Archive for November, 2010

Filed Under (Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 29-11-2010

Buy some nems and eat them!

It seems rather surprising that there would be any Vietnamese in a place like Mali (they certainly couldn’t have got here by boat all those years ago). But for whatever reason they are here and we’re very grateful, because their nems are both delicious and cheap! Four large nems for 1,000cfa – that works out at about 35p each. You also get light soy sauce, chili and lettuce leaves (we eat them and have never knowingly got sick from them).

We find four each is plenty (maybe 2 or 3 for the kids), so the whole family can eat for around six quid – bargain! According to this article (in French), the first nem stall started up only in 2007. By early 2009, there were twelve in the city (see this article) and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were even more by now.

So, you are never far from a nem stall, wherever you are in town. Add to this that the nems are delicious and that you get friendly service, then it’s an all round win-win situation! Also, if you order enough, most places stick in an extra nem or two as a cadeau. Fantastic!

Here’s another French article about nems and how much the Bamakois love them.
Not just those from Bamako though, eh?

Finally, here are a selection of nem stalls in different parts of Bamako, courtesy of Tim’s Bamako Map. This should help you get some tasty snacks more quickly! The centre of each picture is the approximate location of the nem place (NB you can zoom out from here to see the location more easily):

(i) Nems in Torokorobougou (pictured above)

View Tim’s Bamako map in a larger map

(ii) Nems in Sogoniko:

View Tim’s Bamako map in a larger map

(iii) Nems over the New Bridge, not far from Clinique Pasteur

View Tim’s Bamako map in a larger map

(iv) Nems in Niarela, not far from the Hotel Rabelais

View Tim’s Bamako map in a larger map

(v) Nems in the Quartier du Fleuve, not far from the Bamako Coura Church

View Tim’s Bamako map in a larger map

Filed Under (Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 22-11-2010

Visit “Waspy Waterfall” just a few miles out of town:

A beautiful place for a relaxing day out and a picnic, I’m sure you’ll agree. We call it “Waspy Waterfall” because Tim (the ‘map man’) once got attacked by a swarm of the instects there and lost his glasses in the process!!

The journey there is an ‘interesting’ one and should only be attempted in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, as it also includes two river crossings.

The lower section of the falls has some tricky climbing (as well as wasps/bees), but the upper falls are calmer and our kids even had a paddle!

To get there is a bit tricky but, basically, you carry on along the same valley from the horse monument, fording the river to the right side (ie the ‘left bank’), then back over again a while later. Not far after the 2nd crossing, you will see the waterfalls on your right. Although it’s only about 9km off road, it took us around 45 minutes as the terrain is a bit rough!

Click here to see Tim’s route to the waterfalls – NB this is a bicycle route, so make sure you take the right fork in a car, not the left one which goes uphill. As far as I can tell, this is the waterfall from above on Google maps (shame the sun wasn’t shining on this section of Mali at the time!)

Finally, click here to see my Facebook photos of the falls (as well as another waterfall in Siby), and here to see Tim’s pictures (including an impressive one during rainy season).

Happy travels!

Filed Under (Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 13-11-2010

Visit the Cathedral

Yes, Bamako has a Catholic cathedral, right in the middle of town. Now, if you’re thinking Durham, York or Cantebury, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but it’s still quite interesting to look at, in a parish-churchy kind of way. Right on the edge of the market, the cathedral is also a handy landmark for finding your way through the crowds. The interior is calm, clean and cool; the exact opposite to the market itself.

I’ve been to a couple of services at the cathedral. Very pleasant and the place is often packed! They also have a decent choir! Here are their service times (which may have changed by the time you read this):

Now, one time a friend and I managed to talk our way into being allowed up the tower, but I think this is the exception (no harm in trying, though). Here’s what the view was like from up there:

If you do get to go up, be aware that the staircases and floors are not necessarily up to Western health and safety standards!! However, they might let you up to the balcony, which is not as high, but lets you have a nice view of the interior of the building:

Here’s the cathedral from above, once again thanks to Google Maps. If you’re crossing the Old Bridge coming towards town, you can actually see the cathedral tower straight ahead, although getting there by car is a bit more tricky due to one way streets!

View Larger Map

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 09-11-2010

Tea drinking is a big thing in Mali, which is interesting for a Brit like myself (another tea-drinking culture). However the way tea is served in Mali could scarcely be more different than the English way.

Looks more like Guiness than tea, eh?
Well, first of all you boil the pot on a small charcoal stove like this one:

(image from this blog)

Then it is poured from a height into a small glass (not a china cup) and back into the pot, to cool it down and (I guess) aerate it a bit. This process is usually repeated two or three times before the first ‘cup’ is served.

(image from this site).

To complete the entire ‘Malian tea-time’ (which can take place at almost any time of the day or night), you must have the three cups. After the first, more water and sugar are added to the pot, and the same again for the third cup. Hence, Malians describe the three cups as follows:

First cup: amer comme la mort (bitter as death)
2nd cup: sucré comme l’amour (sweet as love)
3rd cup: doux comme la vie (sweet/agreeable as life)

This originates in a Maroccan proverb, according to this website. Click here for clear directions on how to make Malian tea and here for an interesting site giving the history of tea.

Meanwhile, here I am enjoying a Malian ‘cuppa’ with a Tamasheq guy in Bamako:

Fascinating stuff, and your trip to Mali is not complete without the three cups. However, I do suggest you try them in the morning, especially if – like me – you’re sensitive to caffeine!

Filed Under (Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 03-11-2010

Visit the National Museum

Located right next to the Parc National, this museum is certainly worth a visit. There are temporary exhibitions which come and go, and some permanent ones (archeological bits, Dogon artifacts, textiles) The whole thing is air-conditioned, so it’s a good choice in the middle of a hot day (of which Mali has many). The entrance is unique, with mini ‘waterfalls’ flowing down from the roof – thankfully you don’t have to walk underneath these to get in.

The entrance fee is 2,500cfa for adults (about £3.50) but only 200 francs for kids. I’ve been told there’s one day a month when entry is free, but I haven’t managed out when (or if this is indeed still the case).
Across the road from the museum are some interesting caves (don’t get too excited, they’re also very small) and a model dinosaur – I have no idea why, but there it is! There are also small models of Malian mosques and the like as well as a life-sized sotrama with too much luggage on the roof!

Click here for an excellent site (in French) describing the museum in detail (beware of the scary noises, though!) Also, you can read wikepedia entries about the museum here: in English and in French. Have a good trip!