Up the Bani River from Mopti is D'jenne. There are many strands to the Bani, the widest of which is crossed on a ferry, or a fiord for those not using the ferry.
A typical "we go when we are full" system, we waited for others to arrive and roll on board.
D'jenne is surrounded by strands of river. It is low season now, so they are not very wide, if have water at all.
After Timbuctou, D'jenne is the most famous and visited spot in Mali. Worthy of a "Welcome" sign.
And it is the Grand Mosque which puts this city on the tourist map. Like the cathedrals of Europe, it rises on the skyline while the rest of the town huddles around it.
From a second story roof, accessed for a slight gratuity, it is indeed an impressive structure. All of adobe block, often said to be the largest "mud brick" building in the world. It was up for votes for one of the "new" seven wonders of the world. I voted for it, but It lost.
Upon arrival, I made a circuit of it, getting a sense of its size and its place in the urban fabric.
Me and an persistent trinket seller.
The next day I got there soon after sunrise...basking the east facing facade (from Mali Mecca is basically east).
Just what we architectual photographers like, shadows and few people.
The wood planks protruding from the walls are not structural...they are permanent "scaffolding" used in the annual re-plastering of the exterior surfaces before the rainy season sets in to wash it away again.
As with many monuments, the main gate does not open to the most convenient place, so it remains shut and chained.
The main (and male) entrance faces the priests' residence, so it is the one used for daily purposes.
The woman's entrance, of course, is out back, accessing a women's only courtyard.
One thing about a monumental scale tower, the loud speaker can be buried into it. The round white objects on top were historically ostrich eggs. I guess something rare in the desert, they are thought to bring good luck. Now less fragile porcelain ones are used.
In these photos it also looks as though they are also lightening arrestors...they say Mali's rainy season has some spectacular thunder and lightening shows. But why would a mud building need them? The roof structure is made of wooden beams, rafters and purlins.
As the morning lengthens, the city comes to life around its mosque.
On Monday's this area in front becomes a crowded market.
But everyday it slowly fills up with transport of all types, being the hub of the city's streets.
On the far side of the open space a permanent market serves the populace everyday,...
...and soon the mosque becomes a backdrop to the life of the city.
Children walk by on their way to school.
Heading down side streets, ...
...which become increasingly narrower.
It is back here that the medieval character of the city can be sensed.
It is said that the "cones" between the end towers of the roof parapet indicate the number of children inside (3).
This building does not have a lot of children, it has a lot of important items: it the D'jenne Manuscripts Library. More about it at <http://djennemanuscrits.com>.
Of course these are the parts of towns l like the best, where windows and doors can be found.
I expect these windows are common to those in other Islamic countries: designed to let air, but not prying eyes, in, as well as allow the cloistered women of the household to peer out at the wider world.
There has been an attempt to improve sanitation, by installing interior plumbing. The problem is that there is no exterior sewage system to connect to!
One roof I climbed gave a view over these back streets....
...as well as a glimpse of a mason replastering the walls parapets.
Mud mixed up on the street is brought up in baskets by "masons in training", from which the master takes gobs and slaps them into place.
Baked by the sun, the walls await the rains, and the roof is still a good place to dry laundry.
Leaving the city, I walked back to D'jenne-Denno ("Old D'jenne") past a earnest game of football, which was kicking up the dust. What would they think of our grassy suburban football pitches??
Hotel D'jenne-Denno is the creation of Sophia, a Swedish woman, and her Malian husband, Keita.
One of those to whom it often happens, travels to Africa when young and is bitten by the "bug", and remains for years later. She writes a blog about the hotel, D'jenne and the current situation in Mali:http://www.djennedjenno.blogspot.com/ Added to the mosque, and the hotel in Mopti, now there are three reasons to visit Mali!!!
She did not give up her esquarian ways: she keeps a working horse, and a riding one: Little Bandit.
Inside the walls, she has created an oasis, which affords travel weary souls wondrous relief.
A step operated well pump provides...
...irrigation water for the plantings.
And Maman, the head concierge, shows his support for Obama on his motor-bike.
The buildings echo the architectural elements of the residences of D'jenne.
As well as the doors, and...
Inside, Sophie's marvelous sense of design and colors, simply but elegantly enhance the simple spaces.
What with the tourism tragedy brought on by the kidnappings in the north, I was their only guest. So she encouraged me to change rooms to experience different spaces.
But the breakfasts (and the dinners, which she kindly asked me to share with her and her husband) were the same no matter the room: an array of locally produced condiments were laid out to place on the delicious baguettes.
Every evening there is one, Sophie encourages her guests to climb to the roof and watch the sun set behind the city. On the third night, a group from Belgium joined her and me in the custom.
And even from here, the Grand Mosque provides a back-drop to the show.
Or, if you are in the city at sunset, the Mosque can be a fore-ground set for that event.