Written by Invicta73 on 19 Aug, 2003
Bamako is undoubtedly somewhere that is worth going to mainly for the experience, rather than any abundance of obvious attractions. However, there are nevertheless still a few things that might be potentially interesting to see. I feel that at least some are well…Read More
Bamako is undoubtedly somewhere that is worth going to mainly for the experience, rather than any abundance of obvious attractions. However, there are nevertheless still a few things that might be potentially interesting to see. I feel that at least some are well worth spending time visiting, as they help to gain a good insight into the everyday life of the city.
Probably the single most important tourist sight is the National Museum, which is some way to the north of the centre. The ethnographic collection exhibited there is reputedly one of the very best in the region, which is largely due to the efforts of former archaeologist Alpha Oumar Konaré during his presidency. Unfortunately, there was no public access whilst I was in the country because of an ambitious refurbishment project.
Instead, going to the expansive and incredibly vibrant markets proved to be the most enjoyable part of spending time in the city. Close to the heart of what is in effect one vast outdoor emporium is the Saudi built Grand Mosque. In Malian terms, the structure is unusual because the general look, featuring soaring concrete minarets, is much more representative of the Middle East than West Africa, and also because non-Muslims are occasionally allowed to enter. Although definitely not as picturesque as some mud-brick counterparts elsewhere in the country, the scene around it on Fridays is certainly eye-catching as worshippers fill the precinct.
Meanwhile, the French left behind a couple of colonial era landmarks in broadly the same area. The first is a now little used sandstone cathedral, which is pleasant enough, although its European styling admittedly looks somewhat out of place. A similarly aged place that is much busier and more important to the local population nowadays is the train station. It is the terminus of the railway line from Dakar, and has a lovely façade that includes a notable gabled clock tower. Next door is the renowned Buffet de la Gare, where live performers sometimes play, including occasionally the legendary Super Rail Band.
Finally, spending time along the banks of the Niger is highly rewarding, and the stretch between the two main bridges on the north side of the river is particularly good. Not only are there lots of well tended lush green gardens that are full of bright flowers, fruit trees and vegetable plantations, but visions of daily life, such as large groups of the city's female population scrubbing bright garments in the waters, are also common. Towering above everything is the BCEAO tower, a skyscraper that dominates the skyline for miles around. Aside from being one of the tallest buildings in the vicinity, it is also noteworthy for a design that imaginatively draws inspiration from architecture typical of the Sahel.
Written by HELEN001 on 27 Mar, 2006
Getting to grips with an unfamiliar public transport system is not always an easy task and it can be made even harder when there doesn’t actually appear to be a system. It’s hardly surprising that the easy option is to take a taxi. They’re not…Read More
Getting to grips with an unfamiliar public transport system is not always an easy task and it can be made even harder when there doesn’t actually appear to be a system. It’s hardly surprising that the easy option is to take a taxi. They’re not that expensive. As a rough guide, expect to be able to barter about a third off the original asking price for the trip. Sometimes a driver will pick you up even if he doesn’t know where it is you want to go.
The trip will then be punctuated with numerous stops to ask for directions. Allow time for this possibility, particularly if you have to be somewhere at a specific time. If you have a map showing directions then take it with you and give the driver directions yourself if possible. If you are going somewhere in the suburbs then it may be worth considering negotiating for your driver to wait for you as it can be quite hard to get a taxi back. Sooner or later you realise that the public transport has to have a system, it’s just not a system we’re used to. When more than half the population can’t read, what’s the point of having timetables? People just know that another bus or bâché will come along. The buses (mini-buses really) and bâchés do not stop at random, there are designated bus stops that, in many cases, do not have signs. If your French is up to it then you can ask, but if it isn’t then it’s not to difficult to work out where to wait. If you are planning to return, then make sure you know the name of the area you are setting off from.
Look for a landmark that you might recognise. In all likelihood, it won’t be long before a green hybridized van/pick-up of sub-MOT standard will screech to a halt beside you. All bâchés leave from and return to the centre of town. Some bâchés do have cross-district (but not cross-river) routes and it is possible to reach a destination without going into the centre of town, particularly on the south side. It’s probably easier to head for the centre of town and pick up another bâché to your destination, even if it means doubling back on yourself for some of the way. If you’ve never been into town before, then probably the best place to get dropped off is the Boulevard du Peuple. I know it’s crowded and chaotic but the banks are there and so is the start of the market area, which is useful, and in all honesty there is no easy way to be introduced to downtown Bamako.
