I arrived in Mali at 1am yesterday morning from Casablanca on an absolutely jam packed Royal Air Maroc flight. The heat of the Bamako night enveloped me as I emerged once more onto African soil. I felt a jolt of what must be described as Joy.
So far so good.
The problem was that none of the luggage for the 100+ mainly Malian passengers had turned up. Furthermore, no one told us anything of course. So an hour later we were all watching the luggage conveyor band go around, with what turned out to be luggage from another flight! It eventually became clear that there was to be no luggage arriving. If we wanted to retrieve our possessions we all- a hundred strong!- had to file into a tiny little office through a miniscule door and give our phone number, written down by an official who was not forthcoming with any infomation either, but suggested that we could phone back on Thursday!
Interestingly, I had, as usual, spent two months in Europe without being angry even once. And here I was, about 45 min into my Mali experience, ready to kill someone. This someone took the shape of a large woman who quite unceremoniously just barged her way past me. ‘Excuse me, Madame’ , I pointed out, ’there is a queue here. I am before you,’. She glanced at me and made a sucking noise through her teeth, the sort of noise Africans normally reserve for halfwits of no consequence, and ignored this salvo totally. Meanwile her friend was attempting the same thing. But this time I physically barred her way with my arm. This jostling made me accidentally touch the first woman- I mean how could I not! We were all crushed up against another! ‘Don’t you touch me!” she spat at me and then: ‘this is our country you know!’ So I spat back and informed her it is my country too; I live here since 6 years back, and that anyway I failed to see the relevance of her remark. I too had lost my luggage! It very nearly came to blows.
Then suddenly there was someone else pushing through on the other side, and I repeated the blocking gesture on the door post with some gusto, reinforced by an expletive. This time however the offender turned out to be, on closer inspection, wearing army fatigues and just co-incidentally, as the icing on the cake, bearing the name Sanogo on his uniform! I found myself in the position of retreating, ignominiously, and even uttering a feeble ‘excuse me!’ to the soldier. It is of course not recommended behaviour to insult soldiers in Africa. They are always right by definition.
But apart from this traumatic interlude it is fun to be back in Bamako, at Ann’s, even without luggage.
Amede from La Maison Rouge popped into Ann’s this afternoon. He is on his way to Mopti, to check out the lay of the land...At least he and I still have our hotels, although it is doubtful that we will be able to survive on any tourist trade. His friend Awa from La Maison in Timbuktu is less fortunate. She is back in France, her lovely hotel having been appropriated by the Jihadists who are using it for their Sharia court and head quarter! This is where they recently decided to give, publicly, 100 lashes each of the whip to a young couple for the crime of having a child while they are only engaged and not married.
Bamako, just like before, strikes me as a place where nothing has changed. Half the country is atrophied, many thousands of people suffer terrible hardships in refugee camps; Gao once more is the scene of serious clashes between the local population, the Islamist Ansar Dine and the Touareg MNLA but this is elsewhere. And Elsewhere matters little, seemingly, to the jolly bands of affluent youths who continue to have hamburgers and ice cream at Amandine’s as if nothing had happened here...