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Damascus, Dimashq, Syria
March 27, 2006
It’s a glorious riot of activity, colour, and noise, that’s what it’s like. Not unlike most markets in Mali in fact. What makes this market special is the imposing backdrop of the Grande Mosquée, which makes up the whole of one side of the market square. The other buildings surrounding the square, with their curvaceous mud walls, provide a perfect frame for the market. Offhand, I can’t think of a market anywhere that has such a spectacular setting. The population of Djenné apparently triples on a Monday, and it is definitely packed pretty solid with stalls and people. The going underfoot is surprisingly clean, and there are none of those puddles of unknown liquid that you usually find in the markets. You will, however, find there is always someone in your way and you will always be constantly in someone else’s way.
It’s almost certain that you will tread on feet, trip over goods for sale, and attract hordes of small children, all the while apologising repeatedly. I got the distinct impression that it was not customary to do this as nobody else seemed to be apologising. I didn’t get the vibe that people were being rude though as there were plenty of smiles and nods of greeting. The range of stuff on sale is huge although very little of it belongs in the souvenir category. Unless of course you like quirky souvenirs–my sister loved her non-electric two-tone plastic kettle, and I’m still kicking myself for not buying the Osama bin Laden watch I saw. I’m always slightly puzzled by the popularity of nylon in hot countries, and the market in Djenné was no exception. It was everywhere; football shirts, mountains of multi-coloured bras, children’s clothing, socks, and bolts of fabric. Plastic too; buckets, jewellery, toys, flower garlands, empty bottles, and shoes.
Tablets and medicines were sold by the same guy who sells cigarettes. Wares laid out all over the ground in front of and in between stalls were melons, spices, beads, limes, and cola nuts. The tantalising smell of fresh doughnuts! It’s a great market, and if it all gets a bit much you can nip-off down a side street for some peace and quiet. If you walk in an easterly direction away from the market, through the winding streets, you will eventually reach the edge of town and the start of the river floodplain. Looking over the floodplain, you will see it is occupied by hundreds of horses with brightly painted carts. These carts are loaned to local farmers and traders for 5 days a week as part of a local initiative to combat the problem of rubbish pollution. In exchange for this, the farmers and traders use the carts to clear up rubbish on the 2 remaining days of the week; including Tuesday, the day after market day. The floodplain is Djennés photogenic answer to the supermarket car park.
From journal Djenne: Mosque, Market, and Mud Cloth
Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
August 10, 2001
From journal The most beautiful city of Africa