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Sahara

Day 40: Bamako

Bamako, Mali 
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Laundry on the Niger. Dominating the Bamako skyline in the background is the bridge over the Niger and the 'mud skyscraper', which turns out to be a bank headquarters.
Michael Palin - SaharaThe everyday commercial life of Bamako is not to be found in air-conditioned office blocks, but out in the open, on the hot, busy streets. This is where we find the fetish stalls, stocked with animal skins, shrunken monkey heads, dried ears and hearts, bird's feet, crocodile parts and all the other charms and potions for the gri-gri - black magic or traditional healing - which is still such a powerful force in the country.

This is where we find the windowless huts of businesses with names like 'Coiffure, Harrods style' and 'M. Yattara, Boutique', the latter, consisting of a table, a bench and a kettle, located outside the gates of the station we arrived at two mornings ago. So low were my spirits then that I hardly noticed the station itself, which is another French colonial gem, faced in local red sandstone, roofed in terracotta tiles and dominated by a clock tower with the proud inscription 'Chemin de Fer de Dakar en Niger' picked out in gold leaf. Sadly, the original clock has gone missing and been inadequately replaced by one out of somebody's kitchen. Less grand, but equally purposeful inscriptions adorn the walls of the forecourt, including two 'Défense d'Uriner' signs and a third which warns: 'Défense Absolut d'Uriner', under pain of arrest by Special Police. The mind boggles at what sort of highly honed skills these special police must require.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 40
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Bamako
  • Book page no: 122

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