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Day 43: Djenné

Djenné, Mali 
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Waiting for the the Bani river ferry to take me across to Djenné.
Michael Palin - SaharaTabaski morning in Djenné. The dust is rising in the streets. Pigmy, resplendent in a billowing robe of crisp white cotton trimmed with silver and grey embroidery, is walking with me and many hundreds of others to hear the imam's address and witness the ritual sacrifice that will be the signal for the day's festivities to begin. I feel conspicuously dull in my chinos and Gap Oxford, for all around me people are in their traditional finery. Malians dress splendidly anyway, but today they pull the stops out. No two people in this vast throng seem to be dressed alike.

This celebration of the sparing of Abraham's son from sacrifice is one of the most important days in the Muslim calendar. It's not so much the sparing itself they celebrate, but Abraham's act of obedience, his willingness to sacrifice his own son if that was what his God ordered him to do. Submission to the will of Allah is the cornerstone of Islam. It is what the word Islam means.

There are so many people expected at these special prayers that the mosque is too small to hold them, so the ceremony takes place in an open area at the edge of town. Getting there is like being in a football crowd on its way to the stadium. We're swept along by a generally good-natured, expectant, ever-growing tide. It's going to be a very hot day, and many are carrying prayer mats in one hand and big, colourful umbrellas in the other. At the site, worshippers assemble in long rows, those with the biggest umbrellas and the finest prayer mats in the front and the least privileged in an overspill yard with only strips of paper to kneel on.
Djenné, Mali 
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When in Rome. I join the mobylette set for a tour of the town.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 43
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Djenné
  • Book page no: 132

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