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Day 42: Djenné

Michael Palin - SaharaMany of these people are not from Djenné, but from surrounding villages, too small to have markets of their own. The men fish and herd the animals, the women prepare them for market, making yoghurt, smoking fish. He shows me the different sections of the market: the Bambara people with their millet and rice, the Fulani with their milk and butter, and the smoked and cured produce of the Niger fishermen, disconcertingly called Bozos.

He gives me advice on how to tell Fulani women. Swiftly raking the crowd, he picks out a strikingly tall woman in a dress and headscarf of busy matching patterns.

'She is one.'

Pigmy points at her face.

'You see the tattooing here, round her mouth and this here,' he says, indicating a small mark below her right eye. 'This shows the family she is from.'

I'm impressed by his diagnosis, until he rather spoils it by adding, 'I know her. She is my sister's cousin.'

After the two of them have exchanged a brief and apparently contentious piece of family gossip, we move on.

'They are the most beautiful women in Africa,' he enthuses, breaking off to draw my attention to someone who looks more gorgeous than any we've seen today.

'She is not Fulani,' he says dismissively, 'she is Songhai.'
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 42
  • Country/sea: Mali
  • Place: Djenné
  • Book page no: 129

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