Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Doing the Dogon

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After spending a leisurely Christmas in Ouagadougou, we headed north to Mali, or more specifically, the Dogon Country which extends along an impressive escarpment for 100 km or so.  Enroute, we encountered a large crocodile, sunning himself beside a small pond, and numerous dromedaries, which gave the surroundings a very north African feel.  The Dogon landscape is very reminiscent of the Kimberley in north western Australia, for those who have travelled to those parts.  Not surprising, given the identical geological history! 

The Dogon people have a rich and fascinating culture and live in mud brick encampments at the base, or sometimes precariously perched, on the escarpment. 

One delightful attribute of the Dogon people is the extended greetings that go well beyond cordial.  A typical encounter (seriously) is roughly translated as thus:

‘good morning’

‘good morning’

‘how are you?’

‘not bad, thanks’

‘how is your health?’

‘no use complaining’

‘how is your big brother?’

‘he’s pretty good, thanks’

‘and your  little brother?’

‘also well!’

‘so…. how is your father?’

‘never better’

‘and your mother?’

‘just great’

‘and everyone else in the family?’

‘fine’….

This ritual was repeated each time our local guide would come across an acquaintance on the walk!

We spent two days hiking in the visually stunning Dogon country.  We were based at the small village of Ende.  The small hotel was set up in traditional Dogon style (ie: mud brick huts surrounded by a mud brick wall).  In this remote area there is no electricity, and all water is taken from a nearby well, a task which befalls the women and girls, a situation which repeats itself across West Africa. 

After an early breakfast, we would head off on foot to explore the fascinating Dogon area.  As you can see, life here has changed very little over the past few centuries.  The Dogon people cling tenaciously to their culture, which the rest of the world has only become aware of in the last fifty years.

The skyline of the villages is dominated by thatched roofs which are the women’s granaries, divided internally into four compartments to store their basic foodstuffs.  

After two or three hours walking, we would lunch in a village and spend a few hours at leisure (out of the heat) and then recommence our trek in the late afternoon back to our humble abode in Ende.  Hot and exhausted, but enriched by the experience!

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Written by Mar(k)

January 9, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Mali

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