing for ceiling fans, lights and a loud speaker mounted on top. Askia is in regular use as a mosque and a publicly owned cultural center for the city of Gao. The site and a buffer area around it are protected by both national and local laws.
    Links: Top Ten Tombs, Top Ten Emperors,,
  5. Bamako

    Bamako is the capital of Mali and its largest city with a population of 1.8 million (2009). Currently, it is estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa and 6th fastest in the world. It is located on the Niger River, near the rapids that divide the upper and middle Niger valleys in the southwestern part of the country. Bamako is the nation’s administrative center. Bamako’s river port is located in nearby Koulikoro along with a major regional trade and conference center. Bamako is the 7th largest West African urban center after Lagos, Abidjan, Kano, Ibadan, Dakar and Accra. Local manufactures include textiles, processed meat and metal goods. There is commercial fishing on the Niger River. The name Bamako comes from the Bambara word meaning “crocodile river.”
    Links: Top Ten Obelisks,,
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