Djenne Things to Do Tips by atufft Top 5 Page for this destination
Djenne Things to Do: 46 reviews and 85 photos
Young Bozo Woman Poses Proudly
The villages contrast quite radically in traditional practices. In a Muslim village, the women covered their hair and were quite modest in their dress. In another village, the women were topless and basically unashamed of their beautiful black skin. Regardless of gender or cultural practice, the exposure of genitalia is not to be found, except among infants and very young children, however. While some naivete certainly played into the attitudes about exposure of the breasts by some younger women, those of marriage age we were more often proud of exposing their bodies as a matter of vanity. Older women with sagging skin were more often matter of fact in their attitudes, sometimes simply not bothering to cover up in these high temperatures. Morale judgement about exposure of the body thus appeared to me to be a product of the Muslim and Christian influence. Regardless of tribe, men were more uniform in their attire. Younger men wore pants, occasonionally short pants, and T-shirts, while older men typically wrapped themselves in layers of fine white cotton fabrics that announced their status and seniority.
Woman at Djenne Marketplace
The stunning costumery that market goers wore impressed me a lot. I found both men and women in exotic tribal dress and others creatively using the castaway garments from American Good Will industries. Watching market place transactions, and the movement of animal pulled carts was pure entertainment in Djenne.
Djenne Villages Chidren Come to Great Me
I should also note that contrary to popular belief among those who have not traveled here, the vast majority of the children and adults I found in the villages were happy, healthy, and fed a good diet. Tribal children were as energetic, happy, and healthy as I've ever seen anywhere in the world, despite their obvious lack of material wealth. Among older adults, the teeth and gums of many I had observed were healthier than I'm accustom to finding within the United States, and among working adults, the muscle tone and fitness was in many cases positively worthy of admiration by western standards. In this region, of course, there are many bacteriological health risks, which contribute to a much higher mortality rate among children in particular, but some of these risks are in turn balanced by a substantially lower accident rate. Injury from automobile wrecks, for example, is unheard of here, and few of the tools, other than ordinary knifes and simple flour milling machines, I saw being used were likely to be physically dangerous. I suspect that drug abuse and crime are low here, as family and community love all and easily reign in those misfits who may stray from social convention. While the lack of material wealth would bore me after even just one day, I still envied the great time available for sharing with me and for visiting with friends and family. Under these circumstances, it's difficult to pity the tribal West African. It really is a good life.
Djenne Villages Mother and Children
Taking portraits of tribal people is not easy because they misunderstand or mistrust the gadgetry of the camera, not knowing exactly what the tourist will do with their image. So, I took a portable printer to facilitate an exchange of gifts of sorts--a printed image for the subject for each good photo. With some practice I was able to capture genuine smiles in ways I find difficult among my own family. The tribal people are uninhibited given the chance, and so I present images here hoping that their genuine smiles will bring happiness to the viewer. I rarely paid my subjects, and my time was fleeting, so what I have here are the best images I can muster as a tourist.
Main Entrance Djenne Mosque
The largest mud building in the world, the Djenne Mosque needs to be maintained every year with a coat of mud plaster, which is applied during a ceremony. We weren't there in time for the ceremonial plastering, but I made every effort to capture images of the exterior from all angles. The interior of the Mosque is not open to non-Muslims, so we didn't push our luck to see if we could arrange a tour inside. But, having visited numerous other mud mosques, I know that the interior is no so grand as the exterior.
Overview of Market in Front of Djenne Mosque
I had a shirt made from some fabric made at the market, but it is ill-fitting and I don't wear it often. So, most of the marketplace attraction is not the goods for sale, but rather the people selling them. I took images of the strange pile of dried fish and the huge calabashes, but mostly I looked for interesting images of people. The villagers dress up when coming to market.
Directions: In front of the Great Mud Mosque once per week.
Muslim Village Woman
I've discussed this elsewhere, but basically there are various tribal villages within a long walk outside of Djenne, which are easily visited with the help of a guide. It's best to visit them during an off market day when everyone is hanging around home. Some tribal villages are Muslim while others are Animist. Some villages earn their living by agriculture while others do so by fishing. All the villages are interesting.
Address: None, these are best found by guide
Directions: Outside Djenne within a long walking distance or short scooter ride. Contact your guide and arrange a visit.
Our man in Djenne
Our guide found us eating at the restaurant, and I was tired and skeptical, but his pleasant and not-so-pushy manner sold me. I knew that I needed a guide for the Djenne Villages the next afternoon. Without a good guide, it's hard to find your way around outside the city walls. Also, it helps to have a scooter. Nothing fancy is needed, but something a little faster than walking will help. While my wife rested in the hotel, I jumped on the back of the scooter found by the guide and we took off. Bring some change to tip for the photos you take of villagers. The guide can help smooth over any cultural mistakes you make.
Address: Djenne Villages are a long walk from town
Directions: The area will be flooded during the rainy season, so I assume a boat is needed then. The guide will help with all this.
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