There are plenty of reasons to love Bamako. The capital of Mali is always buzzing with activity. Colorful markets spill into the streets, great restaurants serve up traditional meals for pocket change, a friendly energy permeates the neighborhoods and the soundtrack of the city is created by some of the continent’s best music stars.
The MarchÈ de Medina is one of the city’s best hidden secrets. Not yet overridden with tourists, the market is a great place to shop and drink in the vibrant scene without getting hassled. There, ramshackle stalls spill over with fresh fruits and vegetables and clothing made from local cotton. The array of goods is constantly changing, but you can also often find handwoven rugs, wood carvings and other artisan handicrafts for low prices. If you have time, get your hands decorated with henna and hair braided at the beauty parlor section.
If you are looking for something a bit more out of the ordinary, try shopping at the Fetish Stalls, a small market in the Quartier du Fleuve. The faint-hearted should stay away, as the stomach-turning array includes dried chameleons, bones, monkey heads, skins and other oddities.
The small but interesting National Museum offers a glimpse into the history and culture of Mali’s many ethnic groups. Beautiful ethnographic pieces are on display, including ancient textiles, wooden masks, contemporary marionettes and intricate carvings.
More artifacts that detail Malian culture and history are on display at the Muso Kunda Museum. The collection highlights fine works of art by the country’s female artists and includes a number of handicrafts that tell the story of traditional Malian life. There is also an interesting exhibit of traditional clothing embellished with fine handwoven details.
When the afternoon sun gets too warm, head to the Bamako Botanical Gardens to cool off in the shade of hundreds of leafy trees. The park is dissected by a beautiful man-made river spanned with lovely pedestrian bridges, and walking paths lead visitors up a large hill that yields some of the best views of the city.
After exploring the flora of Mali at the botanical garden, visit the nearby Bamako Zoo to see Africa’s fauna up close. Most of the animals, including crocodiles, ostriches, chimpanzees, lions and zebras, are in cages instead of behind glass. This means that visitors are often allowed to treat the animals with food under the careful watch of the zookeepers. The zoo is also crisscrossed with peaceful hiking trails that show off Bamako’s scenic beauty.
One of the capital’s most prominent landmarks is the BCEAO Tower, home of the Central Bank of Western African States. Visitors can tour the 20-story building, the tallest in the country, and catch another great view of the city from the top floor.
About 90 percent of Malians are Muslim, and many of the faithful in Bamako worship at the Grand Mosque. Located in the heart of the city, the mosque was built with Saudi Arabian funds in the late 1970s and is one of the capital’s tallest buildings. The mosque is occasionally open to visitors outside of congregational prayer times, and it is a real treat to view the opulent interior.
Bamako Geographical Location
Bamako is located in the southwest of Mali near the Niger River and is its largest city.
The population of Bamako is approximately 1,850,000.
French is the official language of Mali but Bambara is the most widely spoken. There are many indigenous languages to Mali that are still spoken, 13 of them have
the status of national languages.
Bamako Predominant Religion
- 90% Muslim
- 9% Indigenous Beliefs
- 1% Christian
Mali’s constitution provides for religious freedom and although there are few atheists, the religious groups of Mali generally interact well.
The official currency of Mali is the Communaute Financiere Africaine Franc.
Bamako is hot all year round with a rainy season from June until September. The winter’s temperature is very similar to summer but there is almost no rainfall.
Bamako Main Attractions
- The National Library of Mali
- The National Museum
- The Bamako Zoo
Other Attractions in Bamako
- The Muso Kunda Museum
- The Bamako Regional Museum
- The Point G Hill
- The Hippodrome