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Mali: Bamako

The River Niger in Bamako
The River Niger is surprisingly green as it flows through Bamako

If selective hearing has a spiritual home, it must be Bamako. Never in my life have I known such a large proportion of people who are completely unable to grasp the words, 'No thank you, I do not want a guide for the Dogon Country, I don't want to buy any necklaces, and I don't want to hear any authentic African drumming.'

A busy road in Bamako
Traffic trundling over the River Niger, heading out of town

Shopping in Bamako

Hôtel de Ville, Bamako
Hôtel de Ville, Bamako

At times, though, it wasn't easy, especially when shopping. I hate shopping anyway, but I really wanted to buy a map of Mali so I could draw lots of pretty lines on it as therapy for spending hours cramped into Malian buses. You'd think this would be pretty easy in the country's capital, but you try telling that to the shopkeepers. Bookshops aren't exactly rife in West Africa – literacy rates are low, after all – and the few you find rarely sell maps, so I eventually found myself wandering into the grand marché, where I was pounced on by first one man, then his friend, and then another guy, all of whom wanted to know what I was looking for.

A sign saying 'Defense d'Uriner' in Bamako
A self-explanatory sign in what is presumably the posh part of town
Place de la Liberté, Bamako
Place de la Liberté
An open sewer in Bamako
Bamako is a rather lovely place - just be careful where you walk