23 Mopti Town-1 Merchandise_1024x762SYNOPSIS:  Another day in Mopti to take care of business, and seeing some sights.  Holding out in vain for some internet connectivity. 

Mopti has another sizable mosque in the so typical Sudanese mud-brick style for this area.  In contrast to Djenne’s mosque however, it is relatively new.  And in contrast to Djenne, the techniques of mud-brick making had been corrupted and almost lost which messed up the mosque to a degree that its survival was in question.   The Agha Khan Foundation was called in and not only helped to remove the layer of concrete that some architectural dilettantes had applied to the structure, but conducted workshops to retrain artisans who now can continue in the age-old, tested mud techniques.

It was a nice structure indeed but off- limits as every other mosque in Mali so far.  Two young guys immediately attached themselves to me after Chris and I had parted ways, each in search of money.  They spoke English and were obviously trying to get me to look at their shop.  As everywhere else, the tourism industry is gone and dozens of merchants in the artisans market sit around all day in their dark stalls – remember, no electricity in Mopti after 6 AM – and there is nobody to sell anything to.   Everything just rots away under a layer of dust.

After that sad market experience, I passed Mopti’s local history museum which was, of course, closed.   But I had been spotted as a potential customer and was told that if I waited for a few minutes, somebody could be found who would open the museum for me.   If there is anything I have in this town it is time.   It was worth the wait.   The museum was small, but featured great information on the various famous mud-brick mosques in Mali in not only French, but also English!  It had small models of each of them which was very helpful in picturing the layouts of the structures which is always not only off limits, but also typically raised on a platform, and thereby hard to gage. This was great. 

By the end of the day I had money, had seen the mosque, visited the museum, had purchased a Fulani hat – a very traditional hat for herders for my excursions into Dogon country, and had mangoes to eat – literally the only thing I have eaten in two days except some bread for breakfast. It is just too damned hot for anything else.  This was a good day and could have been really great if the internet would have worked as promised.  The electricity came on like clockwork, no storm in its way today.   But I had barely finished some Skype time, when it was gone.  I set my alarm for two hour intervals all night, but that was it!    That was not exactly what I had stayed on for a full extra day.  But what can you do but resign yourself to the facts?  At least yesterday I was able to send on most of the blogs written in Djenne.  And tomorrow I will be heading into another big black hole of civilization:   Dogon Country.  When I emerge, I hopefully will have better luck in Mopti to which I will return for one reason only before turning north to my final destination, Timbuktu – the internet.  I hope it will come through for me then.

Good night.

7 comments so far

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  1. Maria, I just checked out your link to the Dogon’s extraordinary knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, and I think it is all BS. It sounds preposterous on its face, and I would not believe a word of it. Here is just one sentence: “The Dogon tribe knew about the existence of this invisible star for thousands of years.” Thousands of years??? Where is the evidence of that?

  2. Thanks, Carl and Maria, for these valuable links! As you know, I will write from a much more personal experience-level about Dogon country as I lack the resources out here to provide general background. This is great reading/viewing material for anyone who wants to go beyond the blog. Terrific. ET

  3. Maybe while you are hiking through the Dogon country some of your readers would like to check out the Dogon tribe’s extraordinary knowledge of astronomy and mathematics :


    There is a controversial book by Robert Temple about the Dogon
    “The Sirius Mystery”

    and a very interesting 4 part interview series :
    The Dogon & the Sirius Mystery , an interview with Robert Temple on youtube:


  4. I had read that Wikipedia article about the Dogons a few weeks ago when I saw that it might be an area you were going to visit…needless to say I found it very distressing. Obviously the whole issue of FGM is beyond troubling…it is more in the category of horrifying. Female circumcision is simply NOT equivalent in any way to circumcision in a male…period!!!
    Your visit and subsequent observations and comments on the Dogon Country will be interesting…I am sure of that.
    Take care, Elisabeth…
    I was wondering if we are going to see any of the pictures of the mosque interior that your guide took for you.

  5. Here an interesting video on Youtube about the Dogons.
    The FGM as part of the tradition is troubling and I’m curious what you will find out.

    May the present moment always guide you!
    Bon matin et bon voyage!

  6. More on the Dogon people from Wikipedia:
    In Dogon thought, male and females are thought to be born with both sexual components. The clitoris is considered male, while the foreskin is considered to be female.[9] Rites of circumcision thus allow each sex to assume its proper physical identity. Boys are circumcised in age groups of three years, counting for example all boys between 9 and 12 years old. This marks the end of their youth, and they are now initiated. The blacksmith performs the circumcision. Afterwards, they stay for a few days in a hut separated from the rest of the village people, until the wound has healed. The circumcision is a reason for celebration and the initiated boys go around and receive presents. They make music on a special instrument that is made of a rod of wood and calabashes that makes the sound of a rattle. The village of Songho has a circumcision cave ornamented with red and white rock paintings of animals and plants. Nearby is a cave where music instruments are stored. The newly circumcised men must walk around naked for a month after the procedure so that their achievement in age can be admired by the citizens of the tribe. This practice has been passed down for generations and is always followed, even during winter.

    They are one of several African ethnic groups that practices female genital mutilation. The majority of the Dogon women practice a class 2 circumcision, meaning that both the clitoris and the labia minora are removed. Girls are circumcised around the age of 7 or 8 years, sometimes younger. Circumcision for both male and female is seen as necessary for the individual to gain gender. Before circumcision they are seen as ‘neuter’.

  7. From Wikipedia; Dogon
    Among the Dogon several oral traditions have been recorded as to their origin. One relates to their coming from Mande, located to the southwest of the Bandiagara escarpment near Bamako. According to this oral tradition, the first Dogon settlement was established in the extreme southwest of the escarpment at Kani-Na.[3][4] Over time the Dogon moved north along the escarpment, arriving in the Sanga region in the 15th century.[5] Other oral histories place the origin of the Dogon to the west beyond the river Niger, or tell of the Dogon coming from the east. It is likely that the Dogon of today combine several groups of diverse origin who migrated to escape Islamization.[6]

    It is often difficult to distinguish between pre-Muslim practices and later practices, though Islamic law classified them and many other ethnicities of the region, (Mossi, Gurma, Bobo, Busa and the Yoruba) as being within the non-canon dar al-harb and consequently fair game for slave raids organized by merchants.[7] As the growth of cities increased the demand for slaves across the region of West Africa also increased. The historical pattern has included the murder of indigenous males by Islamic raiders and enslavement of women and children.[8]