Archive for the ‘Malian culture’ Category

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 14-10-2011

It really rains!

That’s my front yard in a rain storm – water water everywhere! Thankfully, our mini trampoline came in handy for the kids!

You see, in Africa you don’t get the drizzle-for-days-on-end like in England. In fact, fine rain is quite rare, as is rain without a cracking thunder storm! This means that a lot of rain falls in a short time, causing flooding (like in this post).

Here’s a short video showing what my street looks like during a rain storm – veritable road turned river:

In Benin, we had the same problem; worse in fact. Watch this one to see me riding on the back of a motobike taxi through a 14″ flood in Cotonou:

(Click here for the original blog post).

Meanwhile, here in Mali rainy season is all but over and there is a dry, crisp feel to the air we haven’t experienced for a few months. Humidity is now as low as 24%, but it’s still pretty warm. We are now eagerly awaiting the coolness which comes with the Harmattan (blogged about in 2006 and 2007). Here in Mali, the Harmattan lasts so long, it’s actually called ‘Cold Season’ and temps can get as low as 12 Celsius!!

Am I talking about the weather again?? Anyone would think I was British…

Filed Under (General, Malian culture) by Rob on 27-09-2011

Yes, after two and a half years’ work, the New, New Bridge is finally open, just to the east of Bamako city!

Woohoo! Here’s hoping it will ease up the traffic in town, which is often quite bad during rush hour (see this post for an example). It was a gift from China to Mali and, apparently, cost over 60,000,000 US Dollars!

For photos of the construction work in action, click here or here.

It was officially opened last Thursday (22nd September), the day of Mali’s 51st anniversary of independance. Click here and here to see the inauguration ceremony.

Here’s a picture I took of the 1.6 kilometre long structure a couple of months ago. Impressive (but it does have a bit of a bend to it!)

Finally, enjoy this YouTube video I made of our first ever crossing of the bridge (NB to save time/bandwidth, I sped up most of the video – I didn’t actually drive at that speed!)

Thanks for reading/watching!

This is the question my friend Eric asked me to write 700 words about as a guest writer on his blog.

But rather than paste the whole article into my own blog, have a look at his instead!
Click here to see Rob’s article on Eric’s blog.


Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 03-06-2011

(Did you arleady know about this???)

I’ve never grown bananas before. In England, we grew beans, potatoes, carrots, courgettes…but never bananas!! That’s one of the advantages of living in a hot, tropical country like Mali! So, just over a year ago, I bought two banana plants for 1500 and 2000cfa respectively (that’s about £2 and £2.50). Here’s what they looked like then:

Once they’re planted, it’s all very easy: you just water them when they need it and watch ’em grow (very quickly indeed!) Within twelve months, the larger one grew from three feet to eight feet – just like that! Amazing! And then the bananas appeared and started to grow. Here they are at various stages of development (taken roughly in December, February, March and May):

Now, bearing in mind my initial investment of £2.50 (or $4), we recently harvested no fewer than 163 bananas from the one plant! That’s 1.5 pence per banana!! Wow! So, in the past couple of weeks, we’ve made banana icecream, banana cake, banoffee pie, banana chutney, bananas in chocolate…you name it. Just realized we haven’t done ‘banane flamée’ yet, but we still have a couple of dozen left for that.
Want to know more about growing banans?
Then visit which also has a great recipe page here.


Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 22-04-2011

Yes, hot season is here with a vengeance and boy do we know it!

Yes, even pigs can do nothing but wallow in whatever water they can find and humans rush from one air-conditioned environment to another, aware that the outside temperature could be four or more degrees above body temperature!!

Here’s the forecast for the next few days in Bamako; as you rejoice that it’s just warm enough to go out in short sleeves where you live, spare a thought for the Bakers ‘baking’ in Mali!

(Image taken from:

Yes, 25 Celsius is the minimum we can expect, and 41 the maximum. And, as you can see, zero chance of any rain to cool us down!

Last night, the kids slept in our room with the a/c on low, as their room was still 33 Celsius as bedtime. We put the swamp-cooler on and attempted to cool another room down enough for us to sleep well ourselves! At least we all have water beds and a layer of straw matting a couple of feet above our house roof. This keeps it cooler inside (honestly, some folk complain of temps up to 35 or more inside their houses!!)

