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Preface Last Updated: 8/16/2004 8:09 AM


Landlocked Mali is approximately the size of Texas and California combined. The climate varies from semi-tropical to arid, with a rainy season from June to October. Bamako temperatures vary from 77° to over 100° Fahrenheit (25° to 42° Centigrade). Of the numerous ethnic groups making up the population, 80 percent speak Bambara. However, French is the official language of Mali.

Mali has a rich and diverse artistic heritage that is expressed in arts, drama, and music. Tourism is increasing, and rewarding trips to many parts of Mali are now available, although some of these are for the adventurous and hardy.

The small diplomatic community allows informality, and Malians are generally considered friendly. You can expect a challenging but rewarding tour in Mali.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 8/16/2004 8:10 AM


Area, Geography, and Climate

The Republic of Mali is located in the interior of West Africa, north of the Equator, reaching to the Tropic of Cancer. The country covers 478,764 square miles, an area about the size of Texas and California combined. It is landlocked, sharing borders with seven other African nations: Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Algeria. Mali is on Greenwich Mean Time (London winter time), five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. The capital city of Bamako lies at an elevation between 950 and 1,000 feet.

Mali stretches across three different climatic regions. To the south is tropical Sudanese savanna, wooded grasslands broken occasionally by cliffs and rock formations, watered by the Niger and Senegal Rivers and their tributaries. In the middle are the semi-arid steppe-lands of the Sahel. Dry, sandy plains dotted with sparse trees and bushes and a vast plateau broken by isolated rocky masses characterize this transitional zone between the savanna and the desert to the north. This middle area comprises the rock buttes of Hombori, as well as the Bandiagara escarpment, famous as the home of the Dogon people. The desert zone in the north covers the largest area of Mali and is a hot, barren plain whose terrain is contoured by sand dunes and rocky outcroppings with little vegetation other than occasional patches of thorn bush.

There are two primary seasons in West Africa. The dry period can be further divided into two distinct seasons, mild and hot, particularly in the savanna and Sahelian regions of Mali. The rainy season usually begins in June and continues into October. Almost all of the annual rainfall occurs during this time. As much as 60-80 inches of rain may fall in the southern savanna but rainfall is lower further north. Temperatures range from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (21-40°C). The cool season lasts from December to mid-February, when temperatures range from 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night to the mid-80s (about 28-34°C) during the day. The hot season starts in mid-February and goes into June. The air is dry, dusty, and very hot; temperatures often reach over 100 degrees (40°C) and clouds of dust hang in the air. This is the season of the harmattan, the dry, sandy wind that brings dust clouds southwards from the Sahara.

Mali has two large river systems, the Senegal and the Niger. The Senegal River crosses into Mali from Guinea in the south and follows a northwest course into Senegal. The Niger River flows through the heart of Mali and serves as its most important waterway. The river courses 2,600 miles, the third longest in Africa, and played a large role in European exploration of Africa. The Niger flows northeast to the edge of the Sahara at Timbuktu where it turns east and then south, passing the town of Gao before entering Niger. The Niger is navigable from Koulikoro to Gao by large riverboats from August to November and by smaller craft for most of the rest of the year. Just beyond the Mali-Niger border, rapids prevent the riverboats from going further downstream into Niger.

Population Last Updated: 8/16/2004 8:11 AM


The population of Mali in 2003 was estimated to be around 12 million, with almost half being under the age of 15. The annual population growth rate for Mali is calculated at 2.4 percent, and life expectancy is 45.7 years for women and 43.9 for men (WHO, 2002). Most of the country is sparsely populated; the average population density is 18 inhabitants per square mile, ranging from 65 persons per square mile in the savanna and Sahelian regions, to less than one person per square mile in the less hospitable desert regions of the north. Just over 30 percent of Mali's people live in urban areas while the rest live in villages or travel as nomads. About 43 percent of married women are in a polygamous relationship, which is legal under Malian law. Bamako, the capital of Mali and its largest city, has a population of approximately 1.2 million people. Major towns include Sikasso (138,000), Segou (110,000), Mopti (97,300), Gao (66,000), Kayes (72,000), and Timbuktu (32,500).

French is Mali's official language. Bambara, the most widely spoken local language, is used by 80 percent of the population, although each ethnic group has its own language. Mali is officially a secular state, but 90 percent of the population is Muslim. Less than 4 percent is Christian. There are animists among the Dogon, Bambara, and other ethnic groups. The intermingling of these ethnic groups, facilitated by the Niger River and a wide understanding of Bambara, have given Mali a legacy of harmony rare among African states.

Bambara is a written language, as is Tamashek, the Berber dialect spoken by the Tuaregs. Most other languages do not have this advantage. The literacy rate in Mali is approximately 32 percent for men but only 15 percent for women.1 Over two-thirds of the adult population has had no formal education at all.

Ethnic groups in West Africa can be distinguished not only by language and physical characteristics, but also by the occupations to which each group is traditionally tied. Mali's cultural diversity includes desert nomads, cliff-dwelling cultivators, river fishermen, and the farmers of the savanna. Within each ethnic group are the hereditary castes: nobles and farmers, artisans, blacksmiths and griots (the entertainers and "keepers" of the oral history preserved through their songs).

The three geographic zones of Mali serve as rough boundaries for the delineation of the various ethnic groups. Among the groups found in the savanna zone are the Manding or Mandé, the largest cultural group in Mali, representing nearly 50 percent of the population. The Manding speak dialects of Bambara and trace their origins to a small area located where the present-day borders of Mali and Guinea meet. This Manding heartland formed the center of the vast Mali Empire, which dominated West Africa from the 12th to the 17th centuries. The Manding are divided into several groups, among them the Bambara, the Malinké, and the Dioula. Also found in the south of Mali, along the borders of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, are Voltaic groups: the Minianka, Senufo, Mossi, and Bobo, who are primarily subsistence farmers. The Voltaic peoples represent about 12 percent of Mali's population.

Among the groups found in the Sahelian zone are the Soninke (or Sarakole), the Fulani (also known as Pula, Peul, Peuhl, Ful, or Fula), Bozo, Dogon, and Songhai (or Sonrhai). The Soninke are primarily merchants, who have historically migrated to other parts of the continent and who can be found in most of the important market places of West and Central Africa.

The Fulani, representing 17 percent of Mali's population, are found throughout Mali except in the true desert areas north of the Niger in the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions. Primarily cattle herders, many Fulani move with the changing of the seasons in search of grazing lands for their cattle. During the rainy season they take advantage of the marginal lands away from the Niger, in the dry season they must move toward the more permanent watering places of the inland delta of the Niger. The Bozo, semi-nomadic fishermen, also move up and down the Niger and Bani Rivers following the Niger's flood and the seasonal fish migrations.

The Dogon occupy the rocky cliffs of the Bandiagara plateau east of Mopti. They have resisted outside influence throughout their history and have maintained much of their traditional way of life, their animist faith, and their art forms, which have been the subject of study by numerous anthropologists and art historians. The Dogon are renowned as industrious farmers, cultivating the rocky areas of the plateau and the sandy Senou plain to its southeast. The smell of onions is prevalent in plots along the cliffs. The banks of the Niger near Gao and Timbuktu are peopled by the Songhai, heirs to the great Songhai Empire of the 14th through 16th centuries. The Songhai, who make-up 6 percent of Mali's population, are primarily subsistence farmers.

The Saharan desert zone is populated by two nomadic groups of Berber origin, the Tuareg or Tamashek, who also inhabit Algeria and Niger; and the Moors (Maurs) in the northwest, who live on both sides of the Mali-Mauritania border. These two groups represent five percent of Mali's population. The harshness of the desert climate shapes their way of life. They are nomadic herdsmen who move from place to place in search of water and forage for their herds of camels, cattle, sheep, and goats. The Tuareg are the fabled "Blue Men of the Desert," often swathed in indigo turbans, and remembered for their battles to control the caravan routes through the desert.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 8/23/2004 4:33 AM

Public Institutions

French colonial penetration into the Soudan, the area covered by present-day Mali, began around 1880. A French civilian governor was appointed in 1893, but serious resistance to French control was not eliminated until 1898 when the Malinke warrior Samory Toure was defeated. The Soudan was then administered with other French colonial territories as the Federation of French West Africa.

In 1957, France's "loi cadre" (basic law) granted extensive powers to a Territorial Assembly. A French constitutional referendum in 1958 accorded complete internal autonomy. The following year, representatives from Mali, Senegal, Dahomey (now Benin), and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), met to draft a constitution founding the Federation of Mali. When the constitution was presented in January 1959, only Mali and Senegal voted to join the Federation, which became fully independent within the French Community on June 20, 1960. The Federation collapsed in August when Senegal seceded. On September 22, 1960, Soudan proclaimed itself the Republic of Mali and withdrew from the French Community. President Modibo Keita, whose Union Soudanaise party had dominated pre-independence politics, declared a single-party state. Keita's government pursued a socialist policy based on extensive nationalization.

Deterioration of the economy led to mounting discontent within the country. In November 1968, a group of young military officers staged a bloodless coup and set up the 14-member Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN) with Lieutenant Moussa Traore as President. The military leaders renounced socialism and attempted to pursue economic reforms despite several years of debilitating internal political struggles and the disastrous Sahelian drought. The first move toward a return to civilian rule occurred in 1974 when a new constitution was approved by referendum. The military government remained in power for the five-year transition period until elections were held in June 1979. General Moussa Traore, former leader of the military government, was voted into power as the first President under the new constitution.

The single-party Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM) governed the country with the support of the military until 1991. Increasing demands for multiparty democracy in the late 1980's to the early 1990's culminated in several days of violent street demonstrations, which left about 120 people dead. On March 26, 1991, a group of officers led by Lt. Col. Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT) overthrew the government, arresting the President and a number of his followers. A "Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People" (CTSP) was established and appointed a Prime Minister, who in turn appointed a transition government, which governed for 14 months. In a series of six direct elections between January and April 1992, Malians ratified a new constitution, elected municipal councilors, National Assembly deputies, and, finally a president. Twenty-one political parties nationwide participated in elections, judged by international observers to be free and fair. Alpha Oumar Konare was elected to a five-year term in the second round of the presidential elections and was inaugurated on June 8, 1992.

The President, who is the head of State, appoints a Prime Minister as head of the Government. The National Assembly is a unicameral body with 117 members elected from Mali's eight regional districts. Twelve political parties are represented in the National Assembly, with the "Alliance for Malian Democracy-African Party for Solidarity and Justice" (ADEMA) holding the majority. Mali's legal system is largely based on codes inherited at independence from France. The highest court within the judicial system is the Supreme Court. There is a constitutional court and administrative and commercial courts as well. The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, assembly, association and religion. There are nearly 50 independent newspapers and journals in Mali-published with varying regularity-as well as over 60 independent radio stations in Bamako and others serving Mali's regional capitals.

Administratively, Mali is divided into eight regions and the capital district of Bamako, each under the authority of an appointed governor. Each region has from five to nine districts, or "cercles," administered by commandants. Cercles are divided into communes, which in turn, are divided into villages or quarters. Plans for decentralization have begun with the establishment of 702 elected municipal councils, headed by elected mayors. In the North, a National Pact was signed in 1992, ostensibly to end the Tuareg and Maur rebellion against the Bamako government. The northern part of the country continues to be the scene of occasional clashes between rebels and government troops, despite a peace settlement. In March 1996 more than 3,000 firearms were burned in a symbolic "flame of peace" ceremony. During that same year there was a steady stream of Malian Tuareg and Maur refugees returned from Mauritania, Algeria, and Burkina Faso.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 8/16/2004 8:12 AM

Arts, Science, and Education

The richness and diversity of Mali's artistic heritage is evident throughout the country. Not only do craftsmen continue to work in towns and villages, but also in Bamako where the Institut National des Arts (INA) offers instruction to traditional artists. Courses are taught in the carving of masks and other wooden objects, in music, dance and weaving, in iron working, and in the manufacture of silver and gold jewelry. Malian craftsmen also use traditional designs to create objects in bronze and leather, as well as to fashion baskets and pottery. Craftsmen trained at the INA often work in small shops in the Artisanat, a center for handicrafts.

Mali has a small but impressive National Museum whose collection consists of Malian carvings, masks, textiles, items from everyday village life, and historical artifacts. The museum also presents special exhibitions on a regular basis.

