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Sahara

Day 42: Djenné

Djenné, Mali 
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With Amadou (Pigmy to his friends) outside one of Djenné's unique mud mansions.
Michael Palin - SaharaHe comes up to a girl with a round face, doe-like eyes and large breasts.

'She is Fulani,' says Pigmy with a big smile. 'This is Aya. My family wanted me to marry her.'

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this. If Pigmy fancies them, they're Fulani.

Making the most of the shade, we walk through a low building onto a factory floor of women at sewing machines, maybe forty or fifty of them, every one clacking away at full tilt to satisfy the crowd waiting to collect repaired clothes, re-stitched sheets, finished dresses, robes, headdresses. Then we're out of this dark and tumultuously noisy room and into a light and tumultuously noisy square, at the far end of which, bathed in dusty sunlight, is the building I feel I know so well, the Grande Mosquée, the largest mud-built structure in Africa.

'In the world,' Pigmy corrects me.

To Western steel, glass and concrete tastes, the mud-walled mosque seems to obey none of the normal rules of construction. It's organic, fairy-tale architecture, the ultimate winner of any beach building competition. Instead of the columns, capitals and cornices we've been brought up to think of as architectural basics, it features tall conical shapes reminiscent of termite mounds. Three 40-foot towers, each one crowned with an ostrich egg, face onto the square, linked by a wall of slim, pointed buttresses.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 42
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Djenné
  • Book page no: 130

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