Sunday, April 3, 2011

Djenne in the Afternoon

After checking into my outstanding hotel room at Hotel Djenne Djenno, I showered and then took a two-hour nap.

Which admittedly isn't the most efficient use of my short time in Djenne. I only had this afternoon and then tomorrow morning before I had to hurry back to Bamako to pick up my passport at the Ghanaian Embassy. (Would I get my visa?) 

But this was the most efficient use of my time in this excellent hotel. If there hadn't been a UNESCO World Heritage big mud mosque across the bridge and in the center of town, I would only have left my room for dinner in the hotel courtyard.

Which was also outstanding. Cold cucumber soup followed by perfectly cooked pasta and Swedish meatballs, accompanied by local musicians. To listen to, I mean, not for dessert. That was a custard and fruit thing.

But in between sleeping and dinner,  I did actually leave the room, because I really did want to see the big mud mosque.

The sun was brutal as usual, so I scampered quickly down the dirt road to the bridge and then took a left into town. I thought the route would be obvious but I couldn't see the mosque around all the other mud-brick buildings. But there was a dirt alley off to the right that looked more "main" than the others, and sure enough it led me to this:

Yes, indeed, that's the mosque I was looking for.

But could I get in? The guidebooks said no, but I'd read online that some people had been invited in while others had not.

I'd also read that I would be swarmed by would-be guides. That's not exactly true. I wasn't swarmed. But there were a few eager volunteers. One of them, Amadou, invited me into the mosque.

"It is being rebuilt right now so you can go in."

And so it was. Work crews were re-bricking the mosque. For a 1000 CFA donation, I was allowed in. (The offer started at 10,000 CFA, but I was running out of money and wouldn't see an ATM until Bamako, so refusing wasn't exactly a negotiating tactic, just a lack of funds.)

Inside was not as spectacular as the outside. And I'm not entirely sure I was supposed to be inside, so I got out quickly, shoes in hand.

I took all the photos I could before admitting to myself that the light wasn't the best. Amadou had suggested he take me the 30 km to Carrefour Djenne tomorrow on his motorbike, since there was only one early bus a day to Bamako direct from Djenne, while at the junction there were several options passing by en route from Sevare. I couldn't go on the early bus unless I missed the Monday market, where traders came from miles around to sell their wares. I wasn't sure about the 4,000 CFA Amadou wanted. It seemed like a lot, but then, it was 30 km in the hot sun. I told him I'd think about it, and then went to find an internet cafe that was on the map in my guidebook.

But the internet place was closed, so I asked a man where there was another one. He motioned down the road but told me it was a long walk. "But I will drive you on my motorbike," he said.

I nearly got on to the motorbike, but I was wearing a skirt. I just couldn't see myself doing the sidesaddle thing, so I laughed and said no thanks.

I started walking, but at the end of the block, the man on the motorbike caught up to.

"It's open, come back. The man has opened the internet store."

I'd been pissed at Mali in the morning, but it was hard to stay angry with a place where random strangers chase you down to help you get onto Facebook.

And to celebrate my newfound truce with Mali, I tracked down Amadou and gave him 2,000 CFA (for gas money) towards giving me a lift to Djenne junction tomorrow. I didn't know if it was wise to go on the back of a motorbike, or if I was being overcharged, but I did know this.

He was offering. And I needed to get to Bamako.

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