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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Bamako: The Beautiful Capital of Mali


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Bamako, Mali’s capital and largest city, with a population of over 1.7 million people. Despite being in one of the world’s poorest countries, Bamako has witnessed remarkable growth, receiving the title of Africa’s fastest-growing city in 2006 and the world’s sixth fastest in 2007.

According to research, it is the seventh largest urban hub in West Africa, after Lagos, Abidjan, Kano, Ibadan, Dakar, and Accra.

This city has a rich history that dates back over 100,000 years. It has been a part of powerful West African empires, been a French colony until attaining independence in 1960, and experienced a 24-year period of communist governance.

Despite economic issues, Bamako has hosted key conventions that have resulted in policies and programs targeted at improving people’s lives across African nations.

Notably, the Bamako Initiative influenced Sub-Saharan African healthcare policies, and the Bamako Convention addressed the issue of toxic waste dumping in African countries from outside sources.

This city also serves as the finish line for the Budapest-Bamako Rally, Africa’s greatest annual charity event.

You might consider visiting this city because it is known for its vivid griot music, which draws prominent Western performers to Mali. It is also a cultural center and a meeting place for the country’s various ethnic communities.

History of Bamako

This city was a component of well-known West African empires and served as a crossroads for trade routes that extended across the Sahara and connected with Europe.

The Empire of Ghana developed as the dominating monarchy in the region throughout the eleventh century. Timbuktu thrived as a thriving commercial metropolis and a center for Islamic study, with universities and mosques.

The Mali Empire grew to prominence in the thirteenth century, including modern-day Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, and Mauritania. Cotton and salt commerce enabled the empire to grow.

The Songhai Empire, which rose to prominence in the fourteenth century, had a professional army, a civil service, and even sponsored healthcare and religious leaders.

However, in the sixteenth century, Moroccan Berber invaders destroyed Mali’s surviving kingdoms, and coastal traders began to weaken trans-Saharan trade.

Seribadian Niaré and Soumba Coulibaly created Bamako in the seventeenth century, and it afterwards fell under the dominion of Diaoussadian Niaré.

The city expanded into an important market town, and French forces conquered the region in 1883, when Bamako was still a small hamlet with only a few hundred people living in villages.

The French promoted cotton and rice agriculture with large-scale irrigation installations. Bamako was named the capital of French Sudan in 1908, and four years later, the Dakar-Niger Railway stretch connecting Kayes and Bamako was completed.

Mali and Senegal founded the Mali Federation in 1959, and gained independence from France on June 20, 1960. Senegal, on the other hand, left the federation soon after.

On September 22, 1960, the Republic of Mali, led by Modibo Keta, severed ties with the French Community.

In 1968, Keta was deposed in a coup, and young officers from the Military Committee for National Liberation took power. Following the committee’s dissolution, a single-party system arose and reigned until 1991.

Opposition to the single-party system resulted in a coup in 1991, which resulted in a transitional administration and the ratification of a new constitution.

Alpha Oumar Konaré became Mali’s first democratically elected multiparty president in 1992. Konaré was re-elected in 1997 and implemented political and economic reforms while fighting corruption.

In democratic elections in 2002, he was succeeded by Amadou Toumani Touré, a retired commander who played a crucial part in the 1991 democratic revolt.

The area around Bamako shows indications of Paleolithic habitation. The rich soils of the Niger River Valley provided abundant food supplies, and early kingdoms profited in the region through commerce in gold, ivory, kola nuts, and salt.

The Ghana Empire emerged as the main force in the eleventh century, but it was eventually surpassed by the Mali Empire, which flourished in the fourteenth century.

With the Songhai Empire’s destruction of the Mali Empire, Bamako’s importance as a hub of commerce and Islamic study decreased.

Interestingly, in the late 18th century, Scottish adventurer Mungo Park visited Bamako and estimated its population to be roughly 6,000 people at the time.

However, the city did not attain significance until the French annexation in 1883 and Bamako’s designation as the capital of French Sudan in 1908.

Mali obtained independence in 1960, and Bamako has had numerous political shifts and socioeconomic issues since then.


