Having bargained for an even better rate of exchange than I had hoped for .. honest they may be, but you always have to try for the best rate possible .. we headed off to the Centre Artisinal / Maison des
Artisans. Built in the Sudanic style by the French in the 1930s, this is a centre for displaying the many different kinds of local craftsmanship. Not just for selling the products, but with the craftsmen and women actually
making them on site. Our visit was for photographic purposes only and whilst the prices for the many beautifully made musical instruments* and
carvings were reasonable, the size and weight of some of them, especially those made from Mahogany,** made them impractical for us to buy and carry on our journey.
A static exhibition of weaving*** looms in a building at the centre of the market, showed the wide variety of patterns of cloth and Mali blankets .. old and new .. which can be produced.
Our visit over, we walked past the minarets of the Grande Mosquée
.. rising majestically above the trees .. and taxied our way back to the Hotel Naboun, past one of Bamako's interestingly decorated junctions*,
to collect my bags and transfer to another more comfortable and friendlier residence. Following the recommendation of Eric Hanssen, a Belgian friend, fellow Beads-L member and bead enthusiast, who has lived in Bamako and
worked in Mali for some time .. I had booked in at the modern and comfortable Triskell So guest house for the night.
On the same new development area as the Burkina Faso embassy and run by the charming Michelle ..
it was much like a comfortable European private home, notably with comfortable chairs to lounge in .. especially on the open-sided and nicely shaded first floor terrace. Numerous dogs and cats added to the homely
atmosphere and everything was professionally managed. CFA 21,000 for the night, inclusive of a large breakfast, with seemingly unending supplies of food and coffee. Such was the contrast to the hotel, it was almost surreal to be surrounded by her happy holidaying French guests, in a totally European environment.
Later, having been invited to join Eric and some of his friends at The Savannah restaurant ..
a popular meeting place for ex-pats .. we learnt about living and working in Mali and what sounded like a very
pleasant Toubab's life there. Not only were we generously treated to all our drinks and food, but we also were driven back to the Triskell So by one of Eric's colleagues .. in executive style and air-conditioned comfort .. with a car radio that worked !
Only then did I realise that this was the first time I had been truly cool in days.
Our grateful thanks to you all.
Factfile 23: Personally, I dislike having air-conditioning in West Africa .. as when outside temperatures are very high .. the difference hits you far more, every time you emerge from the cool back into
the heat. Generally when inside, as long as there is a fan circulating the air, it is possible to survive .. albeit by not moving as quickly as you would do normally in Europe.
Whether your blood does actually become thinner to compensate .. as is popularly said ..
I really don't know .. but eventually your body does become more accustomed to the heat.