The National Institute of Arts, the French Cultural Center, and the National Museum also hold frequent exhibitions of contemporary art. Modern interpretations of traditional designs, works in nontraditional media, traveling exhibits from other countries, and the works of individual artists, both African and Western, are presented.

Traditional music, song, dance and drama are encouraged by the government through radio and television broadcasts, a national dance troupe, and frequent arts festivals. The ceremonies of life such as baptisms, marriages, and circumcision ceremonies are recognized with traditional dance, the beating of the tomtoms (drums) and the singing of the griot (storytellers) can be heard in even the most urban of areas. Traditional instruments including the balafon, a type of gourd xylophone, stringed gourd instruments such as the kora and dossongoni, tomtoms, and reed flutes are still played.

Several international medical research and treatment facilities are based in Mali. The Institut Opthalmologique Tropical d'Afrique (IOTA) specializes in the prevention and treatment of eye diseases. The Institut Marchoux, established in 1934, is a well-known leprosarium that conducts research into the prevention of leprosy and other skin diseases. The Malaria Research and Training Center funded in part by the National Institute of Health (US), is on the campus of Mali's National School of Medicine. A malaria vaccine is in the testing/trial stages from the work of this research.

The research division of Comit‚ Inter-Etats de Lutte contre la Secheresse au Sahel (CILSS), the Sahel Institute, is based in Bamako. Made up of representatives from the drought-stricken Sahelian countries, the institute is seeking ways to counter desertification and promote economic development.

In principle, primary education is free and compulsory; however, parents must pay registration fees and purchase books and supplies. These costs make it difficult for most families to keep children in school for long. School attendance is 42% at the primary level (34% for girls), and 10% at the secondary level (2% for girls). Primary education is divided into two cycles, the first lasting six years and the second, three years. Secondary education lasts for three years and consists of either technical training or general secondary instruction leading to the baccalaureate degree. For the more than 12,000 existing communities in Mali (villages, towns and cities), there are 2,200 schools, which means that children must frequently walk long distances to get to the nearest school.

In 1996 several "grandes ecoles" united to form the University of Mali. This institution grants degrees equivalent to the BA and BS. Malian students pursue their further studies in universities abroad (primarily France, Canada, and the U.S.). The "grandes ecoles," each now a "facult‚" of the university, exist for specialized training: a teacher's college, schools of engineering, medicine and pharmacy, administration, and others. These colleges grant BA or BS equivalent diplomas.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 8/16/2004 8:13 AM

Commerce and Industry

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of under $270 (1999) and a GDP of approximately $2.6 billion. An estimated 85% of the labor force engages in farming, livestock production or fishing, most at the subsistence level. About 100,000 work in the agriculture sector.

The most important food crops are millet, sorghum, rice, field corn and peanuts. Sugar cane, tobacco and tea are also grown for local manufacture and consumption. Cotton is Mali's most important export crop and chief foreign exchange earner.

Livestock (cattle, sheep, goats) is raised for both domestic and export markets. Already Mali's second most important export, livestock has great potential for further development, thanks to the January 1994 CFA devaluation. It is relatively free of diseases, which inhibit animal husbandry in the coastal areas to the south. Fish from the Niger, Bani and Senegal Rivers supplement Malians' diets and provide an additional source of income.

Periodic drought has resulted in decreased agricultural production and serious food shortages. The disastrous Sahelian droughts of 1973-74 and 1983-84 caused much suffering and dislocation and forced the Government of Mali to request emergency food aid in large quantities. Above average rainfall in 1988 and 1989 produced a cereal surplus; 1990 saw less favorable rains and led to renewed requests for food aid. Food output has increased since then; 1994 and 1995 registered record harvests for most major crops.

Mali's industrial sector is small. Most factories are concentrated in or near Bamako and Segou. Firms engage in food processing and the manufacture of low technology consumer items, agricultural tools and construction materials. Many state enterprises have been privatized in recent years, including textile, cement and ceramic plants and a tannery and tea plantation. The government still owns a match and tobacco plant, slaughterhouse and other units but is committed to further privatization. Private businesses produce soap, candy, vinegar, bleach, plastic goods, flour, noodles, construction materials, beverages, etc. Local enterprises vary from the large cotton ginning monopoly to mid-size transport and trading houses to sidewalk merchants. Local markets offer a wide variety of traditional and modern goods. Many companies are wholly or partially French owned.

With assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and bilateral donors including the U.S., the government continues to make major steps to encourage development of the private sector, to increase agricultural productivity and to improve health, education and family planning in Mali.

France is Mali's leading source of imports with ties going back to the colonial era. France, West Germany, Cote d'Ivoire, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.S., the U.K., China, Senegal, Belgium and Japan provide Mali with imports of food, equipment and spare parts, vehicles, petroleum products, textiles, chemicals and pharmaceutical, and other manufactured goods. Imports cost $740 million. Exports of Mali are $556 million (1998), going primarily to the major markets of France, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, Cote d'Ivoire, and Algeria. Mali sells cattle and sheep, mainly to Cote d'Ivoire and Senegal. Gold, Mali's third leading export, is exported to Europe. Mali imports $773 million dollars worth of goods (1998), including over $29 million from the U.S. (1999) for items such as tobacco and cigarettes, equipment and spare parts, food and used clothing, and plastics.

Deposits of gold, marble, iron ore, bauxite, manganese, uranium, phosphate, kaolin, salt, and limestone are found in Mali, but only gold is exploited on a major scale. Deficient infrastructure and capitalization costs have prevented exploitation of other minerals. Two major gold mines are operated by South African firms in the Kayes and Bougouni regions. Additional gold mining projects are at various stages of exploration. Limited petroleum exploration has yielded disappointing results.

Mali belongs to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA), the Organization to Develop the Upper Senegal Valley (OMVS) and is an associate member of the European Economic Community.

Transportation Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:24 AM

See subsections on Transportation.

Automobiles Last Updated: 8/16/2004 8:14 AM


Employees assigned to post may ship a vehicle or purchase one locally, preferably from a dealership or departing expatriate. Second-hand vehicles are often available from people selling their cars before departure from Bamako; however, prices are generally higher than in the U.S. See the Embassy newsletter (available via the CLO) for advertisements. Vehicles purchased on the local economy take longer to register due to extensive title searches designed to curb cross-border vehicle theft.

Be advised that, however good and careful a driver you are, you are likely to have at least minor accidents, probably even when your vehicle is stationary. The most practical type of vehicle therefore is one with good ground-clearance, a reliable engine, and solid bumpers: the paintwork and bodywork are likely to suffer at the hands of Bamako drivers.

If you choose not to own a vehicle, you may arrange for carpooling with other employees or take taxis. Employees and dependents may use Embassy vehicles, when available, to travel between the office and their residence and limited other use while waiting for their personal vehicle to arrive. The fee is currently $2.70 per trip.

The Mission's inventory of official vehicles includes General Motors, and Chrysler Jeep, and Toyota products. There are Chrysler/Jeep, Toyota, Nissan, and Mitsubishi dealerships and parts vendors located in Bamako, as well as European dealerships. However, in terms of overall service and availability of parts, Peugeot, Renault, Toyota, and Nissan remain the most practical and economic cars to drive in Mali. Malian mechanics are most familiar with the French-made Peugeots and Renaults, although some can work on Japanese, German, and other types of cars; mechanics are not trained to work on American cars. Spare parts are readily available for French-made autos and often available for Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes vehicles, but can be relatively very pricey. Spare parts for American cars and some foreign makes are not immediately available; they must be ordered from the U.S. or shipped with your household effects. Consider bringing spark plugs, air and oil filters, fan belts, water hoses, and wiper blade replacements, as well as your vehicle repair manual. Jerry cans for gasoline are also useful because gas stations are infrequent outside the principal towns. Car window shades reduce the heat for children when traveling or when the car is parked. Touch-up paint would be useful due to frequent scrapes.

If you are purchasing a new car, air-conditioning is advisable. If you have a choice, select a vehicle with good road clearance and heavy-duty options, such as heavy springs and shock absorbers. Avoid dark colors because of the high temperatures. A diesel engine works well in Mali and is more economical than a gas engine.

Most major streets in Bamako are paved but are often in disrepair. Most residential streets are unpaved and filled with potholes; they are dusty during the dry season and muddy and full of puddles during the rainy season. Depending on the season, roads to and within some tourist areas such as Siby and Dogon Country can be impassable for cars without good ground clearance and four-wheel drive so a vehicle with these features is recommended if you plan to do that type of driving.

It is possible to purchase Peugeots at significant savings through the company's diplomatic sales program for direct shipment to Bamako from Paris. This process generally takes about three months. Contact Peugeot Motors of America in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, or SODEXA in Paris. The cars are manufactured with specifications for West Africa.

Employees may purchase tax-free gasoline coupon booklets of 250 liters at the Embassy Cashier price (currently about $.50/liter for regular, super, and diesel). Unleaded gasoline is not available.

Catalytic converters should be removed from vehicles before shipment, if possible. A letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), obtained through the Office of Transportation, Department of State, is required for this work to be done in the USA. The catalytic converter must be replaced if you intend to return the vehicle to the U.S. at the end of your tour; it is therefore advisable to ship it with your household effects if you plan to sell the vehicle at the end of your tour or ship it to the next post.

Vehicles shipped from the U.S. do not transit Antwerp, but still can take about four to six weeks to arrive in Dakar (Senegal), where clearance procedures can take up to four weeks. Cars are normally sent to Bamako by train (or by truck in the rainy season). They are transported in their 20-foot containers to avoid theft. For the most recent guidance on shipping instructions, please refer to your welcome cable.

To minimize chances of theft, remove small items such as cigarette lighters, mirrors, antennas, hubcaps, windshield wiper blades and arms, radios, cassette players, clocks, and all documents; ship them with your household effects. Do not store other items in the car for shipment. Private insurance is recommended for shipment of vehicles. Vehicles not shipped from the U.S. are shipped through Antwerp to Dakar when this routing is advantageous.

Autos purchased in the U.S. and France, such as the Peugeots ordered through diplomatic sales programs, are shipped directly to Dakar. The GSO for the U.S. Embassy in Paris arranges shipping for vehicles purchased in France.

Carry to post a copy of the original bill of sale and registration papers showing serial number, make, model, and year. Check with the travel/transportation division of your employing agency for specific advice on the shipment of a vehicle.

A valid driver's license is required to drive in Mali; a U.S. or international driver's license is acceptable. Vehicles may be rented through several local agencies, but discouraged. It is quite expensive to rent a car and often the agency requires that you pay an agency chauffeur to do the driving. Mali requires drivers to have proper registration documents (Carte Grise), which must be kept in the vehicle at all times. The Embassy GSO will assist in vehicle registration.

Third-party liability insurance is compulsory in Mali. Insurance policies can be easily obtained from several agencies in town. GSO can help with local insurance arrangements. Many employees purchase additional collision, fire, and theft insurance in the U.S. when they insure the shipping of their vehicle and goods, as these types of coverage are extremely expensive locally.

Vehicle accidents are the most frequent cause of death and injury to expatriates worldwide. Driving in Bamako continues to be a major concern. Although traffic laws do exist, enforcement is practically non-existent and a degree of chaos ensues. Automobiles share the road with innumerable mopeds, bicycles, donkey carts, and pedestrians who do not look before they step into the street. Local vehicles are often overloaded with goods and people and many drivers lack rudimentary driving skills. Americans are advised to drive defensively and expect the unexpected from the drivers around them. Driving at night in Bamako is dangerous since many vehicles lack or fail to use headlights and streets are poorly illuminated.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:12 AM


The Regional Security Officer does not recommend the use of local transportation in Mali, due to the poor quality of vehicles and reckless drivers.

Taxis provide local transportation in Bamako, by green minibuses known as Sotrama, and by small pick-up trucks with benches in the back and a canvas top (bâchées). Public transportation is hot, crowded, and often unreliable, as vehicles frequently break down and are involved in accidents.

Official yellow taxis (often with "taxi" signs on top) are usually easy to find in the city. Taxis can be in poor mechanical condition and the skills of the drivers vary. Passengers should negotiate a rate with the driver before getting into the vehicle. Base fares for foreigners range from about 500 FCFA (franc Communauté Financière Africaine) if a taxi is shared with others, to about 1000 - 2000 FCFA if there is only one passenger. Taxis may be hired per trip or by the hour for lengthy or out-of-town trips.

