Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 18, Sahel belt; Africa

Oooh, the singing continues ....(we have a potential girl band in the making here)....

we say goodbye to Madagascar,

the latest news in Madagascar is :

'This is a political coup'
June 24 2009 at 03:11PM

Antananarivo - Madagascar's police said on Wednesday they had arrested a group of men suspected of attempted bomb attacks which the government said had connections to the opposition movement of ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana.

....and we come.......

The Sahel runs 2,400 miles (3862 km) from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east, in a belt that varies from several hundred to a thousand kilometers (620 miles) in width, covering an area of 3,053,200 square kilometers (1,178,800 square miles). It is a transitional ecoregion of semi-arid grasslands, savanna s, steppes, and thorn shrublands lying between the wooded Sudanian savanna to the south and the Sahara to the north.

The countries of the Sahel today include Senegal, Maurit
ania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea

Why are you girls so excited to be visiting Africa???

Nopi : "The wild beauty, the awesome landscapes!!"

Sita : "The call of the wilderness. Nature at its wild best is the one reason for visiting Africa."

Marti: "especially the animals... it must be great to see them in their natural surroundings :)"

We have accepted an invitation from Sita's friend so now we are going to fly straight to the ancient Ksour of Oualata in Mauritania in West Africa.

This UNESCO World Heritage religious centre was founded in the 11th and 12th centuries to serve the caravans crossing the Sahara and became a focal point of Islamic culture.

Did you know that at 397,929 square miles (1,030,700 km²) Mauritania is the world's 29th-largest country?

I am observing the locals. Where are all these people going to ?? Thousands of Mauritanians are packing their suitcases and getting ready to leave the big cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou for the rural provinces of Adrar and Assaba. From oases – with their 25 million palm trees – to mountains embracing the golden sand dunes, hills and valleys, the scenery draws Mauritanians to the region for the annual celebration of Guetna, or "date season".......yummy, I like dates!!

We stopped to buy some bottled water and the local shopkeeper has warned us that a group of youths shot dead an American man on Tuesday in the centre of the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. The man, whom investigators said ran a private language and computer school, was shot several times in th e head from close range after he resisted an apparent kidnap attempt!!

Hmm, I cannot seem to reach our friend Ramzi in Algeria. He is probably out trying to find some more chicks!!! I will try to call him again later. Let's quickly move on.

We are truly fortunate to have received another invitation. This time it is from Nopi's friend, Traore, in Mali, a landlocked nation in West Africa, located s
outhwest of Algeria
He has met us in the home of the prestigious Koranic Sankore University and other madrasas, Timbuktu, a UNESCO world heritage site.

This was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, recall Timbuktu's golden age.

Although continuously restored, it is such a pity that these monuments are under threat from desertification.

Now he is taking us to his home to Land of the Dogons.

Wow, what a heartwarming welcome....

The Dogon, a people of Mali, are mainly farmers (mainly millet) and blacksmiths and their population is estimated at 700000. They are known for their world view and their sculptures

I am so glad that Ramzi advised us on how to dress when we were packing.
It is really cold here at night in the desert....brrrrr. We are keeping our first aid kit close by just in case we are attacked by scorpions,snakes, spiders etc. Ramzi warned us not to leave home without snake anti venom; sunblock with the highest SPF for the day and our Garmin navigational system. We don't want to get lost here.

I am slightly concerned for our safety so I am trying to contact Ramzi again..... no answer. Where are you Ramzi?????

I have just read in the local newspaper that insurgents have killed five Algerian paramilitary police and kidnapped two others in an ambush.
Kidnappings in this part of Africa seem to be quite frequent:-(

We are going to remain in the Land of the Dogons tonight......hopefully I will be able to contact Ramzi in the morning before we continue our journey through the Sahel.
This leg of the journey seems like it will be filled with perils, challenges, adventures, so it's good night from Mali in West Africa .........

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