Bamako is renowned as the vibrant hub of Mali’s rich cultural scene. The city is famous for its distinct griot music, characterized by soulful melodies based on the pentatonic scale.

Influential artists like Salif Keita and the late Ali Farka Touré played a pivotal role in popularizing Malian music, drawing parallels with the expressive nature of American blues.

Esteemed Western musicians such as Robert Plant, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, and the late John Lee Hooker have traveled to Bamako to collaborate and record with local musicians, showcasing the city’s musical allure.

As Mali’s cultural center, Bamako attracts singers and instrumentalists from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Artists from tribes like the Sorhai of Timbuktu, the Dogon cliff dwellers, the Peuls of central Mali, the Tuaregs of the Sahara, the Malinkes from the southern border region of Bamako, and the Wassalous near the Ivory Coast come together in the city, creating a vibrant fusion of musical traditions.

Bamako boasts several notable landmarks, including the National Library of Mali, Tour BCEAO, Bamako Grand Mosque, Cathedral of Bamako, and the King Fahd Bridge.

Visitors can explore various attractions such as the Mali National Museum, the Muso Kunda Museum, the Bamako Regional Museum, Bamako Zoo, the Bamako Botanical Gardens, and the captivating Point G hill, which features caves adorned with ancient rock paintings.

Since 1994, Bamako has also hosted the African Photography Encounters, a renowned biannual photography festival that celebrates the art of photography in Africa.

Nice places to visit in Bamako

By now, you should know that Africa is indeed a blessed continent with beautiful places to explore when visiting.

In that light, here are some amazing places to check out when visiting Bamako, Mali.

  1. The National Museum

This incredible site is a must-visit in the city. Here, you can explore a fascinating collection of artifacts from all across Mali, including ancient relics from the Soninke Empire and the Mali Empire.

The museum’s interactive exhibits make learning about Malian culture and history fun and engaging. You’ll be amazed by the traditional masks, beautiful jewelry, and exquisite pottery on display.

Plus, there’s even a special section just for kids, where they can enjoy exciting activities. Whether you’re a history lover or simply curious about Mali, a visit to this museum will take you on a captivating journey through the country’s heritage.

2. Djenné

Is the history of Mali complete without the mention of Djenné. Djenné is a historic city near Bamako known for its beautiful architecture.

The Great Mosque of Djenné is its most famous landmark. This ancient mosque, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest mosques in Africa.

Built with mud bricks, it showcases intricate designs and has peaceful courtyards. When you visit Bamako, don’t forget to explore this remarkable mosque and admire its unique beauty.

3. Les Halles du Fleuve

If you’re looking for a fantastic shopping experience in Bamako, Les Halles du Fleuve is the place to be.

This expansive market is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide range of goods from traditional crafts to modern clothing.

Whether you’re hunting for souvenirs or simply exploring, you’ll discover unique and captivating items here.

Additionally, the market is home to various food stalls where you can indulge in traditional Malian delicacies like jollof rice, couscous, and tajine.

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Les Halles du Fleuve and immerse yourself in the vibrant shopping and dining scene of Bamako.

4. Explore the Grand Market

A visit to the Grand Market is an essential part of the Bamako experience, one you wouldn’t want to miss.

This bustling market is a must-visit destination for travelers as it offers not only a wide selection of souvenirs and local crafts but also an immersive encounter with Malian culture.

The market’s lively atmosphere and maze-like arrangement of stalls provide an opportunity to delve into the vibrant local scene.

Whether you’re in search of aromatic spices or exquisite jewelry, the Grand Market caters to diverse interests and ensures there’s something for everyone.

5. Go on a river cruise

And lastly, be sure to make a visit to the Niger River, a renowned attraction in Bamako that provides an exceptional opportunity to discover the city in a captivating way.

Various river cruises, including sunset and dinner options, allow visitors to marvel at the breathtaking vistas of the cityscape and picturesque countryside.

These cruises not only offer panoramic views but also provide chances to observe wildlife like hippos and crocodiles in their natural surroundings.

Exploring the Niger River by boat immerses you in the serene beauty of Bamako and allows for a memorable encounter with the region’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife.




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