- Regions, Landscape and Climate
- Art, handicraft and traditional Festivals
- Tourism and Culture
Mali is a landlocked country located in the heart of West Africa. In the words of a Malian historian, Mali inherited its "butterfly with asymmetrical wings” shape from colonization. The country stretches from the heart of the Sahara in the North to the borders of the large savanna in the South. It shares a border of 7,420 kilometres with seven (7) neighbouring countries: Algeria to the North, Niger and Burkina Faso to the East, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea to the South, and Senegal and Mauritania to the West. Mali has eight (8) administrative regions: Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso, Ségou, Mopti, Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal, and one (1) district: Bamako.
The river system is based on the watersheds of two rivers, the Senegal River and the NigerRiver, both in the south of the country. The two rivershandle the bulk of river transport activities of Mali. However, they are not navigable throughout the year: the Niger Riveris navigable on some sectionsfor six months of the year, between July and January, and the Senegal Riverhas very limited navigability. Furthermore, the Niger River, also known as “Djoliba”in Malinke language,is 4,200 km long, with 1,700 km in Mali, and the Senegal River is 1,700 km long, with 700 km in Mali.
The wetlands of Mali comprise river basins and floodplains,as well as lake ecosystems, including the Niger loop lakes (Debo, Horo, Fati, Niangaye, Maggi, and Wégnan), marshland ecosystems, wetland ecosystems, wadis and oases. The Niger Delta forms one of the largest hydro-systems in Africa: it stretches over 400 km on either side of the river banks, and it is between 60 and 100 km wide. The large body of water serves a 35,000 km² delta region in which nearly 800,000 inhabitants engage in subsistence agriculture, stockbreeding, fishing and trade.
Mali also has a lot of land ecosystems and specific natural habitats. There are several large groups, spread over the different agro-ecological zones (49). Despite its landlocked position, Mali has several wetlands, in particular the Inner Niger Delta (IND), listed as a Ramsar site. The Inner Niger Delta is a vast floodplain,which is the largest wetland in West Africa in terms of size and the second largest in Africa, after the Okavango Delta in Botswana. As a biodiversity area, the Inner Niger Delta has about three hundred and fifty (350) species of birds. Over three to four million water birdscome there each yearfrom more than eighty (80) countries.
The currency used in Mali is the CFA franc, with a constant parity rate to the Euro (1 Euro = 655.957 CFA francs).
GIM UEMOA credit cards are used in all Malian banks and some accommodation facilities (hotels, etc.). Payments are most of the time in cash. The credit cards Visa International, MasterCard and American Express are accepted by some banks for cash withdrawals, as well as by some hotels and restaurants.
The country’s natural areas (14) have distinctive features linked to their geographical location; these include the Mandingo Plateau, the Bafing-Falémé, the Bani-Niger Highlands, the Gourma, the Tamasna, Azawad and the Adrar of the Ifoghas. The relief of Mali consists mainly of highlands and plains. Mount Hombori is the highest peak, 1155 m high.
Mali has three types of climate:
- Sudanese climate in the South (humid tropical climate). The vegetation is savanna interspersed with forests;
- Sahelian climate in the West and Centre (semi-humid tropical climate). In this zone, the shrub plain is dominated by grass and prickly shrubs, with tree steppe;
- Saharan climate in the North (dry tropical climate). Here, we find a few thorny bushes.
The country has three seasons:
- The dry season (from March to June)
- The rainy season (from July to October)
- The cold season (from November to February)
With 171 handicraft occupation groups (making of leather goods, weaving, sculpture,etc.) whose skillsare transmitted from one generation to another, Malian handicraft reflects several ancient civilizations and is marked by the coexistence of tradition and modernity. Just take a trip to the handicraft centre in Bamako, to the handicraft market in N'Golonina, and to the different towns and art galleries of the country and see the creative genius of Tuareg, Bambara, Fulani, Dogon, etc. craftsmen.
