4 Natural Heritage Sites You Must Visit In Mali

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4 Natural Heritage Sites You Must Visit In Mali

Date: Feb 1, 2023
Author: Collins.cidar 627 No Comments

If you ever thought of seeing an exquisite sandcastle formed in a harsh desert landscape, then there is nowhere to be but Mali or, as the locals will call it, ‘Republique Du Mali’. This is a country in west Africa with its largest city, Bamako, having a population of over 1.9million people. With a verse wealth of history and cultural heritage dating back to the origin of civilization in Africa, Mali cuts across varieties in terms of vacation sites and sustainable travel. The varied everyday culture of Malians reflects the country’s ethnic and geographic diversity. From the splendor of the Bandiagara Cliffs to the Great Mosque of Djenne, Historical handprints spreads across West Africa’s biggest Nation. With Co2 emission reducing drastically in the past years and tourism is on the increase, it’s no wonder Mali is slogan Eco-friendly and a destination for all.

Looking to drive deep into Africa’s economic history? You can choose a UNESCO heritage site; Timbuktu, which is regarded as the intellectual and spiritual capital of Africa’s Islamic propagation and also an economic hub in the 18th and 19th century. With many of the ancient structures remaining, there is a lot of adventure in stock for visitors to choose from. Come and be transformed in sight and mind as you witness the past, the present and the future of West Africa’s biggest country in regenerative travel artistry. Millennials can start to relate modern ideas with ancient foundations. List are the most intriguing place to visit in Mali

Old Towns of Djenné

Old Towns of Djenné/Photographer: Bruno Malfondet/Flickr

Djenné, chief town of the Djenné Circle, located 130 km south-west of Mopti (the regional capital) and roughly 570 km north-east of Bamako (the national capital), is one of the oldest towns of sub-Saharan Africa.

The cultural property “Old Towns of Djenné” is a serial property comprising four archaeological sites, namely Djenné-Djeno, Hambarkétolo, Kaniana and Tonomba, along with the old fabric of the present town of Djenné covering an area of 48.5 ha and divided into ten districts.  The property is an ensemble that over many years has symbolised the typical African city.  It is also particularly representative of Islamic architecture in sub-Saharan Africa.

The property is characterised by the intensive and remarkable use of earth specifically in its architecture. The outstanding mosque of great monumental and religious value is an outstanding example of this. The town is renowned for its civic constructions, with the distinctive style of verticality and buttresses as well as the elegant monumental houses with intricate facades. 

Excavations carried out in 1977, 1981, 1996 and 1997, revealed an extraordinary page of human history dating back to the 3rd century B.C. They have brought to light an archaeological ensemble which bears witness to a pre-Islamic urban structure with a wealth of circular or rectangular constructions in djenné ferey and numerous archaeological remains(funerary jars, pottery, millstones, grinders, metal scoria etc.).

The property « Old Towns of Djenné » comprises the town of Djenné, characterised by a remarkable architecture and its urban fabric, of rare harmony, and four (4) archaeological sites bearing witness to a long-gone pre-Islamic civilization.

The property « Old Towns of Djenné » still retains the values which justified its outstanding universal value at its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List. First and foremost, the archaeological, historic, religious and architectural values should be mentioned.


Timbuktu/Photographer: Travelling Slonik/Flickr

Located at the gateway to the Sahara desert, within the confines of the fertile zone of the Sudan  and in an exceptionally  propitious site near to the river, Timbuktu is one of the cities of Africa whose name is the most heavily charged with history.

Founded in the 5th century, the economic and cultural apogee of Timbuktu came about during the15th and 16th centuries. It was an important centre for the diffusion of Islamic culture with the University of Sankore, with 180 Koranic schools and 25,000 students. It was also a crossroads and an important market place where the trading of manuscripts was negotiated,  and salt from Teghaza in the north, gold was sold, and cattle and grain from the south.

The Djingareyber Mosque, the initial construction of which dates back to Sultan Kankan Moussa, returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, was rebuilt and enlarged between 1570 and 1583 by the Imam Al Aqib, the Qadi of Timbuktu, who added all the southern part and the wall surrounding the cemetery located to the west. The central minaret dominates the city and is one of the most visible landmarks of the urban landscape of Timbuktu.