Sotrama and bâchées carry up to 20 closely packed passengers, as well as chickens, goats and all kinds of parcels bound to and from market. They have regular routes within town and are inexpensive, starting at about 150 FCFA depending upon the distance traveled. A few large imported buses travel around Bamako and between major towns. Some are air-conditioned.

Peugeot station-wagon "bush taxis" provide transportation from town to town. Fares depend upon the destination. They are generally very crowded and often slowed down by delays, breakdowns and, all too often, accidents.

Legal taxis, buses, vans are marked by the red license plate.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:12 AM


There are approximately 5,000 miles of permanent dirt roads and an additional 3,700 miles of seasonal tracks, usable only during the dry season. Mali has one primary system of paved roads totaling approximately 1,700 miles. This network connects Bamako with Ivory Coast in the south via Bougouni and Sikasso, and with Burkina Faso in the southeast via Segou and Koutiala. The road continues northwards from Segou, connecting Bamako with Mopti and Gao. The road south to the Guinea (Conakry) border is currently being paved. Several portions of a road between Bamako and the Senegalese border have been paved.

Travel by car off paved roads is often difficult without four-wheel drive vehicles.

The Embassy prohibits all Americans under Chief of Mission authority from traveling by vehicle at night outside of urban centers for reasons of road safety; all travelers must limit overland travel to daylight hours and avoid dirt track and unimproved roads.

The sole railway system in Mali connects Bamako with Dakar (Senegal) via Kayes. The scheduled 36-hour trip to Dakar is not recommended. Couchettes and first-class service are available, but electric lights and toilets often do not work. Air-conditioning is inoperative and travelers need to bring their own food and drinks. Thieves operate on the trains with great success, particularly targeting passports and cash.

Airlines serving Bamako includes Air France, Royal Air Maroc, Ethiopian Air Lines, and Air Senegal. Air France offers direct flights to and from Paris daily and operates code-share flights with American Delta Airlines. It is possible to fly from the Bamako-Senou airport, located about nine miles south of the city, to most of the major cities in neighboring West African countries; however, they are relatively expensive and timetables can be unreliable, stranding passengers for several days. Weekly flights exist to Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao, returning the following day; there are also flights to Kayes. Expect high prices (about $300 round-trip Bamako-Timbuktu), with frequent delays and cancellations on internal flights. It is possible to charter private airplanes.

Communications Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:25 AM

See subsections on Communications.

Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:14 AM

Telephones and Telecommunications

Direct-dial long-distance telephone service is available to most countries and to the U.S. The quality of the connection is usually good. Within Mali telephone service has improved since 2000 when eight new Bamako exchanges were added to the two existing ones. Most government-leased homes are equipped with telephones.

American personnel may place personal long-distance calls via a call-back service, to the U.S. on Embassy and USAID telephones on a reimbursable basis. Long-distance calls to the U.S. are expensive. The cost for a 3-minute call to the east coast of the U.S. is about $21. Call-back services are now available in Mali at reduced costs (about $1 a minute). Commercial telegrams cost approximately 18 cents per word to the east coast of the U.S.

American direct-hire, U.S. PSC, and PASA employees are provided with portable two-way radios, which allow for communication with the Embassy base station and with other individuals who have radios. The radio system is monitored at the Embassy by the Marine Security Guard on duty. Although this system does not offer the privacy of a telephone conversation, it is invaluable in emergencies and for information.

Wireless Service Last Updated: 8/16/2004 7:20 AM COMMUNICATIONS


All government-leased homes maintained by GSO under ICASS are equipped with a telephone. Within Mali, telephone service is fairly reliable, although electrical storms, etc, occasionally cause outages. Local landline calls cost 75 CFA (about $0.13) for 5 minutes, but land to cell is 225 CFA/minute (about $0.40).

Two primary companies provide reliable cellular phone service in Bamako although it is a little pricier than the equivalent in the USA. It can be useful to bring a Tri-Band or a Dual-Band GSM cell phone with you, as they are more expensive in Mali than in the U.S. Sometimes phones are available for purchase locally from returning expatriates. Be certain that any phone you bring is unlocked in order to use the local cellular service SIM cards. Should you discover that your phone is locked and your original vendor is unwilling to share the password with you, you can have the phone unlocked in Bamako for about $10 to $20.

Depending on job requirements, Direct Hires may be provided with a USG cell phone. In such cases, the employee is responsible for the cost of personal calls made from the phone.

Direct-dial long-distance telephone service is available to most countries including the United States. The quality of the connection is usually good. Non-peak rates are between 8 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. and on weekends and holidays. International calls to Western Europe and North America during these hours are 360 CFA/minute (about $0.65), and at peak hours are 450 CFA/minute. Call-back services are now available in Mali at reduced cost (approximately $0.45 a minute in addition to the timed charge for the local call). In addition, pre-paid phone cards are available for calls that originate in the United States for as little as $ 0.15 a minute. These are useful for family members and friends trying to reach you in Mali. At this writing, the least expensive vendor that Post is aware of is at PC-to-phone service is available but requires a microphone and headset. See American personnel may place personal long-distance calls to the U.S. via a callback service on Embassy and USAID telephones on a reimbursable basis.

American direct-hire, U.S. PSC and PASA employees are provided with portable two-way radios, which allow for communication with the Embassy base station and with other individuals who have radios. The Marine Security Guard on duty at the Embassy monitors the radio system. Although this does not offer the privacy of a telephone conversation, it is invaluable in emergencies and for information.

Internet Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:13 AM

Internet Service

Internet was brought into Mali in 2000, and there are now many internet cafes in the main towns. There are currently thirteen Internet service providers in Bamako, with Afribone ( being the most popular. Cost is approximately 19,000 ($35) per month for 25 hours. Service is quite reliable but normal dial-up speeds are lower than in the U.S. There is an additional timed charge for the local phone call while on the internet. It is also possible to buy internet access cards at 10,000 CFA ($18) for 15 hours. See

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:13 AM

Mail and Pouch

U.S. Government personnel assigned to Mali are authorized to use the diplomatic pouch for personal mail, packages, magazines, and newspapers, subject to the following restrictions.

All mail, including tapes and processed film, can be sent to post via air pouch. Medical items, such as prescription medicines and eyeglasses sent via air pouch must be labeled: "Prescription Medicine-Air Pouch."

Packages cannot weigh more than 50 pounds nor exceed 24 inches in length, and 62 inches in length and girth combined. Perishables, liquids, and fragile items cannot be shipped in the pouch and will be returned to sender by Department pouch facilities. Pouch privileges for receiving packages are authorized only for U.S. direct-hire employees. Contract personnel may use the pouch for letter mail only and must use international mail to receive or send packages.

Letters and packets up to two pounds and no larger than one videocassette may be sent out from post to the U.S. via the air pouch. Additionally, larger items or gifts received through the pouch may be returned via the air pouch for refund or exchange. Applicable U.S. postage for mailing from Washington to the ultimate destination must be used, so bring a good supply of U.S. postage stamps.

Personnel are not authorized to send other packages out from post to the U.S. by pouch, except to return or exchange merchandise ordered from the U.S. or received as gifts. These return packages must be endorsed with a statement that they contain merchandise being returned for exchange. They must also have correct U.S. postage (or prepaid return labels) for mailing through the U.S. Postal Service from Washington to destination. All other packages must be sent out from post via international mail.

On average, the Embassy receives from Washington one air pouch shipment twice a week via DHL and sends to Washington one to two air pouch shipments a week, depending on volume. Transit time is generally ten days to two weeks for incoming and less than a week for outgoing mail. Employees returning to the U.S. usually volunteer to hand-carry letters, to speed up delivery.

All pouch mail should be addressed as follows:

For personal mail (All employees):

Name 2050 Bamako Place Dulles, VA 20189-2050

The State Department is advising employees not to identify themselves as government employees when sending mail via pouch

Official mail only: (State Employees)

Name Dept. of State 2050 BAMAKO PLACE Washington, D.C. 20521-2050

(AID Employees)

Name Agency for International Development 2050 BAMAKO PLACE Washington, D.C. 20521-2050

(PC Employees)

Name, Title Peace Corps Mali 2050 BAMAKO PLACE Washington, D.C. 20521-2050

U.S. Postal Service regulations prohibit the sending of registered or insured mail via the diplomatic pouch. Advise correspondents and mail-order companies accordingly.

Local postal facilities are generally reliable for airmail letter services. International airmail for letters to and from the U.S. may take ten days to two weeks. Packages sent from the U.S. by airmail arrive in three to four weeks. International airmail for packages sent to the U.S. is quite expensive and not always reliable. Surface mail is even less reliable and not recommended. Packages sent to or from the U.S. by surface mail may take three months to a year or more to arrive. Service and customs fees of 60 percent of the value of the package are charged for receipt of packages for non-diplomatic persons.

The international mailing address for U.S. Mission employees is:

Name s/c Ambassade Americaine B.P. 34 Bamako, République du Mali

U.S. postage stamps can sometimes be purchased from the American Community Services Association (ACSAM). They do not always have them in stock, so you should bring your own supply with you. U.S. postage stamps can also be ordered on-line directly from the U.S. Postal Service (

International DHL and Federal Express service is available and efficient but costly.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:14 AM

Radio, TV, and Cable

Radio Mali is the government radio station in Mali. Programs include government published newscasts, local and Western music, and special features. Broadcasts are generally in French and Bambara, with some programming in other local languages and English. Radio programs are broadcast from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. Radio in Mali is an important means of communication for public announcements and local community news. There are many private FM stations (currently around 15) in Bamako as well, which play mostly popular African music and present public discussion programs in French and Bambara.

For international programs, a strong short-wave radio is useful. Stations available include the BBC World Service, VOA, Radio France International (RFI), Radio Paris, Christian Science Monitor and Deutsche Welle. See their web sites for further information. Quality of reception is erratic and may be improved with an outside antenna. The BBC World Service (in English and French), RFI, and Africa No. 1 broadcast on FM in Bamako. VOA news in French is available every evening on the local VOA affiliate. There are about 100 FM radio stations outside of Bamako, most of which broadcast local community news, announcements, and music.

A specialized World Space radio receiver (available in the USA or in Bamako at around $120) allows for reception of many channels either free or on subscription. As well as 20 to 40 free World Space digital channels from international, regional, and local broadcasters, the radio offers FM and medium- and short-wave reception. English-language programs on the Afristar satellite include: CNN 1 News, WRN's English service, Bloomberg News and financial information, the BBC World Service African relay, EARZ (children's programs), RIFF (jazz music), Maestro (classical music), etc. See for further information.

Television broadcasting in Mali began in 1984. The Malian government operates the one national television station, ORTM/Mali. Programs in French and Bambara and other local languages are broadcast from 7:00 p.m. to about 11:00 p.m. on weekdays, with weekend programming between 10:00 a.m. and midnight. Nightly broadcasts include a news program, a children's program, and cultural and entertainment programs or movies.

Post has access to AFRTS-SATNET, which broadcasts CNN Headline News, sports, news talk shows, and some popular U.S. series 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A Yagi UHF antenna is required for reception. In addition, if you do not have a Standard NTSC-capable television that can tune a signal that is offset from Channel 13, a converter box is required. Incoming personnel may be able to purchase the converter, antenna, and cabling from departing personnel or ship to post in HHE or UAB. If purchased in the States at a vendor like, look for Antenna 440-6X and for the tunable down-converter TVC-4G with AC supply. Post broadcasts in standard NTSC and not all multi-system televisions or multi-system VCRs are capable of receiving the signal. Please contact the GSO for details.

Many people subscribe to one of two basic cable services offered locally: MultiCanal and TV Klédu. A special antenna and decoder can be purchased locally for approximately $350. The cable companies offer special programming packages ranging from about $20 to $35 a month subscription. Channels currently available in English are M-Net (from South Africa, broadcasting mainly movies, series and situation comedies, and daytime Kid TV), Super Sport, CNN International, and ESPN. There are also French- and Arabic-language channels including RTL and Planète. The local ORTM/Mali TV is included on the cable systems.

Multivision operates a DSTV (Digital Satellite TV) service from South Africa. It provides some 24 channels in English and several music channels. It requires a 1.2-meter satellite dish and a decoder, which can be bought and installed locally for about $1,000. A monthly fee of around $100 is also required. This service airs a variety of sports, news, older movies, and American series plus BBC Prime, The History Channel, Discovery, Cartoon Network, Animal Planet, etc.