For more info, tips on surviving the heat along with Tim’s Ten Reasons for liking Hot Season, click here. (Yes, it’s the Bamako Map guy again).

Well, at least she’s getting up now, eh? Thanks for reading!
(Posted from my air-conditioned office and I’m still sweating!)

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 15-04-2011

Shipping stuff is fun! We shipped a car from England to Senegal with MSC once and it arrived in great condition and also full of our belongings!

The car came in one of those large metal containers. You know, this kind of thing:

(Image from this website)

However, it’s interesting to note that these huge metal shipping containers do not all find their way back to whence they came. Many, sadly, end up cluttering the streets of cities like Bamako, some still used for storage, others looking completely abandoned, like these ones (all a stone’s throw from my house):

It’s not all bad news, though. Africans are very resourceful and many of them have been converted into stores, workshops even restaurants! Here are a few of the ‘container success stories’ of Bamako:

Now, I had imagined that this phenomenon of ‘container recycling’ was peculiar to West Africa. However, on a recent trip eastwards I found the same thing there. Here are a car parts shop near the main stadium in Nairobi (top) and the ‘Boyz Boyz Mobile Disco’ in Kampala (bottom):

Thanks for reading!

Filed Under (Malian culture, Things to do in Bamako) by Rob on 22-03-2011

Visit the Campement de Kangaba, just out of town.

It’s a relaxing place to visit, with comfy seats, tasty meals, beautiful scenery and a pool! There are even huts where you can stay the night and marked footpaths all the way up to the baobab tree on the hill. Just the place to chill out at the weekend (if it’s not too busy then!) They also have a (rather pricey) gift shop and lots of African musical instruments for sale. Here I am having a go on a few of them:

Very nice! To get there take the ‘Route de Ségou’ from the Tour d’Afrique. Shortly after the road changes from duel carriageway to single, you will see a sign pointing to the left. Turn off the road and follow the dirt track for a couple of miles or so and you’re there!

Click here to see it on Tim’s Bamako Map. You can also click here to have a look at the Kangaba website – very well set out and packed full of information. Meanwhile, here are a few more images of the place to whet your appetite:

Filed Under (Ethnomusicology, Malian culture) by Rob on 11-03-2011

Here are the first ever copies of the entire Bible in the Dogon language (Toroso dialect) to arrive in Mali:

It was a privilege to see them and look through a copy (even though I only know about 5 words of Toroso). Here I am with a Dogon pastor, holding a freshly arrived Dogon Bible:

You may remember that I was up in Sangha recently for a workshop to compose new songs for the dedication, sheduled for early next year (read about the workshop here). I also did the same for the Moba language in Togo (blog post here). And while we’re on the subject, here’s a post about the Lokpa Bible dedication in Benin in 2008.

Great stuff! Thanks for reading. And here’s a ‘sneak preview’ of a couple of pages for you:

Filed Under (Benin wildlife, Malian culture) by Rob on 11-02-2011

Wow, we were just driving through Mali, minding our own business, when dozens of baboons ran across the road in front of the car, just like that!

What a surprise! Until they appeared I hadn’t even realized that Mali had any wild baboons, which further added to my astonishment at seeing around fifty at once. Here are a couple of them close up:

Looking at their long, dark noses and the large quantity of hair on their fronts, I’d say these were Guinea baboons but the olive baboon is also resident to this part of Mali. Oh, and here’s the photo you all really want to see:

Of course, this isn’t my first sighting of wild African animals; we saw elephants, lions, buffalo, hippos, a hyena, monkeys, crocodiles and baboons in the Pendjari National Park in Benin in 2005/6. Here’s my baboon photo from that time:

Baboon(click to enlarge)

And here’s the album of all the wild animals we saw there. But, in a way, we expected to see at least some wild animals there; after all, it was a national park. Today’s manifestation, however, was a big surprise, but a very pleasant one!

Filed Under (Malian culture) by Rob on 11-02-2011

Have a look at this – I think it will make you smile!

Thanks for watching!