Sadly, many of Timbuktu’s famous shrines were destroyed during the city’s early 2012 occupation by Islamic extremists and it will take decades for these ancient attractions to be fully restored to their former glory. Gao’s 15th century Tomb of Askia also suffered damage during the recent attacks. However, Djenné’s Grand Mosque, the world’s biggest building constructed entirely of mud brick, remains largely intact, as do the cliffs of Bandiagara, whose Dogon people have successfully preserved for centuries. Bamako, Mali’s capital and largest city, features a bustling outdoor market and the country’s largest museum, whose property includes the serene National Park of Mali.
Grand Mosque of Djenné
No adobe or mud-brick building on earth is larger or more impressive than Djenné’s Grand Mosque, whose current structure was erected in 1907. A mosque has stood on the present location at the Niger and Bani rivers since the 13th century, when Djenné was an important Islamic learning center and trading post. Today, the Grand Mosque is the centerpiece of Djenné’s Old Town and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Each year, the population painstakingly repairs and rebuilds rain damage to the mud during the Spring Festival.
Address: Farmantala, Djenne, Mali
Boucle du Baoulé National Park
The prehistoric tombs and rock art situated throughout Mali’s oldest national park are just as impressive as the giraffes, elephants, leopards, and lions who roam its vast territory. Boucle du Baoulé was first established in the 1950's and its Siby Kita boundary stretches nearly as far as the Mauritanian border. The months between February and June are the prime wildlife viewing times.
Address: Kita, Mali
National Museum of Mali
Mali’s national museum first opened in 1953 in Bamako, ranks among the best in West Africa. Nearly half of the 3,000 exhibits were gathered by its original director, a Ukrainian archaeologist named Y Shumowskyi. Clothing, musical instruments and historic displays from all of Mali’s various ethnic groups are on display.
Address: Kati, Mali
Phone: +223 222 34 86
National Park of Mali
The Aga Khan Foundation financed the National Park of Mali in the heart of bustling Bamako. His Highness Aga Khan designed this sprawling and serene park which includes a traditional medicine garden, tea house, playground, and two restaurants. Park visitors can work out at the fully-equipped gym, jog along gravel paths or simply watch the world go by while nibbling on croissants.
Address: Bamako, Mali
The Dogan people who live behind the 125-mile long sandstone chain belong to one of Africa’s oldest surviving cultures. However, the caves in the Bandiagara Cliffs belong to an even older group called the Tellem, who used to bury their dead far above the frequently flooding grounds. Many centuries later, the Dogon used the caves to create an elaborate tunnel network which was used to hide and drive away intruders. Mali’s highest mountain, the 366-foot tall Hombori Tondo, is the end point of the towering Grandamia massif. Each village along the Cliffs has its own hostels which warmly welcome and feed guests.
Address: Mopti, Mali
Timbuktu’s famous Djinguereber Mosque once housed the world’s largest library. It is just as impressive today as it was at its completion after Emperor Musa I first ordered its construction in 1325, despite the recent damage to two of its tombs by the Ansar Dine Islamic extremists in 2012. Up to 2,000 people can fit into the prayer space, which also includes two minarets and three inner courts. Most of the mosque is constructed from earth, wood, straw, and other organic materials.
Address: Askia Mohamed Boulevard, Timbuktu, Mali
Tomb of Askia
Emperor Askia Mohammad I first built this pyramid shaped tomb for himself during the late 15th century. The tomb, its cemetery, assembly ground, and two surrounding mosques were all constructed in the West African Sahel mud-building tradition. The nearly 56-foot tall building containing Askia Mohammed’s body and its Islamic architectural style has inspired countless others throughout the area. The mosque was modernized with electricity, lights, a loudspeaker, and ceiling fans in the early 2000's, but its historical essence still remains.
Address: Gao, Mali