Saturday, December 26, 2015

More Christmas...

At the request of David, here are some more Christmas pictures: After the traditional encounter with  Père Noel, the staff got back to work and  Baba and Papa served us a roast Turkey dinner: it has to be said, the turkey would have benefited by some rejuvenating pressure cooking ... but nevertheless 
it was a jolly time !

                             and among the guests was our old friend Guida Landouré!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

from all at Hotel Djenné Djenno.
Père Noel came for his yearly visit this evening. He has been coming every year  faithfully since 2010 when we had lots of children staying. Alas no more children but now we the adults don't want to miss out on the fun so it has become a tradition. In the top row right is the intrepid Rianna from Australia who came up on the Bani bus this afternoon in the face of her governments stern travel warnings.  She was picked up by Baba (-respendent in the dickie bow above) at the Carrefour.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Back in the Saddle

Back in Djenné for almost a week now  where everything is same as always: Djenné feels tucked away,  far from the troubled danger zones of Mali, although the think tank reports by  MINUSMA and other expert observers will have it that we are in fact right in the middle of it all...nevertheless life in Djenné continues as it always has.
I went for my first ride on Petit Bandit the other day who seemed happy to see me (or was it just that he remembered that I am the one who always  carry bread in my bag?)

 I finished decorating our old Christmas tree which is made from old spray cans, and our Christmas Turkey arrived yesterday!

The other night we even had some guests in the hotel, our old friends Dima and Clara Bondarev for the Manuscript Library. They brought with them Fr. Columba Stewart, a Benedicine munk from Minnesota and the director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library who have been digitizing endangered archives for the last forty years and can be said to be the world authority on digitizing.  This was a stroke of luck since I had brought with me our three new Nikons for the Djenné Manuscript Library which he kindly helped us to put into action.
With such interesting  guests we enjoyed once more one of those lingering dinners  with lively and memorable  conversation under the stars in the light of the storm lamps that used to be a staple at Hotel Djenné Djenno in happier times.

 And last but not least Keita and I were invited  to a Djenné wedding yesterday: the bride and bridegroom front left below and at the back we have my tailors Bob (left) and Alpha right in the white cap- he was the proud father of the very pretty bride. Djenné weddings are joyous and lively  affairs with plenty of drumming, dancing  and noisy griots and griottes chanting the praises of all present and hoping for a few francs. It all begins after the signing in the Mairie with the photo opportunity  in the Vestibule of the old Djenné houses (below) where all the friends and neighbours crowd in for  the  Fatias and benediction prayers.
And tomorrow begins Christmas proper it feels like since Birgit is arriving on the First Bani bus from Bamako to be picked up by Acé at the Djenné Carrefour!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lucia in Bamako

Back in Mali just in time to help Eva decorate for  the St Lucia celebrations at the Swedish embassy residence- it was a splendid party last night with carols, glogg (our Swedish gluhwine) delicious Swedish finger food and over a hundred guests who mingled happily in the glittering gardens by the swimming pool.  This Bamako interlude is of course not really my home coming yet and it feels almost like a continuation of my last London days which was full of Christmas revelling often courtesy of my dear friends Jeremiah and David who always have the best tickets and invitations and let me tag along: below at the Norwegian embassy Christmas do.

 The real homecoming will be tomorrow: Keita is with me and we are travelling north to Djenné in our old Mercedes. Our Christmas will be a quiet affair this year: it is unlikely that we will have any hotel guests. But we are not alone: there will be Birgit joining us as usual and also our old friend Karen, who is probably the only tour operator still functioning in Bamako. And of course we will make our usual Christmas celebrations with the staff: Boubakar the old gardner will dress up as Father Chrismas once more and bring the presents for everyone...
But there is no doubt that tomorrow we are leaving one world and arriving at another: a totally different environment where the most sophisticated item one is likely to find in a shop is a tin of sardines and where any social activities we are likely to partake in are the ones we create ourselves at the hotel: there will be drinks on the sunset terrace and there will be dinners under the stars in the light of the storm lanterns again; and that is pretty good too!
The greatest thing about the homecoming is that both Keita and I are in good health  alhamdilullah and I feel ready to  dive into my Djenné life once more.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015


The sign to Hotel Djenné Djenno still stands by the Carrefour:  the turning to Djenné from the main road to Mopti. It is a little weather beaten and faded but it is still there, and it is all still true: there is a hotel, there are chambres climatisées and there is a bar and restaurant, against all odds... There is a plethora of other signs there advertising other hotels or guest houses and various aid schemes etc, but most have fallen and most have are long since lost their meaning.

A little closer to Djenné, just as one has crossed the Bac , the ferry across the Bani there is another sign advertising the guest house ‘Village de Amis’. That was conceived as a budget  tourist hostel by a Frenchman with a Malian partner during the heyday sometimes in 2008/9 (picture above from that time).  The Frenchman has not been back for years, but the place was still up and running until a couple of weeks ago due to the Malian partner’s tenacity and business sense: he turned the place into a brothel. It was a very popular establishment by all accounts and the girls were recruited from Burkina Faso. But there were grumblings of discontent by the pious population of Djenné, which lies a kilometre or so away. Finally the Imam himself allegedly warned during Friday prayers that he would personally go and shut the place down if such unholy practises continued. In the face of such opposition the Malian partner shut the brothel down.

I am turning my thoughts to Djenné and my imminent return with both excitement and trepidation.  Keita is quite well now and receiving his last Velcade treatments this week. I feel fine and will hopefully receive my all clear when I return to the Tropical Disease hospital on the ninth, the day before I leave for Mali. It seems that I had a particularly nasty attack of amoebic dysentery which had travelled into my liver and had not been treated properly in Mali.
I am committed to Djenné for another two years because of the new projects that have just started at the Djenné Manuscript Library and for which I am responsible. But I go back with some fear: not for my own safety ( although I am sure I am a kidnap target) but I worry that I may not have enough enthusiasm and stamina to see it out.
 It is a lonely place now Djenné...