Sunday, June 26, 2011

Communal fishing in Djenne.
The fish are slowly driven into a small area from which there is no escape where they are caught.

I am leaving for Bamako tonight and will be in Djenne by Thursday to reopen the hotel for the new season.
For a new panoramic view of the hotel garden and bar/restaurant, click on the link below:

We are inaugurating the new season by the new Djenne town website, which was finally been completed yesterday:
Please look up:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sophie not at Ascot.
Thought it was time to change my little blog picture above right so here it is- taken by Rosamunda a couple of weeks ago. I am wearing a MaliMali Coat Dress, a MaliMali hat and a MaliMali necklace, all made in our studio in Djenne and available in the MaliMali shop at Hotel Djenne Djenno! All proceeds go to projects in health and eduction in and around Djenne as always. We will up-date our website shortly with information about what we do. Meanwhile I am still at Champneys health farm in England squeezing out the last benefits before my departure- leaving for Mali on Sunday...

Overheard in the Champneys' Jacuzzi this morning:
"It was luvely of course. I saw the Queen quite close up and I was standin’ next to Cliff Richards. Cilla Black was there and she looked ever so luvely in her hat. But is was very expensive: 90 quid for a bottle of bubbly. I said to Kevin that we could ‘ave gone to Marbella for the money we paid for that day in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. It was full of toffs and hoorays, and they were a bit of a pain of course… “
Ahem, what species did you expect to encounter in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot? I chuckled quietly to myself.
This is a great place. Its Patron Saint is Sir James Savile (Jimmy Savile?) who inaugurated it in 1996 it says on a gold plaque. It is full of Footballers’s Wives and aspiring Footballers’ Wives on a diet. I spend my days in a fluffy white bathrobe and LOVE IT. Going for an Aqua aerobics session in a minute. All this indulgence has got me thinking again about the possibility of creating a health spa at Djenne Djenno. We could have Timbuktu Salt Scrubs, Djenne mud wraps- ( I am sure it must be good for one?) and massages with Shea butter etc! More later perhaps…

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Robyn, the girl who always wore a gardenia in her hair, the most glamorous creature I had ever met, (see Djenne home coming diary of Oct 18, 2010) is still fabulous, as you can see. This picture may seem a mystery – it does not have much to do with Mali or Djenne Djenno, granted… But there are not only one, but two reasons why it graces this entry:
One reason is that Robyn and I spent a few days several decades ago at a Health farm called Champneys at Tring. I am now writing this from another Champneys, this time in Lincolnshire, where I am spending a few days to get into shape for what will probably be a difficult new season. I alternate between the steam room, the pool, the Pilates lessons, the ‘aqua-jog’ and the Jacuzzi. And then I spend some time on my computer finalizing what will be the first website for the town of Djenne. OMATHO- the Malian Office of Tourism- has been pestering me for years to help them so I have worked with my website designer and we are nearly there. More later…
The second reason for the picture is that I stopped by at Birgit’s in Amsterdam on my way back to the UK. There I made the acquaintance of a young woman whose father runs Ball-room dancing holidays. He has just taken a small group to the south of France for a week’s Tango holiday. Now this might be something! She promised to talk to him about the possibility of extending his journeys further southwards… I can just see us tangoing in the garden or on the sunset terrace! A week’s tango classes followed by TANGO ON THE NIGER as we tango our way to Mopti and Timbuktu. Yes! Yes? Yes!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Have just arrived back to my hideously over priced 'budget' hotel, having had the most expensive dinner of my life. I had exactly one Caesar's salad, a San Pellegrino sparkling water and one glass of mediocre red wine. This cost about 50 Euros! My hotel costs nearly 200 Euros. I don't mind paying for a nice hotel in the right circumstances, but this is supposed to be just somewhere to sleep on my way to Amsterdam, and it could not possibly be described as 'nice'even by the most indiscriminate of guests!
To stay at Hotel Djenne Djenno costs,for 2 people, if you choose the nicest room, about 56 Euros. To have a 3 course dinner costs just over 10 Euros per person. If you have a driver with you, your driver sleeps and eats for free. But people complain and think Hotel Djenne Djenno is expensive!!!

I feel better now.

The picture above is my cousin Pelle's attempt at understanding the dynamics and inter-relationships of my world in Djenne, so he gets a clearer picture when he reads this diary. It also served to illustrate my mood, which is turning back to Djenne now...
I want to go back. I am ready to go back and to face the challenges of the new season, which come in many shapes:

Keita is not well, that is one great challenge. He is supposed to come and start working again, but we don't know what will happen. More of this later...

Tourism in Mali looks set to continue in the doldrums for at least the next season, because of security alerts by the French authorities and others for reasons unfathomable to the people who live and work in the Malian tourist areas where NOTHING HAS EVER HAPPENED!

Richard Trillo, the author of the Rough Guide to West Africa has written a good article on the situation on

He writes:
"In Mali, I can’t explain the recent blanket “we advise against all travel east of Ségou” government travel advisories. To me these seem like a massive over-reaction to a spotty catalogue of incidents over many years that have all taken place many hundreds of miles to the northeast. You don’t have to search far on the travel forums to find glowing accounts by returning travellers of their recent experiences in central Mali – in the Dogon country, in Mopti and Djenné, along the Niger, and in Timbuktu – and mystification at why their governments are advising against anyone following in their footsteps."

But the French seem hell-bent on destruction for the Mali tourist industry. Could it have anything to do with Amadou Toumani Toures's (the Malian President) refusal to sign an agreement with The French to repatriate Malians who have lived many years in France to Mali? This is what the Malians think. I can't help wondering if they might have a point?
Did the French put a blanket no-go red zone on Morocco last month when 14 tourists were killed in Marrakesh?
In Mali nothing has ever happened in any of the tourist areas!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It is midnight at Abisko. The sun does actually disappear behind the mountain for half an hour or so just around midnight, but it is bright as day here...Good night!

The midnight sun that is. The time is 22.30 at Abisko mountain station in Lapland, Sweden. The view is of Torne Trask. The gods have smiled on us and it looks as if we will see the midnight sun. The sky is quite clear. I have travelled nothwards for 20 hours to reach this outpost at latitude North 68.2, 250 km to the north of the Polar Circle. We are close to the Norwegian border, and to the port of Narvik. This is a wild, magnificent land. It is BIG Country. There are only some places that qualify for BIG country-it needs to produce a sensory disturbance, to do the opposite to a Bonsai display which makes one feel like Gulliver. Another place which qualifies for BIG country on is the view from the top of the Bandiagara Escarpment in the Dogon Country of Mali, when all of West Africa seemingly spreads out before one.
Tomorrow I will start my journey south again, to the inhabited parts of this my country, to Amsterdam and Birgit, to London and finally to Mali again.
but before that, I will post a picture of the midnight sun at Abisko...

Last night I sped northward through a vast landscape, vapour rising on enchanted lakes at midnight twilight; a thousand miles without a living soul it seemed. What a strange land I come from I thought...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Major Project EAP488 with the British Library and the Djenne Manuscript Library is going ahead!
I have had confirmation that they have accepted the proposal in principle, but that we have to make some changes. But it means that IT IS ON!!!
More later... Garba and Yelfa, the archivists above, will be delighted to know. It means there is work for two years to come for them and all the others who will be involved in this big project to digitise the Djenne manuscripts.
Watch out Timbuktu, here comes Djenne!