Djenné – Been There

Making money on a Monday morning

Djenné has been a trading center since at least 250BCE and its Monday Market sees people from all of Mali's ethnic groups meet. The common language of the market is Bambara, with only 30 percent speaking French, the official language.

Photo by Timothy Allen

Djenné – Been There

Making money on a Monday morning

Ever since the first guide books were written on Mali in colonial times, tourism in Djenné has revolved around the weekly Monday market: a highlight of the week for the population of the town and surrounding villages.

Sophie Sarin
Sophie Sarin Travel Writer

Held on the east side of the Great Mosque, the market recalls Djenné's history as a trading center because of its direct connection to Timbuktu by river. Under French rule, the city lost its status to Mopti, 90 kilometers away at the confluence of the Niger and Bani rivers and now Mali’s most important port.

People start arriving in the early morning, tightly packed onto brightly painted wooden carts pulled by horses or sometimes oxen. Makeshift sunshades are flung up on the large square in front of the mosque. Here, they display their produce on the ground: baskets of rice, millet, dried gombo and Sumbala, the Malian stock cubes made from shea butter and used in nearly all local sauces for the important midday rice meal.

There is also basketware on sale as well as the characteristic conical Fulani hats and various pottery items, all produced by the villagers. There is the colorful African wax cloth, and a whole row of tailors treading their foot-pedaled sewing machines to make up garments ordered on the day. Other sellers come from further away, with the lorries arriving on Sunday night to bring cheap torches, radios and batteries from Segou; fruit from Sikasso and even fabrics from Bobo Diolasso in Burkina Faso. These are the ambulating tradesmen who spend their week on a circuit between all the towns in the region.

A World Bank report in 2009 showed that truckers in Mali, such as this one in Djenné, faced 4.6...

A World Bank report in 2009 showed that truckers in Mali, such as this one in Djenné, faced 4.6 checkpoints, paid $25 and wasted 38 minutes for every 100 kilometers traveled. The West Africa Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Project was set up in response to improve roads and tackle corruption. Photo by Joerg Boethling / Alamy

Joerg Boethling

Joerg Boethling

Agency
Alamy

A World Bank report in 2009 showed that truckers in Mali, such as this one in Djenné, faced 4.6 checkpoints, paid $25 and wasted 38 minutes for every 100 kilometers traveled. The West Africa Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Project was set up in response to improve roads and tackle corruption.