Monday, August 29, 2011


We had a wild battle with dozens of wannabe guides, some of whom became downright abusive when we decided to take a boat on the river and just see it from there. And I met some downright nice people, while waiting for the rest of the group to join me.

Apprentice boatman, Mopti
We had a very nice view of Mopti, Mali's most busy harbour, meeting place of several trade groups and many cultures, and our tour was spiced up by a thunder storm, that would have put a high veld thunderstorm to shame.

The problem in this region is that the crop they have a comparative advantage in, cotton, cannot be produced at a price that could compete with American subsidised cotton. Many attempts at finding alternative crops have come, well, a cropper. The people work hard and cultivate their soil, but it is best suited to produce the best cotton in the world. Alas, politics doom them to follow the tourist trade, which they do with diligence.
The Great Mosque in Djenne. 

Now the European economic downturn, coupled with political problems and reports of Al Qaida activity in the region has closed down the tourism industry altogether. We saw, in Mopti, maybe four other tourist couples. So people are desperate, and of course seek to sell their services as best they could. A Touareg shopkeeper I met was virulent in his condemnation of the 'bandits' in the north, and praised the army, French Army, mind you, that was chasing them further north.

Of course the problem is much more complicated than that, but still, one wonders at the economic dynamics of the region. With an economic downturn of the size we have seen here an alternative must be attractive. Emigration even illegal, to Europe, or hijacking tourists?

Mopti port, the busiest in Mali

Salt from the desert
Riverside village, Mopti

Fishing village, Mopti

Storm on the river

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