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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Bamako is the capital of Mali, as well as its largest city with almost 2 million inhabitants. Malians from all over the country have made their way to Bamako seeking work and participation in the national government, and they've brought their great and diverse styles of music with them. While Mali is home to some of West Africa's oldest attractions, Bamako is a study in modernization. A century ago, the city was home to barely 600 people, and today it is one of the most vibrant and fastest growing capitals in West Africa. Visitors should be sure to check out some of the city's numerous mosques and museums.
The Top 7: What to Do in Bamako
1. Muso Kunda Museum:
This small museum is dedicated to Mali’s women. This attractive space recently underwent renovations and exhibits jewelry and clothing of women from various ethnic backgrounds.
2. Le Marché Artisanale de Ngolonina:
Located behind the Sofitel L’Amitié hotel, this calm market is perfect for visitors looking for original finds at reasonable prices. Find everything from Tourag necklaces to Dogon masks.
3. Le Marché aux Gris-Gris:
We suggest having a strong stomach to visit the Bamako fetish market. Ironically located behind Bamako’s grand mosque and in front of the National Assembly, vendors at this market sell body parts of all kinds of animals for healing purposes, to ward off evil or to perform charms.
4. National Museum:
This incredible museum was designed by architect Jean-Loup Pivin in 1982 and inaugurated in 2003 to showcase the cultural wonders of Mali. It is the second largest museum on the African continent. Inspired by the Sudanese architecture of Djenné, this beautiful museum sits on a shady park in which sit large models of some of Mali’s greatest sites.
5. Le Grand Marché:
This market is the economic heart of the city. After a fire ravaged it in 1993, it was rebuilt in its original Sudanese style. It is a wonderful market to stroll through under the shade of the stalls on a hot day. This is a central meeting place for many of the city’s dwellers, so if you want to hang out with locals, make sure to go here.
6. La Maison des Artisans:
Visit this market and watch artisans create their wares before your eyes. Artists and craftsmen from every part of the country assemble here to sell regional specialties from shoes to jewelry.
7. Les Maquis:
Every week, new young Malian musicians line up to play in these nightclubs and music halls. It is in the maquis that some of Mali’s greatest musical talents have been discovered. Dance, socialize, and enjoy exceptional live music. Most maquis are located on rue du Blabla in l’Hippodrome and on rue du Privilège in Badalabougou. One that we recommend is the Hogon, just off Avenue Kassa Keita, where Toumani Diabaté, the famous kora player, often plays.
When to Go
Though Mali is, by Western standards, hot all year round, it does have three seasons. February through June is dry and hot, especially in March through May. The rainy season lasts from June through November, with more humid and milder weather. November through February is cool and dry; we recommend that period for travelers who struggle with high temperatures.