Suitcase and World: Where the Niger and Bani meet. Mopti.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Where the Niger and Bani meet. Mopti.

Mopti ("Mo-tee") is a Malian town located at the confluence of the Niger River and its tributary, the Bani River. The city consists of three islands linked by dykes: the New Town, the Old Town and Medina Coura. Originally, a small fishing village, Mopti has grown over time into Mali's most important port.

From the images that I've seen of Mopti, it strikes me as a poor but vibrant place.  I think it's going to be noisy, crowded, filled with strange sounds and smells and crammed with  people and stuff.....all sorts of stuff.   I'm expecting that I will see and experience things that are familiar and things that will be a complete culture shock for me.  It's the kind of place that I find ever so fascinating and at the same time, just a complete sensory overload.  It may not look like an attractive place on the surface but I'm really looking forward to spending time wandering through the port, the market and the town itself.

From what I can tell, river transportation has not advanced much in Mopti.  There are no fancy cargo ships or ferries.  Wooden pirogues and their larger counterparts, pinasses, still flood into Mopti's port each day......carrying goods and people up and down the two rivers.    Dried and salted fish, vegetables,  grains, rice, spices, soap , baskets and pretty much anything sold in the town's market are brought in via boat.  Amazingly enough, transport is even possible to Timbuktu during and immediately after the rainy season.  I've also read that a good way to see the town is from the river so I'll see if I can find a way to get on board either a pirogue or maybe a pinasse which might be a safer boating option.

Mopti's thriving market sits alongside the town's harbor. People come from surrounding areas, everyday, to  trade for fish and salt and to sell their wares - charcoal, mats woven from palm leaves, hang woven textiles as well salt mined from the Sahara.  For tourist like me, there's also very colorful handicrafts market where vendors sell the intricately woven Fulani wedding blankets and pottery that Mopti is well known for.

I will definitely be wandering through the market but before I do, I'll need some lessons from my guide on haggling, Malian style :-)

Mopti also has a Grand Mosque that is supposedly modeled after the one in Djénné though I read somewhere that the exterior of the mosque in Mopti has been sealed with a coat of cement.  If it really is a cement exterior and unfortunately I can't  tell from the pictures I've seen, I don't think it will have the same *rough Malian charm*,  for lack of a better description, as the Grand Mosque in Djénné which is a UNESCO World Heritage site after all.  Nonetheless, I will try to at least see the mosque in Mopti....can't come all the way to this part of the world and not see it :-)

Mopti will be my launching point to the Dogon country which is my ultimate destination for this trip so I don't know how much time I will get to spend here but I'll be certain to make the most of every minute I do have.  After all, how many times in my life will I get to visit a distinctively Malian town like Mopti? :-)