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Introducing Djenné

One of the premier sites in West Africa, World Heritage–listed Djenné, which sits on an island in the Bani River, is worth as much time as you can give it. Its incomparable mosque – the largest mud-built structure in the world – is like a fairytale apparition. It provides Djenné with a backdrop to its huge, lively and colourful Monday market that has barely changed since the days when Saharan camel caravans brought salt across the sands to the gates of Djenné.

On a stroll through the dusty streets you’ll pass a few madrassas (schools where young children learn the Qur’an); there are more madrassas in Djenné than in any other town in Mali, which serves as a reminder of its days as a renowned centre of Islamic scholarship. With the help of a guide, you can also see the beautiful house of the traditional chief.

About 3km from Djenné, the low-slung ruin of Jenné-Jeno dates back to about 300 BC and is one of the oldest archaeological sites in West Africa.

Djenné is famous for bogolan, or mud-cloth. Although the cloth is on sale all across town, the most famous female artisan is Pama Sinatoa (242 0610; almamydiaka@yahoo.fr), whose workshop is near the town entrance.

Visitors to Djenné must pay a US$1.70 tourist tax per person at the Djenné turn-off, soon after leaving the BamakoMopti road. There are no banks in Djenné

Guides (around US$5.40 per person) are not essential in Djenné, but can add immeasurably to your experience.