Mali uses PAL/SECAM transmission systems, which are not compatible with U.S. TV sets. If you plan to purchase a TV or video/DVD player, consider buying a 110/220v multi-system TV, multi-system, multi-speed video, and uncoded DVD equipment. Such items are available on-line at sites such as, as well as in some U.S. stores in major cities. Local stores and the French Cultural Center rent European-system videos and DVDs. The Commissary has a library of videos and a few DVDs on the U.S. system. DVDs have the advantage that they often offer subtitles and/or dubbing in both English and French language. Black and white and color TV sets are available locally, but are generally expensive. For more information on video equipment, see Recreation and Social Life.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:15 AM

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

More than 15 French-language daily newspapers are published in Mali: L'Essor, Les Echos, and Nouvel Horizon are examples. L'Essor, the official government newspaper, is the oldest and perhaps most influential in Mali. It contains local news and a limited amount of international news. A weekly edition, L'Essor Hébdo, centers primarily on social issues. A private company that also publishes novels, books, and news on tapes publishes Les Echos.

In addition to the three daily newspapers, there are about 30 weekly publications including L'Aurore, La Roue, Le Tambour, L'Observateur, Le Democrate, Le Malien, and Le Républicain. These deal primarily with local news. Specialized publications such as Le Scorpion and La Cigale Muselée (satire) or Kabako and L'Inspecteur (crime) appear bi-weekly.

Foreign newspapers and magazines, in English and in French, can be purchased locally at and near grocery stores and hotels. The international editions of Newsweek and Time cost from $5 to $7 per issue; the International Herald Tribune costs about $2. These publications are somewhat less expensive by subscription; they are delivered by airmail several days after issue. Subscriptions from the U.S. through the pouch can take up to a month or more to arrive.

The Embassy publishes a weekly newsletter, Le Griot, which contains community news, announcements, and advertisements. It is available on the intranet or via e-mail: contact the CLO for details.

Health and Medicine Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:26 AM

See subsections on Health and Medicine.

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:15 AM


Medical Facilities

A State Department Regional Medical Officer (RMO), a local-hire nurse, a laboratory technician, and a receptionist staff the Health Unit, located on the Embassy compound. The unit, with an examination room, a room for overnight patient stays, a laboratory, and a pharmacy, is equipped to provide preventive, minor, and initial emergency medical care, including immunizations and limited dispensary services. The Unit is open Monday through Friday for routine medical services, with an on-call system for after-hour emergencies. Services are available to all U.S. Government employees, their family members, and personnel as approved by the Ambassador after they have obtained the proper medical clearance usually done before arrival in Mali.

The Health Unit maintains a list of local physicians available to treat U.S. personnel. Patients with eye problems may be referred to IOTA, a research center for eye diseases staffed by French and Malian ophthalmologists. Few local physicians speak fluent English and bedside manner differs from that of U.S. doctors.

Dental care in Bamako is very limited. Although simple or temporary work can be handled in Bamako, the quality of complicated work such as crowns, inlays, and partials is inconsistent and such services may be unavailable. Be sure to have a thorough dental checkup and complete all dental work before departing for Mali.

A local optician is available who can grind prescription lenses; the selection of frames is limited and very expensive. Bring extra pairs of prescriptions glasses. Contact lenses and solutions are not available. Because of the heavy dust, eyewashes are useful for everyone and particularly for contact lens wearers.

Local pharmacies are not well stocked; supplies of even simple remedies and common drugs are limited or nonexistent at times. Medications available are generally European brands; familiar American medications are not stocked. The embassy pharmacy does not routinely stock over-the-counter U.S. items. Commissary supplies may be limited, so you are advised to bring Band-Aids, cough syrup, etc. in your household effects.

Hospital care in Bamako is inadequate. Two public hospitals are located in Bamako: Point G and Gabriel Touré. The private clinic, Clinique Pasteur, has a trauma unit. Hospitals do not meet minimum standards for sanitation and lack services, trained personnel, basic supplies, and equipment. The Health Unit can usually provide initial emergency medical services.

Persons with stable medical problems that cannot be handled at post are evacuated to London.

It is advisable to bring your latest eyeglasses or lenses prescription or prescriptions for drugs that you take regularly such as contraceptive pills. You can register a long-term prescription with your local U.S. dispensary prior to departure. Web sites for the larger pharmacies such as allow you to reorder drugs if you have a prescription registered with them. Prescription medications or lenses can be shipped through the pouch and are prioritized if labeled "Prescription Medicine-Air Pouch."

Community Health Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:15 AM

Community Health

Standards of community sanitation and public cleanliness in Bamako are poor. Local health and sanitation control measures to protect public health are inadequate.

Bamako's garbage collection system is erratic and not adequate for the size of the city. The Embassy provides garbage collection to all government-leased and owned houses once a week. Only a small area of Bamako is served by a sewage system, and open sewers exist even in the better city sections. Most American homes have their own septic tanks.

Local water supplies are not safe. Bamako's public water supply is chlorinated, and water is potable when it leaves the filtration plant, but the distribution system is inadequate and contamination may occur.

Geckos are common inside homes and they leave feces on walls and surfaces, which must therefore be cleaned frequently.

During the rainy season particularly, and at other times of the year, the city is infested with flies, mosquitoes, and other insects. Personnel are advised to bring a large supply of mosquito repellents in their shipment to post.

Good household insecticides are available but are more expensive than in the U.S. and are often strongly scented. Bring special insecticides for roses and other outside plants and for mosquitoes, other flying insects, and ants inside the house.

Locally (commercially) bottled beverages and processed foods are generally of satisfactory quality. Fresh milk is not safe to drink unless first pasteurized, but you can buy imported UHT-treated, long-life milk in sterile packages. Refrigerated fresh meats and poultry are available in the larger groceries.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:16 AM

Preventive Measures

Sanitation and disease prevention and treatment practices in Mali are not highly developed. The typical diseases associated with poor, under-developed countries are found here. Among endemic diseases in Mali, malaria is one of the most serious. It affects nearly all the population and is a major cause of infant mortality. Also endemic are schistosomiasis (bilharzias, which causes bladder, liver, and intestinal damage), trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), onchocerciasis (river blindness), tuberculosis, and rabies. Other diseases present in Mali are meningitis, yellow fever, and cholera. Intestinal diseases such as amoebic and bacterial dysentery are common.

For Americans in Bamako, the risk of disease is reduced considerably by following recommended disease prevention practices, keeping up with immunizations and booster shots while at post, and by using malaria prophylaxis. Most illnesses suffered by Americans could be encountered anywhere; diarrhea and minor intestinal problems, colds and respiratory infections, and eye and skin irritations periodically spread through the community. The heavy dust exacerbates asthma and other respiratory problems. You will probably need a time of physical adjustment to tropical heat. More rest, more fluids, and more salt intake are essential.

Before leaving for post, have necessary immunizations, start malaria suppressants, fill long-term prescriptions, and take care of needed dental work. American personnel are routinely immunized against typhoid, yellow fever, tetanus, diphtheria, polio, hepatitis A and B, meningococcal meningitis, and rabies, with booster doses for measles. Start immunizations early. More than one injection is required for several of the immunizations, and a specified time must lapse between them.

Malarial suppressants must be taken throughout your entire tour in Bamako. Mefloquine (taken weekly), the recommended suppressant for this area, should be started one week before arrival and continued for four weeks after departure. Alternatives to mefloquine are doxycycline, primaquine, and malarone, all taken daily. All malaria suppressants are available in the Health Unit.

Other precautions against malaria include keeping your house well screened, using mosquito netting (provided by Embassy) around beds, using insect repellent on exposed skin, and minimizing time out of doors at night.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:16 AM


Many eligible family members who wish to work are able to find some type of employment in Bamako. Although virtually no jobs are available on the local market, some employment opportunities exist within the American community and with other international and private organizations.

Several FMA/PIT (Family Member Appointment, part-time, intermittent, temporary) positions, mostly clerical/administrative, are available within the Embassy. These positions, such as RSO Secretary, General Services Assistant, Courier/Escort, and Community Liaison Officer), range from part-time to full-time. USAID occasionally has contract vacancies for which eligible family members are encouraged to apply. Position vacancies are announced in the mission newsletter. Family members are advised to obtain as much training as possible (e.g. the 26-day consular course) when passing through Washington. Some level of French is desired for all positions and eligible family members are encouraged to get as much French language training as possible before coming to post.

There are sometimes positions available at the American school for qualified administrators, teachers (including teachers of English as a second language), teacher's aides, and substitute teachers. Participation in the FSI English-teaching course before departing the U.S. is good preparation, especially for those with no teaching experience.

The American Community Service Association (ACSAM) positions of commissary manager and sales clerk are open to eligible family members when vacancies occur.

Job opportunities for children of employees (aged 16-24) are available through the Embassy Overseas Summer Hire Program, which is contingent upon funding availability.

Eligible Family Members who are interested in employment should contact either the CLO or the Human Resources Officer for current employment information. It is helpful if you e-mail a resume before coming to post. Jobs are also advertised in the Embassy newsletter available via the CLO.

Opportunities for volunteer activities in Bamako exist for those who speak French or local languages.

American Embassy - Bamako

Post City Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:17 AM


Bamako, the capital of Mali and its largest city, has a population of approximately 1,000,000. The city, situated on the banks of the Niger, is expanding rapidly along both sides of the river. Three bridges cross the Niger, one a submersible bridge not passable during the rainy season.

Most of the houses in Bamako are low, mud-walled compounds built along unpaved streets. Increasingly, however, more modern, cement-walled "villas" with small gardens are being built. Malian Government officials, prosperous merchants, and most members of the small foreign community live in quiet residential neighborhoods, some near the river and others in outlying areas of the city.

The cliffs of Koulouba, a short distance away, overlooks the city and river below. Above, on the Koulouba Plateau, are located the Presidential Palace, several government ministries, and the Point G Hospital.

Unlike many of the coastal cities of West Africa, Bamako is truly African. It has in fact been called "the most African of all African cities." It is a bustling city, traffic is congested and the streets are filled with cars, mobylettes, bâchées (vans or passenger pickups), street vendors, and herds of animals, pushcarts, and pedestrians.

The American Embassy lies in the center of Bamako's business district at the intersection of Rue Mohammed V and Avenue, Rochester, NY. Within walking distance from the Embassy are numerous street merchants, small outdoor markets, and boutiques selling everything from kitchen utensils to blue jeans. The Grand Marché, formerly the greatest concentration of artisans and merchants in Bamako, burned to the ground in 1993. A temporary open-air market housing many of the Grand March‚'s former merchants has evolved along the Koulikoro Road. Handicrafts available in Bamako's shops and marches include batik, tie-dye, and mudcloth fabrics, patchwork cloth, woven blankets, bronze figures, African trade beads, amber, wood carvings, gold and silver jewelry (sold by the gram), and many other items.

Government buildings, many in the French-developed Sudanic style similar to Mali's mosques, line Bamako's shady streets. Two landmarks in the city are the 17-story Hotel de l'Amiti‚, built by the Egyptian Government, and the Grand Mosquée, whose minarets can be seen from a distance. The Hotel Salam and the Residance Kome are the two international standard hotels that the Mission mainly utilizes. The Hotel de l'Amiti‚ is in a rather dilapidated state of repair, and is no longer used to house visitors, but has a wonderful view, overlooking the river, and the only golf course in the city. Also overlooking the river and the city's newest and tallest building is the Central Bank of West African CFA Zone, (B.C.E.A.O.). Other points of interest in and around Bamako include the Palace of Culture (a large auditorium) across the river, the Artisanat, where local artisans make and sell gold and silver jewelry, ebony carvings, and leatherwork; the National Museum, a small ethnographic museum; a botanical garden and zoo.

Security Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:11 AM

See sections on "Driving in Mali" and "Transportation" for security advisory.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:18 AM

The Post and Its Administration

The U.S. opened an Embassy in Bamako on September 24, 1960; 2 days after Mali proclaimed its independence. The USAID mission was established the next year, the Peace Corps in 1969. The Department of Defense (DOD), National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have all recently set up offices in Bamako. The Ambassador, assisted by the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), is responsible for all Mission activities. All heads of agencies in Mali report directly to the Ambassador. The Managment Section provides ICASS services to all agencies at post.

