Monday Market, Djenne, Mali

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

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Other than the architectural curiosities of Djenne's massive Great Mosque and other mud brick buildings, Djenne's main appeal to travelers is its fantastic Monday market, an event which seems to attract every western tourist in the country to the town on that day of the week.  Naturally, we were part of that pack. 
As in many places in the world, market days in Mali vary from town to town, with itinerant merchants converging with their wares in one town on one day of the week and then moving on en mass to another for that's town's market on another day.  We passed numerous such markets on the truck throughout West Africa and experienced market days in several other places such as Mopti.  Djenne's market, though, is known for several things that make it really stand out, ranging from its size, its rich mix of tribal peoples (mostly Fulani, Songhai, and Bozo) dressed in traditional costumes, and its especially picturesque setting in the square in front of and side streets around the great mosque.  One of the market's biggest appeals is that it is a true working market.  Surprising ,considering the large numbers of tourists who visit, is how little tourist tack and souvenirs are for sale and how little attention one receives and how little hassle one feels as a foreigner.  As you walk around the market, it is as if you are just part of the standard scenery, almost as if herds of camera-toting whiteys have been sticking foot-long camera lenses in the faces of Songhai market ladies for the last 500 years.  And for another small fee a man took me several floors up to the roof of a building to let me watch the colorful spectacle from above. 
And what's there to buy at this market?  Lots of useful things - dried freshwater fish for flavoring stews, many kinds of grain in large bags, a much wider variety of produce than in mini-supermarkets, charcoal, wood, burlap sacks, baskets, but not much U.S. customs officers would be keen on me bringing back to the states.  There was even a medicine man, a witch doctor type purveying cures for everything that ales people, with a large following around him watching his demonstration.  "What's he got now?  Viagra?  How will he demonstrate to this crowd how that works?" I wondered.

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