Territory

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

Mopti

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

Kayes

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

Gouina Falls, Mali
Hand of Fatima

Mopti

One of the most impressive rock formations in the world – 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
Arch of Kamadjan

Koulikoro

Large, picturesque natural arch.

Arch of Kamadjan
Fara Missiri

Sikasso

A mysterious grotto that is important to 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)

Kidal

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

Kita Kourou cave paintings

Kayes

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

Architecture wonders

Great Mosque of Djenné

Mopti

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
Songo

Mopti

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 travellers and explorers.

Timbuktu

Tombouctou

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

Streets of Timbuktu, Mali
Djenné

Mopti

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

Mopti

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
Indelou

Mopti

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)

Mopti

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

Yougou Dogorou and Yougapiri

Mopti

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

Djinguereber Mosque

Tombouctou

Mosque and famous learning centre, built in 1327 from earth.

Djinguereber Mosque
Tireli (Tereli)

Mopti

One of the most beautiful Dogon villages.

Tomb of Askia

Gao

Unusual, 17 m high pyramidal adobe structure – 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
Sankore Madrasah

Tombouctou

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

Sankore Madrasah
Kamablon

Koulikoro

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

Atô

Mopti

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

Ogol Da in Sangha

Mopti

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

Sidi Yahya

Tombouctou

Historical centre of learning, consists of mosque and madrassa, built in 1400 – 1440. Impressive adobe structure.

Sirimou Mosque

Mopti

An unusual, beautiful adobe structure.

Niono Mosque

Ségou

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

Niono Mosque

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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