Village of Niansogoni
Missing out on Dogon Country in Northern Mali was absolutely a disappointment for me. I have heard it called the gem of West Africa on numerous occasions. The security situation just does not permit a visit at this time, so there is nothing I can do. As it happens, a village in far South Western Burkina Faso has very similar hand-made mud huts built into the side of a mountain, and I’m told a visit is well, well worth the bumpy gravel road to get there.
By the time I arrive, I am only six miles from Mali and about double that to Ivory Coast. The locals walk and boat back and forward as they please – there is no border control down here.
I’m quickly welcomed into the camp setup here by the local young men, who explain to me the very modest camping fee I pay (2,000CFA, about $3USD) goes towards development for the community – water, electricity, schools, etc. One of them will also guide me up the mountain to the village, and we both agree it’s best to wait until after the heat of the day has subsided.
It’s about a thirty minute walk up the mountain, and the views in all directions during the climb are spectacular. My guide explains that his ancestors wanted to avoid all the waring tribes in the surrounding land, so they moved their whole life up onto this mountain. His father was actually born in the mud huts here, and the history passed down by word of mouth.
I have an overwhelming sense of Indiana Jones as we walk past the thick foliage and the mud huts appear, glued to the side of the mountain. It’s difficult to comprehend what I’m seeing – even harder to comprehend that there are no signs, no fences, and the area is not teeming with tourists. The huts are breathtaking, and the mountain itself enormous and imposing.
The huts are hundreds of years old, dating back to the 14th century, all entirely made by hand on the side of the mountain. Hidden from view by the mountain, enemies never discovered the village, while at one point was home to around 1000 people.
I’m engrossed walking around the site, in awe of the time and effort spent building this entire village. Towards the far end we reach a fenced-off section, and I’m told it’s a sacred place where coming of age and other rituals are still performed. Because of this it’s strictly off limits for people like me.
Wow, this place is really, really special.
We walk back down the mountain and I chat late into the night to the guys running the camp, and other locals who wander in throughout the night.
What a fantastic start to Burkina Faso – extremely friendly locals, and a spectacular site to visit!