Dogon Country

The Dogon people have lived along the Bandiagara Escarpment for over 500 years, having traveled from Ghana in the middle of the century, escaping prosecution and have survived there ever since – surviving Islamic raids from the north and slave missions from the south. When the Dogon first arrived here, they set up their homes inside of the cliffs, for protection and because the cliff’s provided water through underwater streams. Today there are over 500,000 people that live in this region, and it is possible to get a small glimpse into their lives by taking a trek visiting several of their villages.

The Dogon’s have opened up their world to the rest of us, and we spent 5 days and 4 nights trekking around the Dogon Escarpment, and it is an experience that will never leave me.  but it’s their sense of community and kinship that sets them apart from any other people in the world. The locals say hello to each other when walking between villages, engaging in a quick conversation before moving along. Trekking through Dogon Country was one of the most unique and rewarding experiences of my life, and trying to describe this experience has always put me at a loss for words.

The locals still live in a very traditional way, living off the land surrounded by the massive cliffs they once called home. The Bandiagara Escarpment in the Central Mali Plateau stretches for over 100km and reaches up to 500 m in height provided a natural barrier that protected them from invasions and the wildlife of the region.

The cliff face defines the region, cutting through the landscape separating the high and low grounds. The Dogon live in villages both on the low ground (with many Millet farms and herding animals) as well as high in the cliffs (ideal for the hunters). They have strong tribal beliefs and a strong knowledge of astronomy, a unique architecture, and an amazing art history.

We traveled here after spending a few days in Bamako (the capital of Mali) and followed the course of the Niger River to the North of Mali, spending one night in Mopti (after visiting the mud mosque of Djenne), before arriving in Dogon Country. We were nearing the end of our time in Mali, but before we would cross over into Burkina Faso and onwards through West Africa, we made one last stop here to visit this unique place.

Our trip through Dogon Country lasted for 5 days, which were spent hiking from village to village in the 50-degree heat. The region has become a major tourist destination, which helps sustain the people. The villages all work together and share their resources, and despite the influx of tourists, the region retains a remote and untouched feel. Our experience was something that will last with me forever. The happy people living here, and their way of life was instilled in us as we hiked through the region, and this retained way of life is something that we can all learn from.

Thinking about Dogon Country usually puts me at a loss for words. It’s hard to explain the extreme cultural experience, the feeling that you get, and the memories that will live with me after traveling to a place like this.

Dogon Country:

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Mud Building in front of the Bandiagara Escarpment. 2008.

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Dogon Homes. 2008.

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Bandiagara Escarpment. 2008.

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Cliffside dwelling. 2008.

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Overlooking one of the villages in Dogon Country. 2008.

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Using your head. 2008.

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The cliffside view of the lowlands. 2008.

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African Tree growing in Dogon Country. 2008.

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Cliffside dwellings. 2008.

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Cliffside dwellings. 2008.

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Dogon carvings. 2008.

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Smiling locals. 2008.

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Beautiful landscape. 2008.

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Concentration. 2008.

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Mud houses in Dogon Country. 2008. 

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Dogon Cliffs. 2008.

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