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Along the Niger to Timbuktu

date of entry 15/12/1990
mileage 55,475

capital Bamako

area 1.240.192 km²

population 14.517.176

GDP rund 10 Bill. US-Dollar

official language French

The desert city of Timbuktu on the southern edge of the Sahara was once a flourishing trading post to which caravans brought not only goods from all parts of Africa and Europe but also knowledge. The city’s golden age was in the 15th and 16th centuries. At that time there was even a university. Manuscripts dating from that period are still kept in libraries in Timbuktu today. The Holtorfs were there in the early 1990s. It is barely possible to reach the city safely by road today. French troups together with Malian Army units are battling Islamists. In 2013 on his trip to southern Africa Otto once again passed through the south of the country, including the capital Bamako.
  • A frequent sight in rural areas are the ancient mosques built from clay, in the same way as the Great Mosque at Timbuktu
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  • The Niger River is the lifeblood of the West African country, which extends deep into the Sahara
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  • Much of the infrastructure still dated back to the French colonial period
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  • A railway has linked the port city of Dakar in Senegal with Bamako in Mali and the River Niger since 1924. The trains travel at a very leisurely pace.
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  • The rail gauge is one metre and the tracks are often simply laid in the sand. This makes for a bumpy ride.
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  • Apart from rail freight operators, passenger trains also ran on the railway line in 1990, which belonged to a Belgian company
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  • On the southern edge of the Sahara lies the city of Timbuktu, an ancient trading post on the trans-Saharan caravan route
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  • The city’s significant mosque probably dates back to 1327 and is built completely from clay
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  • Handmade pots are sold at the markets
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  • Otto often encountered perilously shaky and completely overloaded trucks travelling through the countryside
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  • A typical sight across the whole of French-speaking West Africa was the Peugeot 504 estate, built especially for the region, which is capable of transporting impressive loads
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  • In mountainous terrain, on the other hand, the goods had to be transported by hand
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  • Even the children helped out
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  • Grain was still crushed in the traditional manner and then cooked
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  • Women poured the ground corn through the air, allowing the wind to blow the hard husks away
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  • In many places Otto and the Holtorfs were seen as a welcome distraction
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  • The people enjoyed being ...
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  • ... photographed
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  • On the edge of the Sahara some wells were so deep that camels had to be used to draw water from them
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  • In other places, in contrast, Otto had to wade through the water himself
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  • Ferries operate only at a few points on the Niger
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  • The clay dwellings blend into the landscape perfectly
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  • They often have a rectangular design with a thatched roof
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  • Their height is an advantage in the hot climate
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  • Video: Mali – a remarkably peaceful country