The Embassy is located at the corner of Rue Mohammed V and Rue de Rochester in downtown Bamako. Office hours are Monday to Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Phone numbers are (223) 22.54.70, 22.48.35 and 22.36.78. The Embassy Fax number is (223) 22.37.12. Web: The Marine Security Guard handles inquiries received at the Embassy after hours and refers them to the appropriate officials.

USAID offices are located near the Banque de Developpement de Mali (BDM) in the Quartier du Fleuve. The main telephone number for USAID is (223) 22.36.02; the Fax number is (223) 22.39.33. Other direct lines to USAID are:

(223) 22.39.35, (223) 22.38.72 and (223) 22.39.71 Web:

Peace Corps offices are located in the Niarela neighborhood; the telephone numbers are (223) 22.44.79 and (223) 22.35.53, the Fax number is (223) 22.33.69. Web:

The three-story Chancery building houses the offices of the Ambassador, DCM, and Regional Security Officer, as well as those of the political, economic, consular, communications officers, and DAO. The Marine Security Guard Detachment provides 24-hour security at the Chancery. The Management Office, Health Unit ,the Human Resources Office, Financial Management, Embassy Cashier, Community Liaison Offices, and motor pool are located on the Personal Services compound across the street from the Chancery. The General Services Office compound is located in the Ouolofobougou neighborhood about 3 miles from the Embassy.

The Mission opened a new Cultural Center in October 2000, which houses a library, auditorium, and other public rooms. The Public Affairs program provides educational and cultural exchange programs, library and information services, film and VTR presentations, and cultural programs such as lectures and concerts.

The Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working with the Government of Mali (GRM) since 1961 when it first provided assistance in three main areas: education, training, and food production, with an emphasis on improving livestock production and rural infrastructure. From 1968 to 1974 the AID Regional Office in Dakar handled a scaled-down economic assistance program to Mali; this involved administering activities begun during the previous period and identifying projects of a regional nature in which Mali could participate. USAID currently administers a $39 million program in Mali, directed at education, health, economic growth, democratic governance and regional programming.

The Peace Corps program was established in 1969 when an agreement was signed between the Government of Mali and the U.S. The first small group of volunteers began serving in 1971. The largest Peace Corps in Africa, there are approximately 200 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Mali in health, education, agriculture, environment, and small business development programs.

A Joint Mamagement Office (JMO) provides management support for the Mission, via ICASS, to State, USAID, Peace Corps, NIH, DOD, and CDC. The Health Unit provides medical assistance for all U.S. Mission staff and family members. The Community Liaison Office coordinators assist new arrivals and serves as a source of information for the community and as a coordinators of community activities.

Housing Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:12 AM

Review subsections on "Housing".

Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:18 AM


Temporary Quarters

Incoming employees are generally assigned to permanent quarters immediately upon arrival, or to a U.S. Government-leased temporary house, if permanent quarters are not yet ready. Temporary duty personnel generally stay in either the Residence Komé or the Hotel Salam.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:18 AM

Permanent Housing

American personnel live in houses that are quite spacious, with outdoor terraces or screened patios. The yards and gardens tend to be small but are surrounded by walls that provide privacy and security. All government-leased houses in Bamako have swimming pools, with an average size of 8,000 gallons.

The Embassy owns five residences, including the Ambassador's and the DCM's residences that are located in an older neighborhood by the river. Houses for all other personnel are leased by the parent agency.

Residences are usually one-story, cement-walled houses with a living room, dining area, kitchen, and three or four bedrooms and at least two full bathrooms. There are storage rooms and a laundry area, often located outside, separate from the house. Generators are located in a separate enclosure outdoors. Daily maintenance of the pool is the responsibility of the employee and cost of repairs are borne by the property owner.

Furnishings Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:19 AM


All government-leased and owned housing is furnished with basic furniture and major appliances. The following is a list of items typically provided:

Living Room: sofa, armchairs, coffee table, end tables, lamps, bookcase(s), and carpet Dining Room: dining table, 6-8 chairs, china cabinet, and buffet Bedrooms: queen-size or twin beds, dresser, chest, night stands, lamps and mirror Patio: table, chairs, side tables, and chaise lounge Appliances: refrigerator, upright freezer, stove, washing machine, dryer, vacuum cleaner, microwave, and air-conditioners for the living area and each occupied bedroom. Miscellaneous: desk, desk chair, faucet water filter, fire extinguishers, 2-3 smoke detectors, 2-3 transformers, generator, outdoor trash can(s), ladder, lawnmower, garden hose and garden tools.

Post has a limited stock of portable cribs, which can be provided to families until household shipments arrive. Baby equipment such as carriages, strollers, changing tables, baby swings, and walkers should be shipped to post.

Houses are provided with draperies. A limited curtain allowance is available for purchase of new and replacement curtains. Window sizes are not standardized; curtains should be purchased after arrival at post, either locally, or through catalog companies.

Besides essential kitchen and household equipment, the following small appliances are useful in Bamako: iron, electric mixer, blender, pressure cooker, meat grinder, hair dryer, non-electric clocks (differences in cycle speed cause electronic clocks to lose time), and additional transformers and stabilizers. Also nice to have are a juicer, toaster, ice cream maker, coffee maker, bread machine and food processor. Purchase 220v appliances if possible; if not, transformers for 110v American appliances can be used. However, 110 volt appliances that heat, such as iron, corn popper, waffle iron and toaster will not work properly with a transformer because they heat at only half the amperage necessary.

Suggested outdoor furnishings to bring to post include: barbecue grill and tools; children's play equipment such as swings, wading pools, and pool toys for the whole family.

Miscellaneous furnishings not provided at post include: clothes hangers, ironing board, wastebaskets, blankets, bathroom rugs, shower curtains and hooks, bathroom accessories, pictures and decorative items.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:19 AM

Utilities and Equipment

Electrical current in Bamako is 220v, 50-cycle, AC. Transformers are needed to operate 110v American appliances. Two or three transformers are provided in each house; if additional transformers are desired, they should be purchased in the U.S., as none are available on the local market. One or two 220V surge suppressers are provided per household. If you believe you will need more, buy them in the U.S., as they are absolutely essential for protecting stereos, TVs, computers, etc. Surge protectors are sensitive to polarity. If the polarity of the transformer is reversed, the surge strip will immediately blow. Post maintenance can check transformer polarity for you to help prevents problems such as this from occurring. You are encouraged to bring surge protection for your personal phones and/or computer modems. Surges over the phone lines are not uncommon and a protector will prevent an expensive repair.

Most American appliances are 60-cycle. Stereos, CD players, and tape recorders should be converted to 50 cycles before leaving for post. Other 60-cycle, motor-driven appliances will work with appropriate transformers but operate at only 5/6 normal speed. Non-electric clocks are a necessity for this reason. European-style, round-prong sockets make converter plugs necessary for 220v appliances to be plugged directly into the wall. (General Electronics, Inc., in Washington, DC carries 220v appliances and converter plugs; they will also convert appliances from 60 cycles to 50 cycles.) Contact the Overseas Briefing Center at FSI/NFATC for a listing of other stores in the DC area, or see web sites such as

Municipal electric power is often undependable, and voltage fluctuations and power outages are common. Circuit breakers often trip if several appliances are used at the same time. Homes are wired for two to three different electrical phases, thus a partial blackout may occur where there is electricity in some parts of the house and not others. Bring candles and flashlights for blackouts and for walking out after dark. Portable 110 Volt UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) will not work through a transformer. A 220v model must be purchased to work properly in Mali. Although somewhat pricey, a 220v UPS can be purchased locally. Generators have been installed in homes of U.S. Government employees USG to meet minimum electrical requirements during power outages.

Plumbing in government-leased housing is adequate. There are occasional water shortages and low water pressure. Tap water may become cloudy during the rainy season. Embassy residences are provided with a faucet water-filter system, and all USG houses have hot water heaters.

Cooking is done on gas stoves, fueled by outdoor butane gas tanks provided by GSO. Butagas may also be used for outdoor gas grills but the adapter has to be changed to fit the local cylinder.

Food Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:19 AM


Shopping for food in Bamako usually requires going to several locations for the items on a list. There are open-air markets, several small grocery stores, tiny neighborhood boutiques, bakeries, and butchers. Door-to-door vendors sell fish, pork, and vegetables. A good variety of food can be found in Bamako. Stores and boutiques generally have fixed prices and are open between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and again between 3:30 and 8 p.m., except on Sundays, when most places are either closed or only open until 1 p.m. The market is bustling at almost any time of the day although some vendors close for a long lunch break. There are no fixed prices, so bargaining is in order.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are sold in outdoor markets or by vendors who come to the door. A variety of fruits and vegetables are grown, although availability, quality, and price depend upon the season. Vegetables are generally available year round, including potatoes, onions, leeks, garlic, parsley, celery (very small stalks, mostly leaves, but adequate for cooking), lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, green bell peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, and okra. Available for short periods in season are beets, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, spinach, corn (field corn), turnips, green cabbage, peas, green onions, and sweet potatoes. Fruits available in season are mangoes, papayas, bananas, guavas, coconut, pineapples, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, strawberries, watermelon, melon, and avocados. Local fresh fruits and vegetables are generally less expensive than in the U.S. Imported apples are available most of the year and on occasion, other fruits and vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus, endives, mushrooms, Pascal celery, peaches, cherries, pears, grapes, nectarines and apricots can be found in the grocery stores. Imported fruits and vegetables are imported from France and Lebanon and are extremely expensive.

Peanuts are available year round in the market; almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachio nuts are available in the stores at high prices. Herbs and spices are also found in the market: mint, fresh ginger, basil, hot pepper, caraway seeds, cilantro (Chinese parsley), bay leaves, nutmeg, lemon grass (citronella), peppercorns, salt, curry, bouillon cubes, and many local spices, such as ground baobab leaves. Imported spices are available at very high prices in the grocery stores.

Mali also raises good beef, pork, and mutton, which are sold in the market and in several small butcher shops. Beef and mutton purchased in the open market are freshly butchered and should be frozen before use. Beef is quite flavorful, but very lean and often tough so it is useful to bring meat tenderizers and marinades to post. The French style of cut is available, though some butchers can do U.S. cuts. Fresh meat is not expensive by U.S. standards; filet sells for about $2.50 a pound. Chickens are frequently skinny and tough. Imported bacon, ham, sausages, and pâtés are available in the grocery stores and butcher shops, but are relatively expensive.

Chicken, turkey, pigeon, guinea hen, and rabbit are also sold in the market, as are river fish (Nile Perch or capitaine) and carp. Both poultry and fresh fish are expensive by U.S. standards. Frozen shrimp is sold in grocery stores at very high prices. Canned seafood and fish (tuna, salmon, etc.) are also available.

Eggs are available in the market and stores. Fresh milk can be found but must be boiled before use. UHT (ultra-high temperature) long-life milk is sold both in whole, 2%, and skimmed forms; it does not need refrigeration until opened. Powdered whole milk (full cream), butter (salted and unsalted), and margarine are available, as is long-life cream. There is a good selection of European cheeses (Gouda, Edam, Cheddar, Roquefort, Camembert, Brie, Gruyere, several other French and Lebanese cheeses, and goat's milk cheese), but these are over $10 per pound. Cottage cheese, mozzarella, and cream cheese are usually available. Imported crème fraîche (cultured cream), whipping cream, yogurt, and ice cream are available, but very expensive. Mali Lait, the local milk producer, has passed Embassy Health Unit tests on its milk, yogurt, and ice cream but their products have a short shelf life. Yogurt makers and ice cream freezers are useful items to ship to post but it is also possible to make (or teach your cook to make) these items at home without special equipment. Infrequent shortages of staples such as butter, eggs, milk, and sugar do occur.

Several grocery stores and neighborhood shops offer a variety of packaged goods and canned items such as fruits, juices, vegetables, soups, fish, and meat. The quality of some of the canned goods available is not as high as equivalent American items. Paper products, dairy products, sausages, ham, and cold cuts are available. Also found are liquors, a wide selection of wines (mostly French but some Spanish, Australian, and a few Californian), local and European beer, soft drinks, and fruit juices; cookies and crackers; jams and honey; soaps, detergents, and cleaning products; coffee and tea; spaghetti, macaroni and couscous; oils, vinegar, sauces and condiments; cocoa and spices. There are even some specialty items for Chinese and Vietnamese cooking such as soy sauce and rice wrappers for spring rolls. Most of the items stocked in the stores are imported from Europe but some U.S. products introduced to Europe end up on local shelves. Imported items are expensive. For example, five kilograms (11 pounds) of laundry detergent costs about $32.00, a liter of cream can be $16.00, a kilogram of cheese costs around $22.75.

