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In late 2010, I spent a few days trekking through the Dogon region of Mali. The area is designated as UNESCO World Heritage site and is known for the small villages that are situated all along the base of the Bandiagara Escarpment.

By the time I reached the last village of the day, usually around late afternoon, I would do what I do when I visit major cities – drop my bag and head out to the streets to check out the neighborhood.

I live and work in a major US metropolitan area. Nowhere in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined entering the surreal world of a typical Dogon village.

The mud structures that made up each village’s homes, school, mosque and other public buildings were like nothing I had ever seen before or could have ever conceived of seeing. Especially captivating to me were the thatched roof structures. I first thought that they were homes but they are in fact granaries. There are separate granaries men and women. Men use theirs to store the seeds for each year’s crops as well as farming implements and women use their granaries to store food and items for the home.

On my village stroll, I would smell wood burning and hear a cacophony of rhythmic thumping - millet being thrashed using mortar and pestle. Women, carrying food and water in large halved out calabash gourd shells perched on their heads, would scurry by. Less pleasant was the sound of guinea fowl being slaughtered, a man’s job to do. Dinner was in the works!

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by Julee K.
AFAR Local Expert
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