Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Amazing emails reaching me today. Rather than the avalanche of cancellations that I was expecting, I have had virtually nothing but messages both from tour operators and individual travellers telling me that they are still intending to come to Mali, and that they are not going to be deterred by a load of criminals trying to ruin their plans!
Some are even saying that they are still intending to go the the 'Festival du Desert'!
Is this the new way forward?

The picture above is Keita on the 'Bac' (the ferry) which has to be crossed before arriving in Djenné. I put this in today just by the by, since this geographical circumstance makes Djenné in particular quite safe I believe, since no high-jacker in their right mind is going to try and do any mischief here- they would have to wait for the ferry to take them away!

But the point of today's message is:
or as Lela so succinctly put it in her comment on yesterday's blog post:
...rebels/militants/hooligans be damned!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

As everyone now knows, the Unspeakable has happened.

For two years we have all quite rightly insisted that the travel warnings were totally exaggerated since nothing had ever happened in any Malian tourist destination. We were quite right to be indignant.

But no more.

The events I Timbuktu have changed everything. What will happen to Malian tourism?
It is still true that these events have taken place in the north of the country, in a place where the terrorists can escape into a vast and virtually uncharted land. It is unlikely that such attacks will take place anywhere but in places bordering the desert. But who knows anymore?

These monsters are ruining everything for a poor people who have been doubly hit since the harvest has all but failed.

There are still tourists here, but are they just on their way home? No one seems to be too scared however, and the sunset drinks were still had on the roof yesterday amongst laughter and cheerful travel tales.

But it is certain that the events spell trouble. What to do?

In a situation like this there is only one remedy: engage in something creative. In this case, start redecorating the bar. I had kept all bottle tops since the beginning of the hotel and these have now become a mosaic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If you live in Britain and you follow this journal, you may wish to go and get yourself this week's Spectator and look up the 'Dear Mary' column for your amusement.
I am not sure whether the little picture will be readable. If not, double click. It is all thanks to my old pal Jeremiah, who ran into Dear Mary at a London cocktail party. He drew her attention to an old blog post of mine regarding Offending Feet on Tables.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Here we are, 24 hours later, and both the Diawando (above) and the Minianka are up and running, Alhamdillullah! The bedstead decorated with the cow horns will later be painted black.
Noone has arrived yet, but we are awaiting the arrival of The Beast any moment. The Beast is, as all seasoned followers of this blog know, the Full Hotel. This time it means fourteen rooms! But we are ready!
Oh yes.
Keita is here in good health, he has been helping in the last stages of this race against time. All is well. I have just had a cold beer to celebrate, and am about to take a siesta...
More later.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Here is the new room, the MINIANKA, exactly 24 hours before the arrival of the first guests... The airconditioner is going in as I write this. Will it be done?
Check this space tomorrow... must rush and make some cushion covers!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Diawando is taking shape. It is just as well, since the first booking is in exactly 6 days!
Lots of activity, lots of excitement, mud being flung in all directions and somehow hitting its target.
And on the CATARACT front there is news: The date is set for Christmas Eve! I am delighted that MaliMali is going to be able to offer Djenné this as a Christmas present to coincide with the fifth year anniversary of the hotel!
100 inhabitants of Djenné and the surrounding villages will have their cataracts removed between the 24th and the 3rd of January when the mobile operating unit will be parked in Djenné.
There have been a couple of anonymous donors, one a Doctor in the UK who kindly gave 200 pounds stirling; one still mysterious donor gave 150 Euros, and now we are able to do it. Thank you! There is still about 300 E missing, but we have the faith that this will arrive....?
Meanwhile I am exhausted and in a terrible mood most of the time. The library project is going from bad to worse: London having no idea about conditions and mentality here, and Djenné not understanding the first thing about the modern world; internet and other such things. And I am stuck in the middle trying to fit two puzzle pieces that don’t fit.
I am going to London for a few days to try and sort things out in the beginning of December. And dear Birgit, my Dutch Great Friend will just have arrived to take control, Alhamdilullah!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Djenne prays.

Djenne celebrates Tabaski.

The melodious sounds of Djenne at prayer drifts across to the hotel from 50 Koran schools as night falls.

I have spent the day at the hotel as usual, reading a book and serving drinks if necessary, while the staff have been enjoying Tabaski with their families and friends. They returned towards the end of the afternoon, replete with the feast of their freshly slaughthered sheep.
Today there was an unprecedented number of Poles here, enjoying the Tabaski sights- the prayers at 9am, le tout Djenne in their most beautiful new boubous, strolling around and greeting their friends Sambe! Sambe! the traditional festivity greeting here.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Some tourists are beginning to arrive again. We have been quite busy for the last few weeks. Here is Lezeck from Poland, relaxing after a mornings stroll around Djenné.

We have high hopes for the season and are making two new rooms which will be called the Diawando and the Minianka: these are the remaining tribes of Mali which have not yet found a home at Djenné Djenno. The mud façade rises rapidly, and it is fascinating to watch the Djenné masons handle the mud in their time honored way, with a precision, speed and finesse which will be totally lacking once the plumbing and electricity phase of the building work arrives. There is no need to supervise this stage: it works like a dream, and I watch just for the pleasure of it. Once the electrician arrives I have to watch like a hawk, otherwise the air conditioner will be mounted at a sloping angle and the switches and plugs won’t be aligned. Why is this, when the façade decorations are so precisely aligned? A great mystery.