After the fertile landscape of the last 3 days palm trees start to show up again, the weather gets hotter and the mud-brick villages have only weekly markets where fresh produce is increasingly hard to find. Small patches of water are the only mark of the wet season. At the last left turn to Djenne, we pay the tourist tax (1000 CFA/pers) at the checkpoint, where the police are happy to chat about the bike. So far in Africa people are wildly enthusiastic about it, but the general idea is that our motorbike is more expensive than a 4×4, so that gets a bit in the way of making friends. We’ve already learned that we cannot explain what a personal and financial effort is this trip to us to people to whom the idea of traveling equals luxury (when their priority is to survive).
Cattle lazily crossing the plain
Djenne is an island on Bani river, and also an island of medieval civilization in the north-west of Mali. Legend has it that a virgin was sacrificed to the water genie by the Bozo fishermen, and that the victim’s blood was mixed with mud to make the bricks for the first houses in Djenne. UNESCO pomps serious money into the conservation of this gem of a town with narrow unpaved streets radiating from the famous biggest mud building the world – the mosque.
All buildings in Djenne are exclusively made from bank (mud). The iconic 1907 mosque is a replica of the XIII century original. At the end of each wet season a massive operation of retouching takes place.
The Monday market in Djenne is legendary: this is the most important and biggest market in West Africa. Vendors and buyers travel from all regions to fill up the square in front of the mosque and to sell and shop everything from local art, bogolan – typical cloth decorated with mud mixed with medicinal plants, amber jewelry, food, spices, baskets, plasticware and livestock. As this is an authentic local market, the people are not fazed by tourists so we are taking a breather from the touts and faux-guides harassment to enjoy the unique atmosphere.
The mosque is just the decor for the real show that is taking over Djenne
Unfortunately Djenne is a way too touristy place to allow personal interactions and with inflated prices for the whites, so after 24 hrs we move on.