Mamou - the word means something big and important - was founded by the French in 1908 as a collecting point and fuel depot on the 662 km of 1-metre gauge
railway track between Kankan and Conakry City ( 125 miles / 201 km by rail to the Southwest ). With its development came the transfer of the Fula chieftancy from the town of Timbo, despite fierce local
opposition. Thus Mamou became the administrative centre for much of the Highlands until the mid 1940s.
A couple of kilometres outside of the centre is the Balys Hotel, recommended by The Rough Guide to West Africa as one of the country's best midrange hotels. Quite new, with the
top third floor rooms and the new outside discotheque still in various stages of completion.
Alaghi, who had many friends in town, left to visit them and I went into the restaurant for an evening meal. The meal was appetising enough, despite being overlooked by a 4.5 metre Rock Python skin,
covering most of the wall opposite where I was sitting. Commenting that I wouldn't like to meet that coming towards me in the bush .. the waiter casually remarked with a smile, that that was nothing ..
they regularly get to 7 metres and the poisonous ones to over
Next morning we visited the family compounds of Alaghi's friends in an older part of town where seemingly everyone had at least 10 children .. many of whom approached, eager to know who the Toubab was. At first camera shy .. an enthusiastic crowd of potential models soon formed once the first picture was taken and they could see themselves on the screen.
Later we went on a tour of the town it was market day and thousands of people were out shopping in the hot sun. Shoemakers and leather workers using local hides and snake skins were making designer shoes, sandals, wallets and purses. Hundreds of stalls in one covered market were so close to each other, that is was difficult to find a pathway between them.
Lunch was taken with friends in a market restaurant. The contents of a brown greaseproof paper packages, slowly cooking over a large charcoal-fueled grating and cool Cokes were on offer.
Alaghi ordered a package which was unwrapped and set-about with savage enthusiasm by the chef, using a meat cleaver. Memories of a midnight feast in the middle of the Mauritanian Sahara ( ref.) came flooding back .. as the
dismembered but beautifully cooked skull of a sheep was placed before us.
Having followed the old railway line off all the way from Conakry .. I was keen to see the station and its early 1900's buildings, which I had glimpsed on our arrival. Although not a
railway enthusiast, it was a moving moment standing on the redundant tracks looking at the French colonial architecture and discarded machinery and trying
to imagine it in its bustling heydays of the first half of the 20th century. Despite researching on the Internet, I can find no trace of any historic pictures. If you know of any more like this picture, please Contact Us
Next we visited the jovial Maitre Moussa Diallo - Vice Président des bijoutiers de Mamou Centre -
Our onward route to Kankan was somewhat further than Conakry to Mamou, so we had decided to attempt to get a mid-afternoon taxi for late evening travel. Confident in The Rough Guide to West Africa which states: Mamou is such a major transport hub that moving on is rarely a problem, the town's three taxi and bus parks are hives of activity from dawn to dusk.
Arriving soon after 3 pm, we found the Kankan-bound Peugeot 505 estate awaiting loading and departure .. with a few people already sitting in or on it .. this looks good, we thought. That was until
we talked to a young student of Kankan University, who had already been waiting for
The minutes and hours ticked by .. Mamou's Kankan taxi garage is far from photogenic .. resembling a recently exploded bomb site. The wildlife scrounging through the rubbish was far
more interesting than anything else. Hot drinks, cold drinks, snacks and chats .. wandering around with the camera, buying sweets for the young children and one
or two of their mothers, all helped to pass the time. Suddenly the air was filled with singing from a host of voices.
By 7 pm, with the taxi only half full, we gave up hope. Luckily we had no tight time schedule, unlike the poor student who was in some panic as he had exams to sit at the University the next day. I do hope he somehow made it in time. So plan B was put into action .. a taxi back to the Balys Hotel for another night .. much to the sympathetic amusement of the manager et al !