It has happened. It had to happen:
A bad Tripadvisor review. No, not bad: a stinking, slimy, rotten-egg-missile of a review, posted on the 11th of December in French. ‘Djenne Djenno Minable’
was the headline. That means Djenne Djenno pitiful, or terrible, or lamentable. Take your pick!
After four years of nothing but sweetness and love from our reviewers, this has been long overdue. Djenne Djenno is by a large margin the most reviewed hotel in Mali. We now finally join the ranks of distinguished hotels such as the glorious La Maison Rouge in Mopti or the equally splendid La Maison in Timbuktu, both of which have had their share or rotten egg missiles.
So what is so bad about Djenne Djenno?
I publish the whole review here in French:‘Sous couvert d'autenticité on nous fait dormir dans des chambres sans eau chaude, aux sanitaires plus que minables, murs lézardés, coussins tachés, repas très médiocres, servis a la lueur d'une simple lampe au pétrole qui sent mauvais, bref, un très mauvais séjour, et un accueil trés mitigé, un personnel charmant, mais pas très propre ...’
‘Under the pretext of authenticity we were made to sleep in rooms without hot water, with more than deplorable sanitation, lizards on the walls …’
But my dear reviewer, we do not pretend to be authentic, we ARE authentic! That is real mud in those walls and nothing but Djenne mud! Yes, indeed lizards can sometimes be spotted on the walls- this is Africa and we therefore ask people to keep their doors closed. (The lizard, by the way, is regarded as sacred by the masons of Djenne, and should never be killed.)
I am sorry the reviewer found the bathroom fittings lacking: there is however a perfectly normally formed Western style water closet with a functioning seat and cover. The showers work, and there IS hot water, but it takes a little time to arrive only! The ceramic wash basins are made by a local potter and is one of the prides of the hotel. We have just had them overhauled, as followers of this blog will know.
Our French reviewer did not like dining in the garden under the stars in the light of a petrol lamp. But that is not compulsory. If only he/she would have let us know!
If guests prefers to dine in what is in fact our dining area with electric lights (see detail above)that is perfectly possible. But most people prefer the garden dining.
The guest also complained about mediocre food, and this is more serious. We are always making efforts to improve our food, and to add new recipes- sometimes we introduce Malian dishes which tourists may not get to try, and often we have Middle Eastern dishes. Fortunately most of our guests are complimentary about our food- and many people do not realize just what difficulties there are to serve ANY food in Djenne, which has absolutely no shops at all. That is part of the challenge which I relish in Djenne- we will NOT import food but will make do with what we grow or buy in the Djenne market.
One cannot of course please everyone. What is charming to one is ‘minable’ to another. Our unsatisfied reviewer was a business traveller, which is unusual in Djenne. I doubt that he/she would have been able to find a satisfactory hotel in Djenne- there are no Sheratons or Hiltons or even Travelodges. There are no trouser presses or teas maids within a thousand miles of Djenne!
Talking about thousands of miles from Djenne, I am writing this on a sunny Tunisian balcony with Keita sitting next to me- he has lost a lot of weight and is looking and feeling good. We eat, rest, read and take windswept walks along the empty beach looking for shells which I am going to use for my new bathroom walls in Djenne. It is low season here contrary to in Mali where Birgit is looking after the hotel. She keeps sending me SMS messages about hotel goings-on. She is also most insistent that I tell you that we are not wearing Venitian glass bead earrings but Bohemian glass earrings in the picture from last week!