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A meeting place for Dogon elders (the low roof prevents fights), Toguna

Mali is not the place to go for safaris. What it does have is a smorgasbord of surreal landscapes, beautiful artwork, Timbuktu, castellated mosques made entirely of mud, pink sandstone villages carved into cliff faces, and undulating desert scenes that look like outtakes from Lawrence of Arabia.

Unfortunately Mali is rapidly being swallowed up by the desert, and is still suffering the aftershocks of a drought of biblical proportions accompanied by the full chapter and verse in plague, pestilence and famine. This has made it one of the five poorest countries in the world.

Malians, by nature and circumstance, are a stoic and enduring people and the passion for their homeland and traditional way of life may have finally paid off with the discovery of deposits of gold potentially huge enough to lift the country from its economic doldrums.

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