Jars of baby food and baby cereal are sold in the stores; however, there is not much variety; they are expensive and items are often out of stock. High quality European baby formulas are usually available in the pharmacies and are less expensive than American brands.

Local bakeries carry French-style bread (baguettes), pastries, and pain de mie, loaf-style breads similar to, but heavier than, American bread. Whole wheat and white flour is available, though most people either bring their own or buy from the Commissary. Cake and cookie decorating items and food colorings are available in limited variety at some of the shops.

Canned pet food is sold in the grocery stores. Most pet owners prefer to have pet food prepared at home, using rice, meat, and vegetable scraps. Pet products such as flea collars, worm medicines, heartworm medication, and shampoos, rawhide chew bones and toys are not available and should be brought to post.

Malian, French, and some American brands of cigarettes can be found. Pipe tobaccos are not available but Middle Eastern apple tobacco often is.

The American Community Services Association of Mali (ACSAM) operates a small commissary for U.S. Government employees and contractors who have duty-free privileges. The commissary carries American foodstuffs such as cereal, baking goods, frosting, brown and confectioners sugar, vanilla and other extracts, unsweetened chocolate, chocolate chips, cake and pancake mixes and shortening. Also, sauces, condiments, pickles, jams, syrups, peanut butter, canned soups (mushroom, tomato, etc.), cereals, gelatins, puddings, candy, nuts, cookies, crackers, juices, liquors and wines, Chinese and Mexican food products, personal products, cleaning products and paper goods are all available but in limited quantity and variety. Commissary deposits are currently $250 for single and $500 for family memberships and may be paid in installments; the deposit is refunded in full on departure from post. However, this is likely to change to a non-refundable fee system (around $50 per member) in the future. Transportation expenses make many commissary items more expensive than their U.S. counterparts; shipments are sometimes irregular and supplies are limited.

Employees posted to Mali are currently granted a consumables allowance of 2,500 pounds, intended to offset difficulties caused by shortage, expense, or unavailability of items at post. Some employees ship none or only part of the allowance before arrival and the remainder later when they know the availability and prices of items locally. Check favorite recipes for special ingredient needs and request catalogs from mail-order grocery outlets for ideas for consumable shipments. You might want to include laundry soap, your favorite cleaning supplies, paper items (such as baby diapers, toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissue, sanitary products), ethnic foods, beauty supplies and cosmetics or anything you do not wish to live without. You can check beforehand with your sponsor or contact in Mali whether particular items are available at post.

Clothing Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:15 AM


Clothing among Malians is predominantly African in style, although young men often wear Western styles for everyday. Styles for men include the zerebou, a long tunic over pants, or for dressier wear, a grand boubou, a long, large embroidered robe worn over a short tunic and pants. Only a small number of women wear Western clothing. For everyday, women wear a blouse and a pagne, a length of cloth wrapped around the waist to make a long skirt. On formal occasions, women wear a boubou, a long flowing robe, over a pagne. Many women have elaborately braided hairstyles and often wear a scarf wound around their heads.

Among the expatriate community, Western-style clothing is worn: slacks, shirts, skirts, dresses, blouses, etc. Casual, lightweight, loose, summery styles are worn most of the time. Cotton and cotton-blend fabrics are preferable because of the heat. Clothing should be durable and washable; it is very dusty during the dry season and muddy during the rainy season. Clothing wears out quickly because it must be washed frequently due to the climate. Fairly reliable dry-cleaning is available.

Western-style clothing is available in some boutiques but prices are generally high and quality is not good. Once at post, many people order clothing and shoes from U.S. mail order companies. The Community Liaison Office maintains a collection of catalogs for this purpose. Also, many local tailors can copy a garment from a picture or sample, although the quality varies depending on cost. Ask colleagues or the CLO to recommend a tailor in your area. Available fabrics are largely the European white damask cotton, locally known as bazin, and locally woven heavy cottons; these are dyed (using the tie-dye or batik techniques for which Mali is renowned) and sometimes embroidered to produce beautiful and serviceable (mainly casual) clothes. A limited supply and variety of imported fabrics is available, and one store sells a selection of European furnishing fabrics. Patterns are not available and the supply of sewing notions (thread, buttons, zippers and trims) is good, but not of the same quality as in the US.

Shoes and sandals should be low-heeled, sturdy, and comfortable. There are very few sidewalks, and those that exist are very uneven, so shoes wear out quickly from the dirt and rubble. For this reason, as well as the pollution, the heat, and traffic risks to pedestrians, few expatriates walk very far in Bamako. Sandals can be worn most of the year and are practical because of the heat. Suede will be soon damaged because of the prevalence of heavy dust followed by rains and mud. Shoes and sandals, mostly of synthetic materials, can be found at the market, but the selection of styles and sizes is small and the quality varies from fair to poor. Handcrafted leather purses and flat or low-heeled sandals can be made to order or purchased off the rack at the Artisanat. Plastic sandals and flip-flops for adults and children are sold in the market. Be sure to bring shoe polishes and extra shoelaces.

Bring sports attire, such as tennis wear, exercise leotards, and good sports shoes, etc. Also, bring several bathing suits, as chlorinated water tends to wear them out quickly. Lightweight jackets or sweaters are needed occasionally during the cool season and an umbrella is useful during the rainy season. Nylon stockings are uncomfortable because of the heat and are rarely worn. Bring lightweight hats for protection against the sun. Some warm, winter-type clothing for all family members is necessary in case of travel (vacations, trainings, TDYs or evacuation) to cooler climates.

See subsections on "Children" and "Office Attire"

Men Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:16 AM

See Main Section "Clothing"

Women Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:16 AM

See Main Section "Clothing"

Children Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:20 AM


For children, be sure to bring a generous supply of summer clothing. Heat and dust often necessitate several changes a day. Playwear should include shorts, pants, jeans, sundresses, tee shirts, swimsuits, sandals, sneakers, and sun hats. Dress for school is informal. Local tailors make charming children's clothes in colored cotton. Other items to bring for children are cotton underwear, socks, pajamas, a light-weight jacket, several sweaters, some winter wear and a coat for travel to cooler climates. For infants, bring a large supply of cloth and disposable diapers, diaper pins, and rubber pants. Disposable diapers are sometimes available on the local economy but are very expensive. American-style rubber pants are not available. Some baby clothes are available but the variety is small and the quality is poor. Cotton undershirts, cotton pajamas, and summer-weight infant wear should be brought to post. Don't forget extra shoes in several sizes for rapidly growing toddlers. Flip-flops and plastic sandals for children are available in the market. Bring baby towels, washcloths, crib sheets, and cotton baby blankets.

Office Attire Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:21 AM

Business Attire

Business dress is more casual than in the U.S.: short-sleeved shirts worn without a tie, sports shirts and pants for men; lightweight casual dresses, suits, and skirts and blouses for women. Dress at informal evening functions is generally casual: sports shirts, pants, short or long dresses and skirts, etc. For receptions and cocktail parties, suit or sports coat and tie, and cocktail dresses are appropriate. Only a few formal affairs are held during the year, including the Marine Corps Ball in November. Proper dress for these affairs is suit and tie for men and long or short evening/cocktail dresses for women. The Ambassador and DCM may wear formal wear on occasion.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:21 AM


Although most basic everyday needs are found in Bamako, imported items are generally very expensive. The majority of brands are European, with some American products. If you do not want substitutes for favorite items and brands, then ship these items to post. The following are suggested items for shipment to Bamako.

Remember that soaps and cleaning products must be packed separately from foodstuffs; otherwise, the heavy perfumes will permeate edible items.

Also remember to pack in your air shipment or your airline luggage any supplies for holidays, birthdays, etc. that you will celebrate at post before your household effects shipment arrives.

General Household Items: The following items are available locally at reasonable prices: clothespins, general-purpose liquid soaps for housecleaning and dishwashing, scouring powders, hand soaps, steel wool and plastic scrub pads, good quality plastic buckets and tubs, laundry baskets and handmade clothes hampers, dustpans, dusters and cleaning cloths, spray insecticides, flashlights, and size D and AA batteries only.

Bring the following items: an ironing board, flat rubber sink stoppers, clothes hangers, garment bags, and shelf paper. For small household repairs, bring a basic tool kit including a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, saw, and a drill with masonry bits. Miscellaneous masonry screws and nails are also useful to bring: while hardware items such as this can be purchased in the market it can take time to locate them. Super glue, masking tape, electric tape, tacks, and picture-hanging wire and nail-in hooks are not available here. (Stick-on picture hooks rapidly dry out and fall off the wall.) An outdoor thermometer, which registers temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius degrees, is interesting to have. Mops and brooms, are available, but wear out quickly so it is useful to bring them along with many replacement heads. . Laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and stain removers are available, but are expensive.

The following are not available: fly swatters, pre-soaks and starch, silver, brass, and furniture polishes. Size D and AA batteries are produced locally; other sizes are not consistently available and are relatively expensive, so bring any specialized batteries your camera, remote controls, clocks, and watches may require.

Kitchen Items: Bring all of your usual pots and pans; bake ware, kitchen utensils and knives and enough dishes, glassware, silverware and serving dishes to serve about twelve. Party supplies such as stem and straight glasses, silverware, and extra tablecloths and coolers can be borrowed from GSO as available for larger dinners and parties. Also, bring freezer containers and airtight canisters or containers for staples such as flour, sugar, rice, etc., to keep them sealed from insects. The few sealable plastic containers sold here are expensive. Canning jars are useful for storing homemade jellies, jams, and chutneys made with seasonal fruits. Because of the hot climate, people drink more liquids; bring several water pitchers, beverage jugs, a thermos, an ice bucket and tongs, and additional ice cube trays. Strong plastic cups are useful for drinks outdoors, and particularly to avoid having glasses in the pool area. Small covered kitchen garbage pails can be purchased here. A large supply of kitchen towels and dishcloths is important as they wear out quickly. Paper towels, aluminum foil and freezer bags are available, but expensive. Plastic wrap and zip-lock type bags (also necessary to keep out ants and weevils) are not available, nor is waxed paper. Paper plates and cups are quite expensive here. Bring cookbooks with color pictures (or even in French, if possible), which are useful if you plan to hire a cook. Dish drainers/racks and sink mats are usually available at the one or two home-décor stores; locally made and imported potholders are available but often of low quality. Knife sharpeners, oven thermometers, kitchen timers, and other miscellaneous items are not available in Bamako. It may be useful to bring a kitchen scale that shows both the metric and imperial (pounds and ounces) system. Mali uses the metric system, as do the French, so any recipes in a language your cook can read are likely to have metric measurements.

See section on Utilities and Equipment regarding kitchen appliances.

Linens: Sheets, pillowcases, and lightweight blankets should be brought to post. Beds are either queen or twin size. Mosquito nets are provided. If available, pillows may be provided but you should bring your own. Bring bath towels, beach towels, washcloths, and bath mats. A wide selection of attractive hand-dyed cotton tablecloths, napkins, and place mats are available locally at good prices and fit most table sizes. (They also make good gifts.) Dining tables are oval or rectangular and seat 8-12 persons. Cloth napkins are practical, as paper napkins are imported and expensive. You may also want to bring cocktail napkins and coasters and some paper napkins for holidays, birthdays, etc.

Bathroom: Most houses have more than one full bathroom. Shower curtains, shower rings, and toilet brushes are not provided. It is important to bring Bathroom throw rugs and non-skid mats or adhesive strips for the bathtub because floor tiles are often slippery and tubs can be awkward to climb into. Extra towel racks are also useful.

Toiletries: Most basic toiletries can be found in Bamako. They are generally low-quality imported products and are expensive. Good European-brand shampoos, deodorants, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shaving cream, disposable razors, suntan lotions, sunscreens, moisturizers, and feminine hygiene products are available but relatively expensive. Razor blades to fit American razors, hair conditioners and home permanent, dental floss, and disposable "Wash 'n' Dri"-type towelettes are not available. Bring lots of insect repellent; the locally available insect repellent is greasy and heavily perfumed. Some cosmetics and nail care products are available, though the selection of colors and types is limited. You should bring your favorite brands of cosmetics and toiletries.

