Damascus, Dimashq, Syria
March 27, 2006
There’s not a huge range of foodstuffs available in Djenné, and consequently none of the restaurants have a particularly varied menu. The same is true of the Kita Kourou, however, they do an excellent milky coffee and continental-style breakfast with delicious local honey. Again, in common with other eateries in town, the service can be a bit on the leisurely side. This is because a lot of them do not keep huge supplies in stock ,so sometimes when you order something you have to wait while they go out and buy it. The food at the Kita Kourou makes up for the wait by being piping hot and well cooked. Their omelets are particularly good, and if the staff likes the look of you then you end up being plied with mint tea as well.
As with any cafe in Mali there is the risk of being hassled by vendors and children, but this is true to a much lesser extent in the Kita Kourou, despite its central location. The owner of the café has started a scheme in Djenné by encouraging tourists to help stop the recent increase in school truancy rates. On the wall, a clearly printed poster written in several European languages asks tourists not to pay children for photographs during school hours and not to buy anything from children during these hours. If children are begging for pens, sweets, and "cadeaux," then it’s unlikely they are in genuine need. If children make approaches like this then tourists are asked to tell the children to go to school. Education, when geographically possible, is free but not compulsory in Mali.
Many children are forced to work in the home out of economic necessity and they do not have the time to follow the tourists around. The kids who are "begging" are not poor, but merely playing truant. Now, I felt I was in no position to disagree with the information and requests made in the poster. Firstly, because there were never any kids in the place; and secondly, it’s probably fair to say that the presence of tourists does have an effect on school truancy rates and therefore it’s not unreasonable to request some cooperation in this matter. A young man with a bad limp was allowed into the café to sell his really nice hand-painted postcards. The local music CD vendor popped in regularly throughout the day, which was excellent. The café has a pretty good sound system and the owner has a passion for Malian music, as well as a broad taste in contemporary African music. If you hear something you like, the next time the CD man pops in you ask him to get it for you. Great service. So you can enjoy your honey and cinnamon pancakes, drink some good coffee, listen to some great music, and sit in a comfortable chair in relative peace. What more could you ask for really?
From journal Djenne: Mosque, Market, and Mud Cloth