Remember to carry lots of small change, as the fares are ridiculously low. If you’re looking for a bâché to go out of town then head to the street in front of the railway station. It’s called Rue Baba Diarra (but I challenge you to find a street sign), and it’s a main terminus for the bâchés. Provided you know and can pronounce the name of the place you are going to, someone will put you into the right bâché. As for being "put into" a bâché, that’s exactly what I mean. If you’re lucky it’s got windows, or a metal grill and things to hold on to. If you’re unlucky then it's got holes cut into it at eye-level that appear to have been done by chainsaw, and nothing to hold on to other than the bucket of papayas wedged at your feet.
On one journey there were 14 adults, 3 infants in arms, 6 toddlers and young children, 2 sacks of potatoes, and a sapling fruit tree in this metal box of a bus. The adults, including those with infants, were all perched on the edge of low wooden planks that ran around the inside walls of the vehicle. A rough doorway, wide enough for just one person and cut out of the pavement side of the vehicle with the double doors at the rear tied shut, was another classic feature of this bâché. I was the lucky recipient of one of the smaller toddlers who had been put on my knee, purely on the grounds that his similarly encumbered mother was sitting next to me.
This arrangement involved neither consultation nor consent. The one concession to safety that was common to most of these vehicles was the use of seat belts. After a nifty bit of welding, an inertia seat belt can be pulled across the open doorway to give the illusion that you won’t fall out. A ride in a bâché is a "sharing" experience, particularly in the rush hour. Enjoy! I never took a bus in Bamako, but I was told that most of the buses serve the outer fringes of town and tend to be full before they get anywhere near the centre.
I have heard on several occasions that Bamako is the most African of the capitals in the region, but I personally find the comment a little bemusing. However, such descriptions could possibly be due to the hectic but incredibly genial atmosphere somewhat akin to…Read More
I have heard on several occasions that Bamako is the most African of the capitals in the region, but I personally find the comment a little bemusing. However, such descriptions could possibly be due to the hectic but incredibly genial atmosphere somewhat akin to an oversized village where market day occurs all through the week.
One initial impression is likely to be that the entire place is one single huge bazaar, and really that is not too far from the truth, for the vast majority of the capital's commercial life occurs on the streets. Masses of colourfully attired people, many of whom are carrying loads on their heads, vie for space on the pavements with rows of ramshackle wooden stalls and cabins, from which just about everything available in Mali is sold. Meanwhile, the constant stream of mopeds and minibuses that fill the chaotic roads, a soundtrack of music coming from all directions, and the general friendliness of the locals combine to make visiting the centre a truly exhilarating experience that in my opinion should definitely not be missed, even if shopping is by no means a goal.
The focal point of activity was once the Grand Market, which burned down during the early 1990s. Despite the structure being rebuilt to look just like the original Pink Market, as it was and still is nicknamed due to the eye-catching and all encompassing colour scheme, many of the traders have proved to be reluctant to vacate their interim roadside positions and return to the new complex. However, although the concrete rendition of the typical local building style has not been too popular, going there is nevertheless worthwhile because only from up on the ramparts is it possible to see an undeniably engaging overview of the relentless bustle below. The area seen from the elevated position is largely home to vendors offering a wide range of goods, from household utensils to jewellery and West African cloths to lots of imitation brand name clothes. Nowadays it all pretty much merges with the somewhat inaccurately named Small Market, which is distinguishable only because the items that can be purchased there are predominantly various kinds of foodstuffs, such as fruits, spices and kola nuts.
There is also the Fetish Market, specialising in traditional medicines and charms made from dead animals, for example monkey heads and dried reptiles. It is not particularly for the faint hearted, as the sight and smell of the merchandise festering under the hot sun is quite unpleasant. However, the place does provide a morbid but interesting insight into Malian life, revealing how Islam has merely overlaid rather than supplanted previous beliefs, which is particularly pertinent given the close proximity of the Grand Mosque.
Finally, the nearby Artisans' Market is a fine spot in which to purchase souvenirs. The craftsmen based there not only sell their wares, but also can be frequently seen creating all kinds of objects associated with the region, including goods made from leather, silver and other metals, as well as musical instruments. The quality of stock is generally good, as are the prices, although a little friendly haggling is usually required.
