Friday, April 11, 2008

Dogon est Doux

Returned recently from a 10-day trip through Burkina Faso and Mali with four other volunteers. Our main hits were Ougadougou (Burkina Faso), Pays Dogon (Mali), Mopti (Mali), and Djenne (Mali). In between was ALOT of miles of bush taxi discomfort and adventures.


The top highlight of the trip was a four day hike through Dogon country, a region of beautiful escarpments in middle-Mali that for centuries have been inhabited by the Dogon people, cultivators who have settled at the base of, at the top of, and--in some places--inside these escarpments. Alongside "beautiful," the other word needed to explain this area is "fragile," as the very traditional Dogon villages are vulnerable to encroaching desertification, tourism, and other outside forces, the effects of all of which you can vividly see. We had a fantastic time trekking the area, sleeping on roofs, meeting the locals, and hanging out with our fantastic guide, Oumar.

Visiting Africa's largest mud mosque in Djenne, Mali's "sister" city to Timbouktou was another highlight. A cleaner, more accessible, and quite possibly more beautiful version of Timbouktou, Djenne is a Muslim city of North African architecture, winding narrow streets, and lots of camera-friendly kids.

Though the miles and miles of "bush taxi" we covered could only be described as "fun" by the chronic masochist, I feel that something should be said about this element that consumed about half of our trip. What would voyaging in Africa be if not done in style: Sahelian heat, harmattan dust, broken axles, flat tires, wooden benches, sharing space with peeing goats and dying cows.

I've posted some photos from the trip online. Link here to see the whole album.

Two sisters in Djenne.
The world's largest mud mosque, seen through a house window in Djenne, Mali.

I and the other volunteers I traveled with, on a rooftop in Djenne.