Built in the 14th century, the Sankore Mosque was, like the Djingareyber Mosque, restored by the Imam Al Aqib between 1578 and 1582. He had the sanctuary demolished and rebuilt according to the dimensions of the Kaaba of the Mecca.

The Sidi Yahia Mosque, to the south of the Sankore Mosque, was built around 1400 by the marabout Sheik El Moktar Hamalla in anticipation of a holy man who appeared forty years later in the person of Cherif Sidi Yahia, who was then chosen as Imam. The mosque was restored in 1577-1578 by the Imam Al Aqib.

The three big Mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, sixteen mausoleums and holy public places, still bear witness to this prestigious past. The mosques are exceptional examples of earthen architecture and of traditional maintenance techniques, which continue to the present time.

Tomb of Askia

Tomb of Askia/Photographer:CSIS | Center for Strategic & International Studies

The Tomb of Askia is located in the town of Gao. The site comprises the following elements: the pyramidal tower, the two flat-roofed mosques, the necropolis and the white stone square. The spectacular pyramidal structure was built by Askia Mohamed, Emperor of the Songhai Empire in 1495. The Tomb of Askia was built when Gao became the capital of the Empire and Islam was adopted as the official religion.

The Tomb of Askia is a magnificent example of how the local traditions have adapted to the exigences of Islam in creating an architectural structure unique across the West African Sahel. The Tomb is the most important and best conserved vestige of the powerful and rich Songhai Empire that extended through West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its value is also invested in its architectural tomb/minaret shape, its prayer rooms, its cemetery and its assembly space that have survived and are still in use. From the architectural perspective, the Tomb of Askia is an eminent example of Sudano-Sahelian style, characterized by rounded forms resulting in the regular renewal of the layer of plaster eroded each winter by the rare but violent rains. The pyramidal form of the tomb, its function as central minaret as well as the length and shape of the pieces of wood comprising the permanent scaffolding, give the Tomb of Askia its distinctive and unique architectural characteristics.

Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)

Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons)/Photographer: Markus Stöcklin/ Flickr

The Cliff of Bandiagara, Land of the Dogons, is a vast cultural landscape covering 400,000 ha and includes 289 villages scattered between the three natural regions: sandstone plateau, escarpment, plains (more than two-thirds of the listed perimeter are covered by plateau and cliffs).

The communities at the site are essentially the Dogon, and have a very close relationship with their environment expressed in their sacred rituals and traditions.

The site of the Land of the Dogons is an impressive region of exceptional geological and environmental features. Human settlements in the region, since Palaeolithic times, have enabled the development and harmonious integration into the landscape of rich and dense tangible and intangible cultures, the best known of which are those of the Tellem, that are thought to live in the caves, and the Dogon.

This hostile milieu and difficult access has been, since the 15th century, a natural refuge that corresponded to the need for defence of the Dogons in the face of formidable invaders. Entrenched on the plateau and hanging to cliff faces, the Dogon were able to conserve their centuries-old culture and traditions, thanks to this defensive shelter. The architecture of the Dogon land has been adapted to benefit from the physical constraints of the place. Whether on the high plateau, the cliff-faces, or on the plain, the Dogon have exploited all the elements available to build their villages that reflect their ingenuity and their philosophy of life and death.

In certain cultural areas, the Dogon villages comprise numerous granaries, for the most part square with a thatched tapering roof. The gin’na, or large family house, is generally built on two levels. Its facade built from banco, is windowless but has a series of niches and doors, often decorated with sculptured motifs: rows of male and female characters which symbolize the couple’s successive generations.

One of the most characteristic forms of the Land of the Dogon is that of the togu-na, the large shelter, a long construction that provides shelter under a roof of branches supported by roughly-shaped wooden poles, for a platform with benches for the men.

The totemic sanctuaries (binu), privileged places, are of a great variety: some, in caves, keep alive the cult places of the Tellem; others, built of banco, resemble houses. The most venerated are the responsibility of the Hogon, the priest of one or several villages living alone, his source of inspiration being the snake, Lèbe, whose totem is often sculpted near the door of his dwelling.

The irruption of new « written religions » (Islam and Christianity) since at least the 18th century has contributed to the vulnerability of the heritage that today has suffered from the negative effects of globalization linked to the increasing development of cultural tourism and the phenomena of rural exodus, consequence of the drought of the last decades. 

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