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Introducing Gao

Gao, the former capital of the Songhaï Empire, is one of the most important towns of Mali’s illustrious past. Like Timbuktu, however, Gao can feel like the end of the earth, a cluster of nomadic settlements pushed onto the Niger River’s shores by the Sahara Desert that dominates to the north. Expeditions into the desert are a highlight of a visit here, as is the lively port. Apart from anything else, to say that you’ve been 350km past Timbuktu earns pretty big traveller-cachet points.