Mali - Mud Mosques & the Dogon

Mali is one of the most rewarding countries in West Africa. It’s a colourful and vibrant destination, dominated by the Niger River, the largest in the region. Once the giant of West African tourism and hugely popular with travellers, its fortunes have suffered greatly in recent years, but we feel that now is the right time to venture back to this incredible place.

Starting in the bustling capital Bamako we first head south to the little visited region of Sikasso, home to the Senoufou people and their unique customs. From here we continue to Djenne, a place that needs little introduction due to its imposing mud built mosque, the most impressive in West Africa. We have time to explore its traditional neighbourhoods and soak up its unique atmosphere before continuing on to Segou, a lively city that is rich in history. Here we take a pinasse out on the Niger to discover riverside communities and the ancient village of Segoukouro, once the capital of the Bambara kingdom.

Returning back to Bamako, we head to Manding country to meet the Dogon people, seeing an elaborate mask dance – travelling here is a little like stepping back to an age before Europeans ‘discovered’ Africa.

Sadly it’s not currently possible to visit Timbuktu, but even without this Mali has a huge amount to offer, and one cannot say that one truly knows West Africa without visiting at least once.

Masked Dogon dancers - Mali itinerary - Native Eye Travel

Highlights

  • Stunning architecture in Djenne
  • Visit traditional fishing villages
  • Meet the mysterious Dogon people
  • Witness an incredible mask dance
  • Take a pinasse along the Niger River
  • Impressive mud-built mosques

Day 1 - Bamako

Arrive in Bamako and transfer to your hotel. Overnight tourist class hotel.

Bamako

Straddling the banks of the Niger River, Bamako is by far Mali’s largest city, a bustling place and by far the most modern place you’ll visit in the country. When Mungo Park first visited in the early 19th century it was home to around six thousand people, but this has now mushroomed to nearly two million, and it’s said to be the fastest growing city in Africa.

Like most African capitals, it’s fairly short on sights although the National Museum is worth a visit if it’s open for its collection of Malian artefacts. But again like most capitals, the more rewarding experiences are to be found in people watching and perhaps exploring markets – Bamako has one or two markets which sell ‘traditional medicines’, which usually consist of animal parts, so these aren’t necessarily for the squeamish but are nonetheless an interesting facet of local culture.

Day 2 - Sikasso

Drive to the little visited southern region of Sikasso, the breadbasket of Mali. Here we visit the cave mosque of Missirikoro, which is also used by animists for worship, ceremonies and sacrifice – it’s quite unusual to have two religions practiced in the same place like this. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BL)


Day 3 - Sikasso – San

Visit the town of Sikasso, the capital of the region. See the old wall of Tata that used to surround the city as well as the small museum of the Senoufou people, and the vibrant local market for an introduction into local culture. From here drive to San and time permitting visit its mosque. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BL)


Day 4 - Djenne

Drive to Djenne, situated on an island in the Bani River. Djenne is renowned for its splendid mosque, the largest mud built structure in the world and one of West Africa’s most impressive buildings. We explore the old town with its traditional buildings and visit a library for ancient manuscripts, among other sights, as well as visiting the mosque itself. We also have lunch a local home, with traditional Malian food. Return to San in the afternoon. Overnight Hotel Teriya or similar. (BL)

Djenne

Djenne is perhaps the jewel of Mali, and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique architecture. Founded around the 13th century, Djenne grew to prominence due to its position on important trading routes, but competing empires in the region and subsequent conflicts led to it losing its role over the years, and now it has become a largely agricultural centre.

Without a doubt its most impressive site is the spectacular mud built mosque, almost twenty metres high and an iconic sight with huge turrets and the characteristic poles jutting from its surface, in the typical West African style. Being built of mud, each year it needs repairing after the rainy season and the whole community takes part in this spectacle, with men climbing up ladders to re-plaster the façade. The town itself has numerous examples of adobe houses and retains a very traditional feel – a stroll through the alleys of some of the more traditional neighbourhoods offers a glimpse of yesteryear.

Day 5 - Segou

Drive to Segou and explore an old traditional neighbourhood of the Bozo and Somono fishermen, as well as the lively town centre and river area. Overnight Hotel Hambe or similar. (BL)


Day 6 - Segou - Bamako

Take a pinasse ride on the River Niger, passing numerous fishing villages before arriving in the historic village of Segoukoro, once the capital of the Bambara kingdom. From here drive to Bamako for the evening. Overnight Hotel Les Colibris or similar. (BL)


Day 7 - Manding Country

We spend today visiting Manding country, the original home of the Dogon people, where we see a traditional Dogon mask dance. Time permitting, we also visit Kamadjan, site of an impressive natural arch, and a nearby sacred well. Return to Bamako. Overnight Hotel Les Colibris. (BL)

 

The Dogon people

The Dogon people are concentrated in an area around the Bandiagara escarpment, a long cliff along which many of their villages are built. Before the Dogon the Tellem people lived here – although no trace of them remains and no-one knows what may have happened to them.

The Dogon are mainly farmers although many of them are hunters as well, a profession that has semi mystical status throughout West Africa. Predominantly animist (although Islam has made inroads in recent years), the Dogon believe in a complex collection of spirits and rituals, and each village has a hogon, or spiritual leader.

A typical Dogon village is made up of mud built dwellings and granaries, topped by a pointed thatch roof, and each has a meeting room for elders to discuss problems – this has a low roof so that everyone is forced to sit and no-one can stand up in anger. The Dogon are well known for their elaborate mask dances, often involving incredibly large wooden masks, and have a number of other ceremonies and rituals that they perform throughout the year.

Day 8 - Bamako

Spend your final day exploring Bamako, visiting the national museum, the craft market and other sites of interest before you transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)


Mud mosque at Djenne - Mali holidays
Boat on the Niger River - Mali tours
Historic mud built mosque - Mali holidays

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

All travellers will require a visa to enter Mali, which must be obtained before travel. Most travellers will also need an invitation letter, which we will provide if requested. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is compulsory for travel to Mali and you must take this with you when you travel.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in Mali is the West African CFA. It is best to bring Euros for exchange purposes.

It’s not difficult to change money in Mali, either at banks or the hotels and your guide can assist with this. Mali is very much a cash society – credit cards are not widely accepted, and ATM machines are not especially reliable.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO advises against travel to all parts of Mali.

We work very closely with our local team and are fully confident that we can operate tours safely in the parts of Mali that we visit. Should you have any concerns over safety please do not hesitate to contact us and we can address your concerns.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated May 2019

Mud mosque at Djenne - Mali holidays
Boat on the Niger River - Mali tours
Historic mud built mosque - Mali holidays
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
30 January 2022
Price (PP) -
£1,849
Single Supplement -
£325
Trip Status -
Available