Sunday, December 02, 2007

Every year around the beginning of December the Sahel offers a spectacle fit for kings when the Fulani drive their cattle on to the southern shores of the Niger at three predestined locations, beginning with the Fulani town of Diafarabé. Thousands of heads of cattle leave the fringes of the Sahara, the arid soil of which can no longer yield any pasture, and move to more fertile climes.
The date for the crossing is decided a few days in advance and is determined by the end of the harvest on the southern shores of the Niger, after which the cattle are free to roam without destroying the crops.
The Fulani are a beautiful race of people, spreading across all of West Africa’s Sahel region. They are the cousins of East African cattle tribes such as the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania, and they have the same nonchalance and pride which seems to be characteristic of most nomadic races.
Last year I was busy in Bamako buying airconditioners for the imminent opening of the hotel, but this year my modern, urban Fulani friend Barry and I went on the three hour’s cross country piste to Diafarabé on my new Yamaha DT in time to watch the first herd cross the deep waters yesterday.


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