Mali

Sévaré and Mopti

Currency = CFA
£1 = CFA 1000
US $1 = CFA 520
1 Euro = CFA 656
March 2004

Together, Sévaré and Mopti are the joint hub of Mali's tourist industry, situated where the country's major routes intersect. Sévaré is a sprawling and quiet town offering good facilities for those travelling on the highway between Bamako and Gao or flying in to its airport.
Finding a local taxi, we set off to find our accommodation for the next three nights.

In Bamako, our friend Eric had given us some wise advice and kindly phoned ahead to book a room at Mac's Refuge , which I can confirm is definitely THE place to stay if you are visiting the Dogon area. Set in a small compound on the edge of town near to the airport .. we would find this oasis of calm, good food and genial hospitality to be an ideal base for exploring.
The owner John ( known as Mac to all ) dispenses copious amounts of home-cooked food with an American bias, travel advice and witticisms, in a comfortable and secure environment. Exactly what we needed after hard days of travelling. A Mali-born ex-missionary of American extraction .. Mac, having prepared most of the food himself, would sit with us at the head
of an enormous table, organising his staff and his guests, fluently speaking French, Dogon, Bambara and English ( well US English ! ). Often giving me the homely impression that we were all part of a large country family in the US Midwest during the 1800's. Nice one John !

For Enquiries and Reservations .. contact Mac at Mali.Macs1@yahoo(dot)com

We didn't meet Mac until later, but his manager Blaise welcomed us, settled us in our rooms and promised to save us two places for the evening meal, as long as we returned by 7pm.
Evening meals have to be booked in advance so that Mac knows how many to cater for.
A very personable young driver called Amadou, with a good looking car, had approached us in the bus station .. to see if we needed to rent a car for any day trips. Soon after we had arrived at the Refuge .. he was there to finalise a deal. His price was a bit high, so we negotiated a deal subject to car quality ( it looked and sounded fine, but previous experiences made  me wary ) and driver personality .. as, at the last moment, he had admitted that he would not be driving .. his 'brother' would be. A 7am pickup was arranged for the next day .. when his brother would to take us to Djenné and be our own personal chauffeur for the day.

After a shower and change of clothes, we headed off to Mopti .. 4 km away .. to find
 Aly Cisse in his compound on the outskirts of the village. Aly is a long-time expert dealer in beads and artefacts from the Dogon area and his large house is a magical store of treasures.
After negotiating our way around his
pet security*he kindly showed us his varied collections of earthenware pots** stones, beads*** and metal items. There were many ancient articles that most museums would surely give their all to have on display. After a little good-natured bargaining, I made some purchases, including these huge Fula earrings, which I was unable to resist. Although not the originals .. which were made in pure gold .. they are superb souvenirs of our visit .. despite having to carefully protect them from damage all the way back home !!

To see these pictures in conjunction with reading their appropriate text ..
Read on until you come to a
Link* then click on the thumbnail with the same number of *s

Mac's Refuge

Pet security*

Pots**

Beads***

The town of Mopti is built on three islands, connected by dykes, at the confluence of the rivers Niger and Bani .. bringing together all of the peoples of Mali. Members of the Bamana, Songhai, Fula, Tuareg, Moor, Bozo and Dogon tribes can all be seen, buying and selling here.

  Kindly, Aly gave us a ride into the centre of Mopti in his modern 4-wheel-drive jeep, for us to browse the two small tourist craft markets. Unfortunately, nothing too exciting was on offer at the time, except this display case of named Tuareg silver
crosses .. very useful for reference. Finding quite a modern Internet Café, I caught up with my correspondence whilst Alaghi was praying and having a well-earned rest from my questions and from interpreting for me.
Later, we walked down to the
river* to see and photograph the incredible sight of the mass of humanity, boats and business activities concentrated along its edges and in the harbour**
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As well as being an important trading centre, Mopti has a large processing industry for the many
fish*** caught in local rivers. The markets were overcrowded and business was brisk.
Although the sky was cloudless, the light was very hazy .. far from ideal conditions for taking photographs .. but these scenes were just too incredible not to attempt to record for posterity.

To see these pictures in conjunction with reading their appropriate text ..
Read on until you come to a
Link* then click on the thumbnail with the same number of *s

Crosses

River*

Harbour**

Fish Market***

Having had little to eat that day, we made sure we were back at Mac's Refuge in good time, hungrily looking forward to our 7pm meal. Entering the dining room, we found a party of French guests just about to start eating a tasty looking repast .. but no place settings for us !
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Narrowly escaping emasculation for having completely forgotten about us .. Blaise tried to make amends by suggesting we walk around 100 metres up the road to a nearby restaurant.

After walking well over a kilometre, asking if anyone knew of a restaurant .. to no avail, apart from vague suggestions to keep walking and we might find one .. it was then that I noticed the almost complete lack of cars. One or two of the locals had small motorcycles or bicycles, but just about everyone was walking .. and not a taxi in sight. A good Samaritan .. who turned out to be called Banya .. drove past us, stopped and reversed to see if he could help.
He was actually taking his girlfriend home, but said he knew of a good restaurant and would be delighted to take us. We both piled in and he took us to the Sénegalése-owned Teranga Restaurant on the other side of town, dropping his girlfriend off en route, he offered to collect us later when we had finished. Evidently taxis are as scarce as hens' teeth in Mopti at night.

The meal was excellent: Chicken Yassa ( a West African dish ) - Steak a la Crème - Pomme Sauté - Petit Pois - 2 Ice Creams - Coffee - Lipton - 1 large Beer and a fresh Orange juice. Total CFA10,300 .. much less than the price of just one of the main courses in the UK.

The service was a little slow and Banya came back twice before we were finished .. finally joining us for a soft drink before conveying us safely back to Mac's Refuge. He would only accept a very small fee for his services .. a good Samaritan indeed. So we exchanged names and telephone numbers for future reference .. as it turned out, it was very lucky that we did !

Sleep came easily, despite most of the neighbourhood's dogs having a singing contest, both of us looking forward to our next day's visit to Djenné .. the Jewel in the Crown of our trip.