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Wonders of Mali

Hand of Fatima
Hand of Fatima. / David Sessoms, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

It is well possible that the most romantic African country is Mali. Like many countries in this beautiful continent, Mali nowadays has complex times, but in the past, it has seen prosperity, flourishing of science, and political importance. Here developed several empires, were built enormous cities. Traces of those times have been preserved up to this day – in the highly unusual architecture, living traditions, ruins of once-prosperous cities, and art monuments.

The most amazing wonders of Mali are:

  • Ancient cities – centres of trade and science. Especially interesting are the legendary cities of Timbuktu and Djenné, which once were some of the most affluent and splendid cities in the world. Libraries in Timbuktu have more than 700,000 medieval manuscripts – an incredible wealth!
  • Traditional landscape of Tellem and Dogon people along Bandiagara Escarpment. Everything here is unusual – up to 500 m high and some 150 km long cliff wall with ancient settlements and burial caves cut in it, highly unusual architecture of Dogon people on the top and at the base of cliffs, cliff paintings, numerous living traditions.

Map with the described wonders of Mali

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of Mali

Geological wonders

Mount Hombori


The tallest mountain in Mali – an isolated monolith with nearly steep sides, rising some 750 m above the surroundings. Caves in this mountain have been inhabited for some 2000 years.

Gouina Falls


Magnificent falls on the Senegal River, approximately 500 m wide and 16 m tall.

Gouina Falls, Mali
Gouina Falls / Jacques Taberlet, / CC BY-SA 3.0
Hand of Fatima


One of the most impressive rock formations in the world – a group of vertical cliffs up to 600 m high and resembling giant hands rising from the desert. A sacred place to locals.

Hand of Fatima, Mali
Hand of Fatima, Mali / Timm Guenther, / CC BY-SA 3.0
Arch of Kamadjan


A large, picturesque natural arch.

Fara Missiri


A mysterious grotto that is important to the local animist religion. This grotto is adorned with stalactites and stalagmites and is some 50 – 80 m high.

Archaeological wonders

Adrar des Ifoghas (Adrar des Iforas)


Sandstone massif with many rock drawing sites. Includes a gorgeous drawing of a group of giraffes.

Kita Kourou cave paintings


A sacred mountain for local animists. Caves and grottoes in this mountain are adorned with old cave paintings.

Architecture wonders

Great Mosque of Djenné


The largest adobe building in the world with a unique design. The first mosque here since the 13th century. The current structure was built in 1907 or 1909.

Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali
Great Mosque of Djenné / Geri, / CC BY-SA 2.0


A traditional Dogon village with interesting adobe buildings. Dogon people have preserved their traditional way of life, including the circumcision ritual with associated petroglyphs. Many other villages in this area are of similar interest to travelers and explorers.



The historical center of once a very important trade and knowledge center, once one of the most prosperous places in the world. World center of Islamic learning in the 13th – 17th century, more than 700,000 valuable Timbuktu manuscripts have been preserved here up to this day in the libraries of the city. City has preserved much of its historical adobe architecture.

Streets of Timbuktu, Mali
Streets of Timbuktu / Emilio Labrador, / CC BY 2.0


An important trade city in the 15th – 17th centuries. The old city of Djenné has been built entirely from adobe – mud bricks – and represents a distinct tradition in urban planning. Especially impressive is the large Great Mosque, built in 1907.

Tellem burial caves in Bandiagara escarpment


In different (mostly undisclosed) locations of Bandiagara escarpment are found caves that are filled with bones and utensils of Tellem people who left this area in the 16th century. There are caves where thousands of skulls are located. The historical textiles have been well preserved in the dry climate.

Teli village in Mali - Dogon houses in the forefront, Tellem houses - in the cliff
Teli village – Dogon houses in the forefront, Tellem houses – in the cliff / Dorothy Voorhees, / CC BY-SA 2.0


Village of Dogon animists on the top of Bandiagara Escarpment. Animist religion here is active with many rituals on-going and many sacred places.

Jenne-Jeno (Djenné-Jéno)


One of the oldest cities in sub-Saharan Africa developed around the 3rd century BC. Between 750 and 1000 AD there lived up to 27,000 people. A fortification wall around the city was built sometime around 850 AD, the city was abandoned sometime around 1400 AD.

Yougou Dogorou and Yougapiri


This village has been hewn into a vertical cliff by the Tellem people. Tellem have left the area, and Dogon people have built their traditional houses at the base of the cliff. Similar villages are widespread along the Bandiagara Escarpment.

Djinguereber Mosque


Mosque and famous learning center, built in 1327 from the earth.

Tireli (Tereli)


One of the most beautiful Dogon villages.

Tomb of Askia


Unusual, 17 m high pyramidal adobe structure – the purported tomb of Askia Mohammad I, emperor of Songhai. Constructed at the end of the 15th century AD. Today used as a mosque.

Tomb of Askia, Mali
Tomb of Askia / Taguelmoust, / CC BY-SA 3.0
Sankore Madrasah


An ancient learning center, one of three great mosques in Timbuktu. The first building was constructed here in 988 AD. This learning center could house up to 25,000 students.

Sankore Madrasah
Sankore Madrasah. / Anne and David, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0


A circular brick building with a conical roof. It is reroofed every 7 years and the walls inside and outside are painted with interesting pictographs that predict what will happen in the coming seven years.



One of the most spectacular Dogon villages at the foot of the Bandiagara Escarpment.

Ogol Da in Sangha


Animist part of a Dogon city with numerous temples, fetishes, and shrines.

Sidi Yahya


The historical center of learning. It consists of a mosque and madrassa, built in 1400 – 1440. Impressive adobe structure.

Sirimou Mosque


An unusual, beautiful adobe structure.

Niono Mosque


Large mosque from adobe, similar to the famous Djenné Mosque. Constructed in 1948, later enlarged.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Mali, 3rd (Bradt Travel Guide)

In Mali, you may float past hippopotami whilst sailing down the River Niger, greet 300 herdsmen atop brilliant white camels, or stand on an escarpment looking out over the mystical cliff villages of the Dogon people. This new edition features thoroughly updated information on everything from elephant migrations to rock-climbing.

Mali in Depth: A Peace Corps Publication

In 1235, the Malinke people of the small state of Kangaba became involved in a struggle for independence. Their leader, a young man named Sundiata Keita, fielded an impressive army to meet the intruding Tekrur forces.

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