Written by sociolingo on 03 Aug, 2006
The security situation in Bamako has changed drastically in the past few weeks. Violent crime has increased dramatically and 40 prisoners escaped from Kati prison on 23rd July and only 2 have been recaptured. These prisoners included murderers, robbers and rapists. The Police have cautioned…Read More
The security situation in Bamako has changed drastically in the past few weeks. Violent crime has increased dramatically and 40 prisoners escaped from Kati prison on 23rd July and only 2 have been recaptured. These prisoners included murderers, robbers and rapists. The Police have cautioned that these individuals should be regarded as highly dangerous and capable of securing weapons. The crime rate has escalated even more since this mass escape. The main areas affected are around the hotels in central Bamako, particularly the Hippodrome area and outlying areas where foreigners tend to live such as Badalabougou. The majority of reports suggest most of these activities occur between the hours of 2300-0600, but evidence suggest random incidents occur outside of night-time hours. The Police have confirmed an increase in gun assaults in the vicinity of Hippodrome, and have voiced concerns of a rise in these activities in the RUE PRINCESSE section of Hippodrome (street where BLA BLA and LA TERASSE are located). Police have shared reports of tourists patronizing hotels in the area have been the victim of repeated muggings in the area. Precautions: It is wise not to take a taxi late at night, travel across town or walk the streets. Take reasonable security precautions at all times - do not wear flashy jewellery, talk on a mobile phone in the street and make sure all doors are locked.Owing to strained resources, coverage and response times of Police personnel are severely limited, or absent in many residential areas, essentially removing the deterrent for many of these criminal elements to operate. Please report incidents to Post One: +223 222 5470 x117Phone: +223 222 5470 x117 Close
Written by sociolingo on 02 Sep, 2004
The Republic of Mali is a completely landlocked, enormous country in West Africa. It has an area of 1.2 million square kilometers and is surrounded by Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The population is 10.67 million, who live mostly in…Read More
The Republic of Mali is a completely landlocked, enormous country in West Africa. It has an area of 1.2 million square kilometers and is surrounded by Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The population is 10.67 million, who live mostly in the south. It is mostly desert or semi-desert. The climate is subtropical and arid in the north. Most of the north of the country is desert and only nomadic groups live there. The principal ethnic groups are the Bambara, Peul, and Tuareg. French is the official language, but there are over 35 indigenous languages.
Mali is one of the most democratic of African states. People are encouraged to take their part in the political process. It's even part of the constitution. On one day each year, anyone in the country can come to parliament and ask questions direct of the prime minister and the ministers. The whole event is televised. The questioning is not gentle either ... tough talk from the 'little people'.
Written by mtwalletz on 10 Oct, 2007
One neighborhood of Bamako. Very poor inhabitants mixed with better-off neighbors. Very friendly people, willing to visit and talk. The children were very interested in photos, both of us and themselves. Digital cameras were a big crowd-pleaser. Polaroid pictures drew both…Read More
One neighborhood of Bamako. Very poor inhabitants mixed with better-off neighbors. Very friendly people, willing to visit and talk. The children were very interested in photos, both of us and themselves. Digital cameras were a big crowd-pleaser. Polaroid pictures drew both adults and children. Close
Written by sociolingo on 08 Sep, 2004
The town of Bamako combines traditional architecture, colonial and modern architecture. Apart from the modern roundabouts, which I've described in another journal page, there's lots to do and see in Bamako.The town is surrounded by high hills. Out towards Kati (another town) there are two…Read More
The town of Bamako combines traditional architecture, colonial and modern architecture. Apart from the modern roundabouts, which I've described in another journal page, there's lots to do and see in Bamako.
The town is surrounded by high hills. Out towards Kati (another town) there are two 'tourist roads' (la piste touristique de Koulouba). These not only take you up to the old caves but give you a chance to view the city from a high vantage point. It's also considerably cooler there and there are several very nice picnic spots.
Below the Koulouba tourist road is the Parc Zoologique.
Other sites you may like to visit in that area are:The Botanical Garden, and the National Museum
Over the other side of the River Niger (take the old bridge as its quicker) si the National Institute of Arts. Here you will find local dancing displays, Music concerts with well-known Malian players and other public events.
One natural feature not to miss is the 'submersible bridge' (la Chaussée submergée) a natural feature with a road of sorts built on it ... only accessible during dry season. It's quite stupendous. It’s marked off the Koulikoro road out of town.
The valley of Oyanko 15 kilometres out of Bamako is very pretty and worth a visit.