From the engraved swords of the Tamasheq, the painted calabashes of the Soninke, the Kassas (wool) and beaded hair styles of the Fulani, and the bogolan of the Bambara to the stone cutters of the Dogon, Malian handicraft is marked by its diversity in which each ethnic group and region stands out with its own working style. From the carved wood to the precious metals: gold, silver, iron, zinc, etc., all of them try to use their creativity, inspiration, innovation and design to satisfy all tastes and all pockets.
Each year,several handicraft festivals are organized, in particular:
- the Malian Handcraft and Tourism Festival in France, Spain, etc.
- handicraft fairs (SITHADA International Textile, Clothing,Decoration and Accessories Fair of Bamako) ;
- cultural, traditional and handicraft evenings…
- the voices of Bamako, Golden Tamani.
Malian Culinary Art and Dishes
In Mali, the dishes are mainly based on cereals such as rice, millet ... Furthermore, every region and ethnic group has one or more typical dishes. For example, the Fakouhoye, the Toukassou and the Alabadja are dishes of the northern regions (Gao, Timbuktu, Kidal), the Diouka in Kayes region, the Tô in the Dogon and Bambara ethnic groups, the couscous in the Sarakolé ethnic group, etc.
Traditional Festivals in Mali
All traditional festivals have a purpose in Mali: wedding, baptism, chief enthronement ceremonies, the death of a master-hunter, a patriarch, initiation ceremonies, harvests, etc.
Some of them are mystical in nature and require sacrifices and offerings to ancestors and spirits.
Over the past few years, the numerous festivals organized throughout the country (Festival on the Niger, Festival on the Senegal, Essakane Festival, BalafoTriangle Festival, etc.) have become venues for discovery and meetings where several ethnic and dance groups come together.
According to experts, Mali has a huge tourism potential. Culture is the main Malian touristic product, and the country has many well-known touristic sites classified as World Heritage Sites:
- Timbuktu (1988) ;
- Djenné ancient towns(1988);
- Bandiagara Cliffs, Dogon Area (1989);
- Tomb of the Askia-Gao (2004).
The ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu, the mysterious city, the city of 333 saints. In addition to these physical locations, Mali has cultural itemsplaced on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity:
- Yaaral and Degal Cultural Space (2008) ;
- Septennial renovation of Kamabulon (2010) ;
- Mande Charter, proclaimed in Kurukanfuka, or Kurunkanfuga Charter (2010) ;
- SankéMô : collective fishing rite in Sanké pond, San (2010) ;
- “Kôrêdugaw” Secret Society, wisdom rite in Mali (2011) ;
- Balafo cultural practices and expressions of Sénoufo communities in Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire (2011).
However, Mali has an impressive untapped touristic potential; in particular the sites in Kayes (Medina Fort, Gouina Falls…) Sikasso (Tata of Sikasso, Missirikoro Cave, etc.) Koulikoro (Kamandian Arch, NiananKulu…) Ségou (The vestibules of Sékoro, Tériyabougou eco-touristic village …) and those in the grand North (Gao and Kidal). There are also natural attractions for river tourism, Sahara tourism,and ecotourism.
The touristic sites and attractions include:
- the two (2) big rivers that water the country: the Niger River (1,700 km in Mali) and the Senegal River (700 km in Mali) with their vast bodies of water such as Lake Débo, a large inland sea;
- the large desert areas in the Northand their sand dunes, the mountainous areas of Gourma;
- the Inner Niger Delta, classified as a Ramsarsite, is host to nearly 3,000,000 water, migratory and local birds, as well as aquatic animals, such as the hippopotamus, manatee, etc.;
- representative ecosystem areas: 15 protected areasand 11 wildlife reserves. These natural areas cover more than 4,000ha.
- Mali covers an area of 1241238 km²
- Population : According to the General Population and Housing Census (RGPH) of 2009, the population of Mali is 14 528 662 inhabitants, , and the density is 11.7 inhabitants per km².
- The capital of Mali is Bamako.
- Official language : French.
- Time zone: GMT+0.