Medical Supplies: Bring a supply of household medicine chest items such as aspirin, Band-Aids, standard first aid supplies, birth control items, thermometer, heating pad, ice bag, vaporizer, diarrhea medication, products for insect bites, heat rash and sunburn, vitamin and mineral supplements, and baby needs such as diaper rash ointment, etc. Bring at least two extra pairs of prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses. The local French optician can grind lenses but the fee is high. Contact lens solutions and cleaning items are not available here. The Health Unit stocks a supply of drugs to meet emergency needs; however, you are expected to maintain your own stock of everyday items. Before leaving the U.S., arrange for a regular supply of any known needs for prescription medications. Several worldwide web pharmacies will mail order health, drug, and sundry items.

Office Supplies: Basic office and paper supplies can be found locally, but standard sizes of paper and envelopes are different from equivalent American items. You might want to bring the following: greeting and note cards, staples, rubber bands, paper clips, string, regular and legal-size envelopes and computer paper, Scotch tape, a pencil sharpener and correct-it tape, (white-out dries out). Printer ink cartridges tend to dry out unless kept in a permanently air-conditioned room. Bring a supply of American postage stamps and at least a year's supply of extra bank deposit slips and checks. Printed address labels are very handy. A good French-English dictionary is also important to have.

Children: Bring toys, games, books, bicycles, videotapes and DVDs, etc. A limited variety of toys can be found here, but the prices are incredibly high and quality is low. Also, bring activity supplies such as crayons, coloring books, chalk, construction paper, paints, brushes, and paste. Most of these items are not available. Ordinary school supplies such as pencils, pens, tablets, and paper are all available and reasonably priced. For younger children and infants, bring booster chairs, car seats, bed guards, potty seats, a food grinder, baby bottles, etc. Bring birthday party supplies, invitations, cake decorations, candles, balloons, favors, etc. Don't forget birthday and holiday gifts for your children and a good supply of small birthday gifts and gift-wrap for other children's birthdays.

Home Entertainment: Many families in Bamako have video/DVD equipment. ACSAM runs a video/DVD club with American-system movies. You may want to arrange for someone in the States to record special programs for you. Also bring a stereo system, CD and/or cassette player, tapes, and CDs. Street vendors sell inexpensive audiocassette tapes and CDs. Bring camera/video equipment, film, batteries, etc. Don't forget film mailers; film can be developed here, but print quality is inconsistent and is expensive. A digital camera avoids having to develop film and gives you something to show local people immediately if you take their photograph.

The following computer equipment is available: Full representative of IBM, Compaq, Apple, Dell and the French brand Zenith. Bring or buy a good UPS with a built-in stabilizer that runs on 220 volts (50hz). Computer with modem, 56K is recommended, and printer ink cartridges (that must be kept in a permanently air-conditioned room). There is reliable technical service for repairs and upgrades from in-house staff and some local technicians can fix many problems. The brands listed above have good repair technicians.

Because of frequent power fluctuations, it is a good idea to bring several voltage regulator/stabilizers. They are expensive, but used along with a surge suppresser will afford the best protection for your investment. Voltage regulators should be sized according to the power consumption of your equipment. Remember that laser printers draw a lot of wattage. A general rule of thumb is to buy a regulator with twice the wattage of the equipment you are going to be using on it.

Sports and Games: Bring any sports equipment you are likely to require, such as tennis racquet and balls (there are several tennis courts and fees and lessons are inexpensive), softball gloves and bat (there are several regional tournaments for players of all levels), golf clubs (there is a nine-hole course), camping equipment (tent, sleeping bags, lanterns, coolers, floor mats, etc.), lawn games such as badminton and croquet, indoor games, playing cards, scorecards, fishing equipment, tack if you ride (riding lessons are inexpensive), and plenty of pool toys and games. Bird watching is good in many areas; if interested, bring binoculars and the Field Guide to West African Birds (see bibliography).

Pool Supplies: Chlorine and algicide, the most expensive swimming pool products, are available in Bamako. It is illegal to ship chlorine in airfreight, and may cause damage to the surface freight. Six gallons of algicide should last two years and is much safer to bring in the freight. Swimming pool chemicals may be shipped as surface HHE but not as UAB, although some moving companies may refuse to pack them due to potential liability. Employees should check with their assigned packer before purchasing large quantities of pool chemicals. "Pool shock" is a relatively inexpensive product that it very simple to use and lasts longer than locally available chemicals. Employees are strongly advised not to include chlorine in the same shipment with other consumable items. Bring pool toys such as rafts, noodles, inner tubes, balls, etc.

Vehicles: See section on Automobiles.

Hobbies: Bring musical instruments and sheet music. Needlework, sewing and craft supplies are difficult to find here; a list of mail-order sources for craft and hobby supplies is very useful. If you like to garden, bring gardening tools and flower and vegetable seeds for hot climates for you or your gardener to plant; common vegetable and flower seeds are available here. Snail/slug bait is good to bring along.

Holiday items: Bring supplies for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, etc. such as decorations for the house, special holiday recipes, foods and candies, and an artificial tree and ornaments for Christmas (these are incredibly expensive locally). Such items really help to bring holiday spirit to "faraway places." Also bring Christmas and holiday greeting cards, wrapping paper, ribbon, and holiday party supplies if you like to entertain. A small selection of Christmas and New Year's cards with African motifs are available locally.

Basic Services Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:21 AM

Basic Services

Many tailors in Bamako will make simple clothing, do piecework such as buttonholes, sew slipcovers and curtains, and do mending. Tailors make all types of clothing for women, in both Western and African styles; safari-type suits, pants, and shirts are the most common items for men. The work is generally reasonably priced and quality is usually fair.

Simple shoe, leather, purse, and watchband repairs can be done at the Artisanat. The work is done by hand, but is adequate and inexpensive.

Laundry is done at home, as government-furnished housing is supplied with a washer and dryer. Many people employ a domestic employee to do the washing and ironing. Dry-cleaning services are reasonably good, but not up to U.S. standards.

Bamako has several unisex hair salons that offer the usual services at moderate to high prices. Quality varies but most expatriates find a hairdresser that they like.

Bamako has radio repair shops, but parts for U.S. equipment are rare. The quality of work is improving. Repair service for other types of U.S.-manufactured equipment are not generally available in the city and must be ordered from the U.S.; however, local technicians with the proper parts are capable of doing basic repairs.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:22 AM

Domestic Help

Most American families employ domestic helpers who are available at reasonable wages. Cooks and cleaning staff may be male or female, although women are usually hired to care for children. The average family employs a housekeeper/cook and a gardener/pool man; they may be full- or part-time. Families with small children often have a nanny and some families employ a full-time cook in addition to a housekeeper. Servants rarely live in, although they can be asked to work in the evenings, and/or weekends; they are usually paid extra for these occasions. English-speaking domestics are rare; many will speak reasonable French, although fluency varies, and many domestics do not know how to read or write.

The Community Liaison Office may be able to assist in finding qualified household staff. Incoming employees often hire staff who have previously worked for other Westerners and who have proven their reliability. Most domestics seeking employment have attestations, letters of recommendation from former employees, which you should read. Domestic staff should have a physical examination and chest X-ray before employment, and annually thereafter. Upon request, the RSO will conduct local agency security employment checks on domestic staff as a courtesy to American employees.

The workweek is generally 5-6 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. Salaries, paid in CFA francs, range from $60 to $160 monthly, depending on the employees' responsibilities and experience. Food or an allowance for one meal per day and a transportation allowance may be provided. Some employers also provide coffee, tea, and sugar as well as a clothing allowance to buy uniforms. Although the employer is not obliged to give the employee bonuses for holidays, it is customary to give something at Ramadan and at Tabaski, the two major Muslim holidays in Mali, or at Christmas. Employees are entitled to a month's vacation each year, although extra pay may be given in lieu of vacation if mutually acceptable.

Unlike many countries, Mali has established a work code for household help that stipulates working hours, overtime pay requirements, probationary periods, vacation and sick leave policies, meal and uniform policies, salary increases, and compensation for termination of employees. The Human Resources Office has published a detailed booklet on employing domestics, including an explanation of the work code. "A Guide to Employment of Domestics in Mali" is available in the welcome folder.

A contribution is required for every 3-month period to the Malian social security system (INPS) for each employee, including during the trial period. This protects both employer and employee in case of accident or illness and provides hospitalization, a monthly stipend for each child of the employee, a pregnancy stipend, and retirement benefits to the employee. The Human Resources Office or the USAID EXO will handle payment of this contribution for you.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:22 AM

Religious Activities

Islam is the predominant religion in Mali. A large mosque is located in the center of Bamako, and many small neighborhood mosques are situated around the city.

There are also Catholic and Protestant churches in Bamako. Mass in French and Bambara is regularly celebrated at the large, centrally located Roman Catholic Cathedral, with a mass in English on Sunday mornings. Protestant services in English, French, and Bambara are held at a Protestant Church in town. Protestant Sunday school classes for teens and children, plus an Adult Bible Study group, are held at the American School on Sundays during the school year. There are also Jewish, Baha'i, and Jehovah's Witness communities in Mali but there is no synagogue.

Education Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:17 AM

See Subsections on "Education".

Dependent Education Last Updated: 8/23/2004 4:52 AM

Dependent Education

Enrollment plans should be made early for all schools as they fill up fast.

At Post:

The American International School of Bamako was established in January 1977 to provide an American curriculum for children from nursery to pre-kindergarten (from age 2) through 8th grade. For the school year 2004-2005, it offers pre-kindergarten (ages 3-4) through grade 10. Students in high school grades 11 and 12 can complete their course work through the Independent Study High School of the University of Nebraska ( AISB provides students with a distance learning coordinator, who assists them with all logistics of their study.

AISB is a private, non-profit institution governed by a school board of seven elected members, four U.S. passport holders and three citizens of other nations. The U.S. Ambassador has a non-voting representative, who attends all Board meetings. They are responsible for the governing policy and financial management of the school. The school is 95-percent funded by day-school tuition and fees. The school also receives grant monies from the Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools. Accreditation is by the Commission on Elementary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. AISB is currently adding high school grades through the Ascending Grades Protocol of the Middle States Association.

Admission to AISB is open to children from the official American community, American business and missionary groups, and other diplomatic and international organizations. School enrollment during the 2003-2004 school year included 110 students, representing some 30 nationalities.

In the same year, the faculty consisted of 10 direct-hire overseas teachers. Locally hired teachers for Art, Music, Drama and ESOL are licensed and trained in the U.S. and Canada. All French teachers are native speakers trained in France, Mauritania, and the U.S.

Course-work is based on a standard U.S. curriculum. Curriculum is published publicly and uses a U.S. standards-referenced format. Placement tests in mathematics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension are given to all new students. Admission is based on previous school achievement, age, and a personal interview. Further testing for placement is at the discretion of the AISB director. In addition to regular courses, students in grades Kindergarten through 10 take special classes or electives in art, music and drama, French and physical education. Classes of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), taught by a trained professional, are available to AISB students who are not fluent in English; an additional fee is charged for this. There is also an exciting after-school activities program for sports, games, and handicrafts, including African dance, drumming, and crafts.

Average class size is 10 to 12. There are no combined grades in elementary, middle school, or high school. Middle school students enjoy a program based on best-practice middle-school philosophy for grades 6, 7, and 8. The high school program follows best practice for a college preparatory curriculum.

AISB is currently located on rented land. The school buildings were constructed in 1982 and are located on a pleasant site near the eastern bank of the Niger River. There are twenty air-conditioned classrooms, a large multi-purpose room with stage, a well-stocked library, and a main office on three locations within a one-block area in a quiet suburb outside Bamako proper. Grounds for outdoor activities and physical education classes are located on campus. The school is equipped with playground equipment and all of the necessary texts and school materials. The campus includes two houses that serve as the Middle School/High School. Another villa houses the Early Learning Center for Pre-K and Kindergarten.

There is a computer lab with 16 stations using iMac computers. Computer use and instruction is completely integrated into the AISB curriculum at every level from Pre-K through grade 10. All students use the computer lab. Middle and High School students have a smaller satellite computer lab in the Middle/High School area. AISB has a radio connection to the broadband Internet connection of the provider used by most diplomatic and NGO institutions in Bamako. The school has continuous fast, reliable Internet service for all computers in the labs, library, and office. AISB has an Ethernet Intranet connecting computers within the school. The Middle/High School computer lab has a wireless connection to the main campus.

