Like an exquisite sandcastle formed in a harsh desert landscape, Mali is blessed by an extraordinary amount of beauty, wonders, talents and knowledge.
Yet for now, it's landscapes, monuments, mosques and music bars are off-limits, sealed from tourists by a conflict that is threatening the culture of this remarkable country.
The beating heart of Mali is Bamako, where Ngoni and Kora musicians play to crowds of dancing Malians from all ethnicities, while in the Dogon country, villages still cling to the cliffs as they did in ancient times.
Further west, Fula women strap silver jewellery to their ears and their belongings to donkeys, forming caravans worthy of beauty pageants as they make their way across the hamada (dry, dusty scrubland).
And in the northeast, the writings of ancient African civilizations remain locked in the beautiful libraries of Timbuktu, until a new dawn comes for Mali, and they – and it – can be rediscovered by travellers.
Dewgal (Crossing of the Cattle): a celebration of greener pastures
Moschee von Djenné by qiv. Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3...
Need to know
Festival in the Desert: tips for visiting Mali's premier music festival
'Festival au Desert near Timbuktu, Mali 2012' by Alfred Weidinger. Creative Commons Attribution This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's A Year of Festivals...
Travel literature review: To Timbuktu
To Timbuktu by Casey Scieszka & Steven Weinberg Rating: 4 out of 5 Reviewed by Steve Waters When I last passed through Tombouctou, <cough> several decades ago, there was sand in the bread, sand in the rice,...