Here's the next in our Why We Love It series. In each of these blogs, we ask a Peregrine team member to tell you about their favourite place in the world. Today's blog has a focus on Mali:
Mali holds a special place in my heart. Go to one of its extraordinary festivals and it’s a difficult place not to fall in love with. That’s mainly down to the locals – I’ve never met such a welcoming people, genuinely warm and curious about visitors to their country, who, to a man it seems, they treat as guests and long-lost friends.
Rhythym and blues
And the music! You can hear the roots of jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll in the balafon, strings and incredible vocals of Mali’s musicians. I went to the Festival in the Desert a couple of years ago, and it’s got to be one of the world’s great music events – days rolled by blissfully, with afternoons spent listening to Tuareg musicians, watching camel racing and joining in with the locals dancing, then evenings passed by basking in the sounds of Africa’s greatest singers and songwriters. Compared with other festivals I’ve been to, it’s a really intimate affair with a feeling of community, and the desert location is unbeatable.
Walk this way
I try to squeeze in a bit of walking or trekking while I’m away, and Mali’s great for that too – I can honestly say that the Pays Dogon is one of the great destinations for walking that I’ve been to. Google the Bandiagara Escarpment and look at some photos – it’s a rugged, golden 200km-long cliff that faces out towards the Sahel plains. Walking atop the plateau, then dipping down to remote, traditional villages was unforgettable, so peaceful, with some quite challenging sections and always warm welcomes from locals when we travelled through the villages – and far more spectacular than any photo can ever be!
Then there’s Timbuktu. Does the name of anywhere else cast such an exotic spell? I think I had wanted to visit the town ever since I was young, when the name was used as a byword for back-of-beyond magic.
Well, in reality it’s not a place of magic and myth, fables and fantasy – where is? – but exploring the town didn’t disappoint, with traders arriving from the desert and old explorer houses to visit, old mosques rising into the Sahara night and the busy, raucous salt market. It was all so utterly different to anywhere else I had been, and delivered a healthy dose of culture shock – something Mali seems to excel at, wherever you go.
Subscribe to the monthly Peregrine eNews for your chance to win an iPad2. It's so easy! Simply click here to subscribe.