This week’s featured UNESCO World Heritage Site is a stunning, enormous escarpment in Mali. The Cliff of Bandiagara is the sanctuary of the Dogon tribe. Visiting this region, you can see their unique earth buildings and learn about their culture firsthand. The UNESCO website explains:
“The Bandiagara site is an outstanding landscape of cliffs and sandy plateaux with some beautiful architecture (houses, granaries, altars, sanctuaries and Togu Na, or communal meeting-places). Several age-old social traditions live on in the region (masks, feasts, rituals, and ceremonies involving ancestor worship).”
The Dogon people have an interesting history and many secretive traditions that are not supposed to be shared with outsiders. One of the problems with tourism, though, is that it can cheapen these cultural traditions, turning them into performances for tourists. Tourism has also encouraged the Dogon to sell their both their own cultural artifacts and the artifacts of long-gone tribes that lived in the area before they arrived. In a 2001 article in The Independent, African archaeology expert Tim Insoll explained that this is a problem because it makes it difficult and even impossible to learn about the history behind these artifacts:
“In Timbuktu and Gao, we have found 11th century Chinese pottery and beads from India,” he said. “These objects tell us that they were brought through the desert, probably from Cairo. Deprived of their provenance, they just become pottery and beads.””
So, can you visit this UNESCO site ethically? Yes, but there are a few things to be aware of. First, get a good guide, preferably via recommendations from previous travelers to the region. If you’re on a guided tour, try to make sure that the company is reputable and that some money goes back to the community you are visiting. Second, be respectful of the people and the culture. Third, don’t buy any artifacts.
You also need to obtain the proper documents before traveling to Mali. That means you’ll need a valid passport and a Mali visa. Here’s what you need to get a Mali tourist visa:
- 2 completed Mali visa application forms
- 2 passport-sized photos of yourself
- If you are staying in a hotel, a hotel confirmation is required.
- If you are entering on a tourist visa but staying with friends or family in Mali, you need an invitation letter from your hosts.
- A copy of your International Certificate of Vaccination for yellow fever.
- A copy of your round-trip itinerary
- Your US passport
RushMyTravelVisa can help you get the documents you need for your trip. We’ll walk you through the Mali visa application process, answer any questions you might have and expedite your paperwork with the Mali embassy for the fastest possible processing.
Apply for your Mali visa today!