Dogon Country Mali

Dogon Country – We go back in time

In northern Mali the Sahel stretches a sandy plain up to Burkina Faso. Here some 250 kilometers of falaise are home to the Dogon people, an ethnic group that lives generally undisturbed by civilization like they have been for a millennia, since they have settled here trying to escape Islam.
Risking to be forced to shorten our trip later on, we decided to invest an initially unplanned and quite significant amount of cash in a 3 day tour through the Dogon Country. We hooked up with 2 swiss overlanders on a 4×4 and hired a guide to one of the best preserved ethnographic regions in Africa.

First we had to survive the road to Mopti, through the most dramatic sand storm so far.

The particularly strong lateral wind was blowing in sequences, we rode at less than 50 km/h. The wind preceded the rain, which was a lucky thing, cause keeping a steady balance on a very wet road would have been difficult.

In Mopti we stock on food and water for the next 2 days and we negotiate the guide’s fee.

Mopti is a semi-industrial fishing town and a tourist stopover, with shady touts and an unpleasant vibe to it. Give it a miss, except for the scenic port

Our itinerary was: Bandiagara, Djiguibombo, Kani-Kombole, Teli, Ennde, Indelou, Begnimato, Yabacalou, with 2 days of trekking and 1 day on our own vehicles.

All Dogon buildings are made of mud in the plain villages and of stone up on the cliff. The room on the right is the kitchen, the pots are actual chimneys.

Spices are dried on the terrace.

Typical Dogon ladder

The Dogon are a distinct ethnographic group, originated from the Siby area (Pays Mandingue) and settled here in the IX-XI cent., after the demise of the native pygmy population (the Tellem). The Dogon culture was first contactated by a french ethnologist in 1931. There is no Dogon alphabet or written documents, they record their history through elaborated mask ceremonies (the most important is organized every 60 years, the equivalent of a centenary, as the Dogon observe a 5 days week); the Dogon are animists and practice polygamy.

The Dogon elders enjoy chewing on cola nut (from Cote d’Ivoire); this is a bitter stimulant and appetite suppresser and the shape of the nut can be interpreted by the initiated.

Baobab bark bears scars from all the rope-making

Vernacular homes, superbly cool and unconscious in the Sahelian landscape

Our guide wearing traditional Dogon garb

Dogon symbols decorate every nook and corner, even the furniture

Fertility symbols

Dogon kids, clingy, but irresistibly cute

Mosques like the one in Kani-Kombole are accepted in exchange for water pumps

Little has changed here across centuries

Grain storage carved into the Bandiagara escarpment

Ancient Tellem caves are now used for storage. Next to them the Dogon built their own huts from mud and twigs. The number of huts indicates how many wife does a man have

Perfect caping spot

Traditional Dogon hat; can be worn 3 ways to serve different functions

Togouna is a sort of agora for the Dogon elders who congregate here to chat, chew nuts and settle disputes

Metal worker

The residence of the hogon from Indelou village

Togouna

The god Amma represented by a stone

School in Teli. The chalkboard read: “Elle porte des oefs sur sa tete”

Water well

The most beautiful spot on the tour, Begnimato village

Togouna from Begnimato

Ana, the hunter

Our guide, Ali

Nadin

Ana and Roger

The girls

We were feed far worse food than what the locals eat; the Dogon were made to believe that African food makes white people sick

Leaving the stunning world that survives on the Bandiagara escarpment and heading towards Burkina