Bamako and its highlights 

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The security situation around Bamako is revitalising visits and raising the profile of the surrounding circuits. Flight to Bamako and its must-sees. 

The Grand Marché in Bamako is a recommended stopover, where visitors are constantly immersed in the heat, smells, scents and colours of the atmosphere. It’s a great opportunity to admire and buy jewellery, bogolans, masks and other souvenirs produced by local creativity. Ravaged by an intense fire in 2014, the “pink market” is being rebuilt. The obligatory ritual is to savour the Malian culinary speciality, mafé. Before setting off for the other smaller markets in the Malian capital, you can take a trip to the craft market just a stone’s throw from the main market.

On the heights of Bamako, nature lovers can visit one of the largest city parks in West Africa. A former botanical garden, the Mali National Park has preserved all its flora. The species in this natural setting offer a calm environment, distilling pure air and conducive to rest. The shade of its species provides a soothing oasis in a noisy city. Regulars at the Tearoom can enjoy local drinks such as bissap. At the Balasoko restaurant, tucked away in a dominant corner of the park, visitors can sample local and European cuisine in a friendly atmosphere. 

Just a short walk away is the Mali National Zoo. The zoo showcases a wealth of tropical fauna. Covering an area of 6 hectares, around a hundred species of animal are scattered here, below the hills. In a vast aquarium, 58 varieties of fish splash around, to the delight of visitors. In the vivarium, 13 species of reptiles stand out. And 21 types of birds fly and perch in the zoo. Large animals such as lions and chimpanzees are also housed here.

Still, in the same department, visitors can contemplate the collections of the National Museum of Mali. It reveals the archaeological and ethnological dimensions of Mali. The richness of Malian clothing, musical diversity and the sacred symbols of Malian communities form the core of the exhibits. The museum’s staff are working to preserve cultural heritage from the looting and trafficking that rob Africa of its riches. The museum bears witness to the glorious past of this country, once an imperial land. Despite the damage, the complete restoration of the museum in 2002 has brought back the lustre of its exhibits and collections.

Built a century ago, the Palais de Koulouba is a jewel of colonial architecture. Today it houses the residence of the Head of State and the departments of the Presidency of the Republic of Mali. It is built on the heights of the eponymous hill. It is a jewel for walkers. The surrounding lush vegetation envelops the place in a soothing cocoon. The palace offers a breathtaking view of the city of Bamako. But for security reasons, access is restricted. However, ordinary visitors can approach it before the security barriers. The reward is a panoramic view of the villages below.

Before rounding off your visit to the Malian capital, it would also be worthwhile for believers to contemplate and pray at the Grande Mosquée de Bamako, as well as at the city’s cathedral. The architecture of these places of worship is fascinating in its originality. Finally, the Independence Monument, in the heart of Bamako, stands as a symbol of the country’s accession to international sovereignty. It is also well worth a visit. A short jaunt outside the city is also recommended.

The village of Siby is a memorial to the Mandé people and their legendary hero Soundiata Kéita. According to legend, the arch in the mountain was pierced by an arrow shot by the king in the 13th century. It was from this spot that the Emperor of Mali began his conquest of his father’s kingdom, which had fallen into the hands of his bloodthirsty brother. Today, it is an incredibly beautiful site to visit, some forty kilometres from Bamako on the way to Guinea. 

This Mandingo village, with its lush greenery on the slopes of the pierced mountain, is very peaceful. Mountain trekking enthusiasts can indulge their hobby to their heart’s content. Walks in the plain and the surrounding waterfalls are a good way to get away from it all, right on the doorstep of Bamako. Siby is home to an artistic residence that is making a name for itself in Mali’s creative world. As the gateway to the Mandé region, Siby offers a glimpse of the cultural wealth of the Mandingo people, particularly their musical influence. The tour of Bamako is worth it.

Alain Metodjo

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