Lafiabougou Market, Mali, November 3, 2007

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
Trip End Jan 05, 2008

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

On the road towards Bamako we came across a huge market taking place on both sides of the road, one I later learned was named Lafiabougou.  There was an amazing level of activity and cook groups were in need of a few last ingredients, so we talked Dave and Ben into a short stop.  As in most markets there was a clear division of labor here.  The women, all dressed in bright floral patterns as colorful as the produce many were selling, were clearly in charge of selling wood and charcoal as well as fruit and vegetables and other staples.  They were aided by some of the younger boys who seemed to act as their porters. 
The best part, though, was the men's work, the cattle market, where herders were selling their long-horned cattle, keeping them huddled in circles for a while until a sale was made.  Once the cattle were sold, they were chased (stampeded it sometimes felt like) into the purchaser's metal-fenced enclosures, apparently to be taken for slaughter.  I'm not quite sure of the ethnicity of the men at the market.  Although we were in a mostly Bambara region, many of the cattle herders in the Sahel region are Fulani who wear distinctive wide conical hats.
The men were all friendly and (unlike the market women) didn't mind having their pictures taken, too busy with the work at hand to take much notice of a couple pesky white tourists armed with cameras who wandered in.  I got to talking with a Fulani man who spoke some English who told me the cattle were mostly eight years old at time of sale for slaughter.  No wonder the meat here is all so tough! 
After a while I realized I was in a slightly dangerous place because of all those rather wild cattle breaking loose, running around, and being stampeded into pens.  And some of those horns looked really sharp too!  The cattle market experience at Lafiabougou was one of those that made me realize more than most others how true Dragoman's slogan, "It's no ordinary holiday," really is.  With what other tour company could I make an unplanned stop at a working cattle market deep in Africa's interior where I'd be chatting with turbaned tribesmen and dashing out of the path of stampeding herds of long-horned cattle?

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