Have you ever considered visiting Mali? In West Africa, this country has a whole host of historical wonders, a rich heritage, and a mix of terrain to suit most interests.
It’s the biggest country in West Africa and, although it’s had its fair share of unrest and conflict in modern times, it’s growing as much as it can. Mali isn’t a safe place to travel for the time being, but it’s still home to very interesting places to see one day.
Let’s have a look at the top interesting facts about Mali!
1. Mali was once a supremely rich empire
In the 1300s, the Malian Empire was ruled by Mansa Musa. It was the first black empire and it had immense riches. Mansa Musa did his pilgrimage to Mecca accompanied by 12,000 slaves, 60,000 men, and 80 camels with 30-50 pounds of gold each on their backs. He built a mosque along the way every Friday, and left lots of gold to the people he met, an interesting fact about Mali. This was enough to actually cause inflation!
2. Today’s Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world
In contract to its empire days, Mali is now at the bottom of the table when it comes to national wealth. 70% of Malians earn less than 1 USD per day, and only 10% earn more than 2 USD per day.
3. The prime meridian passes through Mali
If you visit the town of Gao in Mali, you’ll have the opportunity to see the spot where the prime meridian passes. You can literally stand between the two hemispheres.
4. It’s home to the largest mudbrick building in the world
A fun fact about Mali is that it houses the Great Mosque of Djenne, which is the largest mudbrick building in the world. Considered by art historians to be one of the greatest examples of Sudano-Sahelian architectural styles, the mosque has been around since the 13th century, although the full structure as we see it today is from 1907. It’s one of the most famous tourist objectives in Africa and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites along with the “Old Towns of Djenne.”
5. Mali is a mythical place
For a long time especially while it was a French colony, there’s been an aura of mystique surrounding Mali. Places like Timbuktu, which actually exist in Mali, were considered myths, and Mali is considered “anywhere far away” for many.
6. You can drink sweet tea three times only
In Mali, sweet tea is the national drink and the traditional offering for a visitor. You can drink it three times from the same pot, but if you are served a fourth cup it means you’re no longer welcome, an interesting Mali fact!
7. Most of Mali is in the desert
Mali is largely flat and has some rolling plains in the north which are also covered with sand. Most of the south of Mali is in the Sahara Desert. Overall, Mali is one of the hottest countries in the world, which hardly any rain, and facing frequent droughts.
8. The Lion King was from Mali
The founder and first ruler of the Malian Empire was Sundiata, also known as the Lion King or Lion Prince. He expanded the empire all across the western coast of Africa during the 13th century, giving rise to the amazingly rich empire which grew to dominance in the following centuries.
9. Mali was a French colony for a long time
France took over Mali in the late 19th century, when the great powers took control over most of Africa. It was then part of French Sudan, until 1959, when they joined up with Senegal to achieve independence from the colonial power. They became the free Mali Federation in 1960, but it was only in 1991 that Mali was established as a democratic state.
10. Malians are mostly Muslim
Since the 11th century when Islam was introduced in West Africa, it has remained the main religion in most countries here, such as Mali. 90% of Malians are Muslim, the majority being Sunni.
Moreover, Mali is extremely religious, as there are hardly any agnostics or atheists. 5% of Malians are Christians and there are another 5% of the population who still follow indigenous or animalistic religions and beliefs.
An interesting fact about Mali is that its constitution mirrors that of France, establishing a separation between church and state and making the state secular. This means they don’t interfere in religious matters, which is largely respected by the government.
11. Mali is one of the deadliest UN assignments
Because of the security challenges in Mali, it’s considered one of the deadliest places for UN peacekeeping forces. In 2013, UN peacekeepers were deployed to Mali and more than 100 have been killed since.
French troops have also come to Mali’s aid after requests from the president to stave off Islamist extremists in 2013. French soldiers stayed in Mali until a peace agreement was signed in 2015.
12. Gold is abundant in Mali
Mali is the third highest gold producer in Africa after South Africa and Ghana, a fun fact about Mali. It also exports phosphates, salt, limestone, uranium, and granite. Gold mining, however, is a key source of revenue and also what makes Mali a desirable territory for many conflicting forces.
13. It’s a country of internal migration
In Mali, a large number of the population is involved in agriculture, the second highest source of revenue for the country after mining. This has led to waves of migration from rural areas when the annual dry period begins, to look for work in cities. It’s believed that about 10% of the population is in fact, nomadic, driven by employment opportunities and droughts and food insecurity, or sometimes conflict patterns as well.
Mali is a fraught country with lots of insecurity and poverty, which places it in stark contrast with the once resplendent Malian Empire, rich with gold. Unfortunately, the existing unrest in the country also prevents it from raising its revenue through tourism to its rich architectural heritage.
I hope that this article on Mali facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!