mercredi 26 novembre 2008

Welcome to Mali

I've been thinking about Mali today. When I first went there, nearly ten years ago, I'd travelled quite a bit already but never to Africa. I had no idea of what to expect - no concept of how the city would look, what the villages would be like, how the desert would be. I guess I had a few clues from photo's and books, but really for me this was a trip into the unknown.

Arriving at Orly for my flight south, the news wasn't good. The flight to Bamako had been cancelled and had been combined with the flight to Abidjan, in Cote d'Ivoire. Now this is fine - at least I would still be flying - but Abidjan was to be the first stop. Now to get to Abidjan, you fly over Bamako, then keep flying south for another 90 minutes. This wasn't ideal.

As the screens showed the plane flying over the Malian capital, I thought there'd be a riot on the plane. The Malians on board (and me, to be truthful) couldn't understand why we couldn't be dropped off first. It took stern words from the captain to calm everyone down.

Eventually we arrived in Bamako.

The city was dusty, beige and smelled of smoke. Smoke is the smell that I have come to associate with Africa now - the smell of small fires burning all around, cooking food, heating homes, being used for roadside 'businesses'.

After a few days we left Bamako and headed north, through Segou and on to Djenne and Mopti. Djenne was spectacular, with the mosque made of mud that has to be rebuilt after the rainy season every year.

Mopti was just a big market, with 'poulet bicyclette' and mangoes as big as your head.

From Mopti we took an old (real old) plane north to Tomboctou - or Timbuktu, where we rode into the desert with Touareg tribesmen and ate goat killed and roasted just for us. We slept in the desert and woke to a breakfast of more goat, also especially killed for us. Being a goat in Mali is hard.

Back in Bamako one evening, we sat in a bar and chatted with a couple of locals we'd got to know. It was the time of their elections.

"I love democracy" said one of the Malian guys. "I love democracy so much that I voted three times today".

There's an African logic there that just makes sense.

We finished our drinks and headed to the nightclub, where we danced the night away to trashy europop with South African minerologists, French diplomats and Chinese traders. It was a fine old night and so bizarre in so many ways. To me, this is what travelling is all about.

Anyway, why am I thinking of this dusty old place today?

Well, a pair of Mali's finest, Amadou and Mariam were on my train to Brussels today. I was sat amongst their backing singers, who were having a fine old time. Goodness knows what they were doing in town - a bit of promo for their new album 'Welcome to Mali', I guess.

If you don't know who they are, then you should have a listen to their single Sabali - it's good stuff.

Even if it's not your kind of music, it will definitely get you thinking about sunshine and foreign parts. Both of which sound very appealing to me as the Paris winter gets colder and colder.

Pass me the phone, I need to call my agent.

My travel agent, that is.

23 commentaires:

cb a dit…

Tres interissante... Mais, pauvre goat!

travelling, but not in love a dit…

The poor goat, indeed CB. He kind of had it coming though...

Louise a dit…

The southern hemisphere IS sounding pretty good about now!

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Louise, isn't it just? I need some sunshine!

Daisy a dit…

Wow, Timbuktu! It's like, my favourite word ever and now I REALLY want to go there. As we speak I can see my breath our flat is so cold.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Daisy, Paris is too cold. I've been playing 'Paris is burning' lots, but it's not helping...

wontletlifedefineme a dit…

I need some sunshine too! My bank balance won't allow me though.. So, where will you be off to? Mali?

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Marjolein, my bank balance will allow me to go to the UK for christmas and that's about it. *sob*

12ontheinside a dit…

"I love democracy so much that I voted three times today". Best line of the tale.

I have to be honest though, I thought Mali was in the northern hemisphere, and that only the bottom half of Africa was in the southern hemisphere.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

12oti, it is absolutely in the northern hemisphere. I think Louise's point was that the southern hemisphere is where all the hot weather is at the moment.

Cheez, you girls and your precision issues....

alan a dit…

sounds kinda cool, for sure, and you indeed might be getting colder, but you are in Paris after all.

Beats Waterfords arse anyday! :-)

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Ah Alan, but what an arse to beat!

12ontheinside a dit…

I really would not have been surprised to hear it was on the other end of the planet to what I thought, my geography skills suck. And yes, it's lovely down at the bottom of the planet here at the moment, and I'm heading off in an hour and a half for a 4 day weekend at my mum and dad's beach house.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

12oti, stop your showing off. it's 1° here in Paris this morning...

Brett a dit…

That trip sounded fantastic, more like traveling of old.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Brett, it seemed that way. And it was lots of fun - sleeping on village roofs, digging the car out of the sand, waking up to saharan sunrises....too cool really...

amy a dit…

I love the story, and I love the video - it sounds meant to be that you head to Mali this winter!

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Amy, if only it was likely...I'd be thrilled. And that song is great, no? really cool.

david mcmahon a dit…

Call your agent - QUICK !!

travelling, but not in love a dit…

David, I'm on to it, don't worry!

Daryl a dit…

Fabulous .. book me a seat too please

:-Daryl

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Daryl, it would be amazing.

Anthony a dit…

Mali is one of the nicer countries I've been to in Africa ...