In 2001, AISB constructed a new library on the main campus, which houses 9,000 volumes for students in all grades along with a professional library for teachers. The library also offers computer resources, including internet, and uses a Follett Automated computer system for both catalogue and circulation.

In April 2003, in response to rising numbers, the American International School of Bamako purchased 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of land in Sotuba, an area of eastern Bamako on the Niger River. The school has hired a Project Manager and selected an architect and construction begins during the summer of 2004. The school anticipates a move to the new campus in 2006. The completed master plan includes 75 square meters of classrooms, a state of the art library and computer lab, a high school level science lab, competition-size swimming pool, soccer and track field, and an indoor performance space.

School is in session Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 2:10 p.m., with kindergarten finishing at 1:30 and pre-K at 11:30. There is a mid-morning snack break, plus a lunch recess. The academic year, which starts in late August and ends in mid-June, is divided into three trimesters and totals 175 school days.

Tuition for the 2004-2005 school year is $3,960.00 for pre-kindergarten, and $13,000.00 for kindergarten through grades 12. There is a one-time registration fee of $275, and a one-time capital development fee of $3,000.00, which includes all textbooks and materials. Pre-K students pay half the capital development fee on entry ($1,500.00) and the remaining $1,500.00 on entering Kindergarten. An educational allowance covers tuition and fees for direct-hire U.S. Government employees for kindergarten and above. Round-trip school transportation is provided for children of Embassy, AID, and DAO employees. Round-trip school-bus transportation is available for all children for an annual fee of $1,500.00.

Questions about the American School should be directed to the Community Liaison Office coordinator, or to the school (AISB, 2050 Bamako Place, DOS, Dulles, VA 20189). The telephone for the school is (223) 222 4738. Fax is (223) 222 0853. Email: AISB has a complete web site with current photos at Families can register students electronically.

A Christian Missionary School is located near the current AISB site.

There is also a French-language school, Lycée Français Liberté A, for French citizens and other French-speaking foreign children. Among the over one thousand children, thirty-one nationalities are represented, including French, American, German, Malian and Russian. Liberté A provides primary classes from grades 1 through 5, and secondary grades equivalent to American grades 6 through 12. Secondary studies are preparatory to the French baccalaureate degree. Liberté A usually only allows French-speaking children into its program, and preferably those younger children who have already attended a French school or kindergarten.

Students attend Liberté A from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, although the primary school does not usually operate on Saturdays, while higher grades have some afternoon classes from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The 35-week school year starts in early September and runs through June.

Tuition for school year 2004- 2005 is Euro 1,477 for elementary grades, Euro 2,044 for college level and Euro 2,835 for the lycée (grades 10-12). All students are also required to pay an annual registration fee of 71.65 Euros. Tel: 223 222 4123. Fax: 223 222 0666. See

Bamako has several French-language pre-schools. Rose et Blue, while not equivalent to an American day-care center, does provide childcare and play activities for children between the ages of 1 and 6 years of age and is open year-round. Les Lutins offers a pre-school program, which is preparatory for entrance to Liberté A's elementary classes. Les Lutins is open from early September through mid-June. There is generally a waiting list for admission, so enrollment plans should be made early. E-mail Director PTA, at:

Away From Post:

Because of the lack of an English-language secondary school in Mali, an educational allowance is authorized for children of U.S. Government employees to attend high school away from post. Many high-school-age family members attend boarding schools in the U.S. and Europe. Many foreign-service personnel send their children to Switzerland; among the schools most frequented are Leysin, TASIS, and Le Rosey.

There are also two English-language boarding schools, which are operated by the West African Baptist Missionary group, in neighboring countries. The International Christian Academy in Dakar, Senegal, offers grades 1-12, with a college preparatory curriculum at the secondary level. The school has American academic standards, a supportive staff, and a friendly atmosphere. Admission is open to any English-speaking child; however, enrollment fills up quickly and preference is given to children of missionaries. The other school, in Bouaké, Ivory Coast, an one-hour flight from Bamako, is currently non-operational because of the conflict in that area.

Several publications are available to help in the selection of schools away from post. The Educational Register, a guide to independent schools and summer programs, is available free from Vincent/Curtis, 224 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA. Schools Abroad of Interest to Americans, by Porter Sargent Publishers of Boston, is a guide to schools outside the U.S. These publications and other information are available in the Office of Overseas Schools in the Department of State or in the Community Liaison Office at post. Other questions about education may be addressed to the Educational Counselor of M/FLO office at the Department of State.

At Post Last Updated: 8/31/2000 6:00 PM The American International School of Bamako (AISB) was established in January 1977 to provide an American curriculum for children from nursery to pre-kindergarten (from age 2) through 8th grade. AISB is a private, non-profit institution governed by a school board, of seven elected members and the Ambassador's Representative. They are responsible for governing policy and financial management of the school. The school is 95% funded by day school tuition and fees. The school also receives grant monies from the Department of State's Office of Overseas Schools. Accreditation is by the Commission on Elementary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Admission to AISB is open to children from the official American community, American business and missionary groups, and from other diplomatic and international organizations. School enrollment during the 1999-2000 school year included 86 students. A third of the student body is from the U.S.; 18 other nationalities are represented.

In school year 99-00, the faculty consisted of five overseas hired homeroom teachers plus locally hired French language, art, music, library, and PE teachers.

Course work is based on a standard U.S. curriculum and testing program. Placement tests in mathematics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension are given to all new students. Admission is based on previous school achievement, age, the placement tests, and a personal interview. In addition to regular courses, classes are given in art, music, French, physical education, and computer science. English-as-a-second language (ESL) classes are provided to AISB students who are not fluent in English; an additional fee is charged for this. There is also an after-school activities program for sports, games, and handicrafts. Classes are small, with a student-teacher ratio of less than 10 to 1. Only students with mild learning disabilities or physical handicaps that meet all other admission requirements will be accepted.

The school buildings were constructed in 1982 and are located on a pleasant site facing the Niger River. There are 10 classrooms, a library, and a principal's office. All classrooms are air-conditioned. Grounds for outdoor activities and physical education classes are located on campus. The school is equipped with a well-stocked library, playground equipment, and all of the necessary texts and school materials. Two houses have also been acquired to serve as School Office and the Early Learning Center. There is a computer room using Macintosh computers for instruction and computer literacy classes.

School is in session Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 1:30 pm. There is a mid-morning break for snacks and recess. The academic year, which starts in late August and ends in mid June, is divided into semesters and totals 180 school days. Classes commence in late August and run through mid-January; the second semester runs from mid-January through mid-June. There is a 3-week winter holiday vacation in December-January.

Tuition for the 1999-2000 school year was $1,725 for nursery school; $2,760 for pre-kindergarten; $11,025 for kindergarten through grades 8, plus a one-time registration fee of $275 and a one-time capital development fee of $750 for nursery; $500 for pre-K; and $2,000 for K-8. This includes all textbooks and materials. An educational allowance covers tuition and fees for direct-hire, U.S. Government employees for kindergarten and above. Round-trip school transportation is provided for children of Embassy, AID, and DAO employees.

AISB offers a supervised and expanded University of Nebraska Correspondence Course Study for grades 9-12, supplemented with French, P.E., Drama, and other coursework. The fees remain the same as for K-8th grade. Some students choose to stay at post and complete high school through correspondence courses, which are offered by a number of American universities. Tutors to assist with these courses can generally be found.

Questions about the American School should be directed to the Community Liaison Office coordinator, or to the school (AISB, 2050 Bamako Place, DOS, Washington, D.C. 20521-2050). Telephone for the school is (223) 224738. Fax (223) 220853. Email:

The local school system includes a French-language school, Lycee Francais Libert‚ A, for French citizens and other French-speaking foreign children. Libert‚ A provides primary classes from the 1st through 5th grades, and secondary grades equivalent to American grades 6 through 12. Secondary studies are preparatory to the French baccalaureate degree. Liberté‚ A will not allow non-French speaking children into its program. Only if the children have already attended a French school, will they be permitted admittance. Generally, students attend Liberté‚ A from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, though higher grades do have some afternoon classes from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., supplemented with French, PE, Drama and other coursework. Thirty-seven nationalities are represented, including French, American, German, Malian, Russian, and others. The school year starts at the beginning of September and runs to the middle of June. Tuition varies; for elementary grades it is $1,650; for grades 6-9 it is $2,280; and for grades 10-12 it is $3,200. All students are also required to pay an $80 registration fee. With the good exchange rate now, tuition is lower than 3 years ago. Tel: 223-22-41-23. Fax: 223-22-06-66, Email: or

Bamako has several French-language pre-schools. Rose et Blue is not equivalent to an American day-care center; however, it does provide childcare and play activities for children between the ages of 1 and 6 years. It is open all year. Les Lutins offers a pre-school program, which is a preparatory for entrance to Libert‚ A's elementary classes. Les Lutins is open from the beginning of October through the middle of June. There is generally a waiting list for admission, so enrollment plans should be made early. E-mail Mr. Coulibaly, Director, PTA, at:

The American International School has an Early Learning Center. The nursery program provides daycare service for 2-year-olds within a safe and caring environment. The emphasis is on sensory-motor skills and simple symbolic play. The pre-kindergarten concentrates on social and emotional development. An individual approach is used to meet the needs of each child and to encourage growth from their current developmental level in a stimulating and nurturing atmosphere. The child must be 3 and 4 years of age. The kindergarten program emphasizes pre-readiness skills utilizing an individual "play-based" approach. Each child is given the opportunity to develop at his/her own rate in a child-centered environment. The child must be the age of 5 by the first day of school.

Away From Post Last Updated: 8/31/2000 6:00 PM Because of the lack of an English-language secondary school in Mali, an educational allowance is authorized for children of U.S. Government employees to attend high school away from post. Many high school-age family members attend boarding schools in the U.S. and Europe. There are also two English-language boarding schools in neighboring countries. One is in Bouake, Côte d'Ivoire, a 1-hour flight from Bamako, and the other is in Dakar, Senegal, and both are operated by the W. African Baptist Missionary group. International Christian Academy offers grades 1-12, with a college preparatory curriculum at the secondary level. The school has American academic standards, a supportive staff, and a friendly atmosphere. Admission is open to any English-speaking child; however, enrollment fills up quickly and preference is given to children of missionaries. Enrollment plans should be made well in advance.

Several publications are available to help in the selection of schools away from post. The Educational Register, a guide to independent schools and summer programs, is available free from Vincent/Curtis, 224 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA. Schools Abroad of Interest to Americans, by Porter Sargent Publishers of Boston, is a guide to schools outside the U.S. These publications and other information are available in the Office of Overseas Schools in the Department of State or in the Community Liaison Office at post. Other questions about education may be addressed to the educational counselor of M/FLO at the Department of State.

Special Needs Education Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:23 AM

Special Needs Education

There are no formal, English-language training or educational facilities for handicapped children in Bamako. On occasion, there have been teachers at AISB who have had training or experience in special education, but the school does not have a formal program. Parents of learning disabled, mentally retarded, blind, or deaf children should check the current situation when considering this post.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 8/23/2004 4:55 AM

Higher Education Opportunities

The new American Cultural Center has opened and sponsors lectures, movies, and other presentations. The French Cultural Center offers movie and concert series, plays, lectures, and exhibits. It also has a large lending library.

Individual or group lessons in English, French, and Bambara are available at the OMBEVI language training school sponsored by the Malian Ministry of Rural Development. Many local private tutors are also available to teach various foreign languages.

Afternoon music, craft and sports classes are available for children at the French Cultural Center and American School. Several local teachers are available to give lessons for piano, flute, and other musical instruments.

Swimming lessons are offered at the Amiti‚ Hotel. Informal exercise groups have been organized in several neighborhoods. Tennis lessons are available at various clubs.

French-language classes, using FSI course methods or "French in Action," are conducted by native speakers of French at the Embassy and at USAID free of charge, depending upon availability of funds. Beginning Bambara lessons are also available. Employees and their spouses are encouraged to attend.

Other types of classes are taught and various interest groups are established at different times, depending upon the skills and interests of individual members of the community.

Recreation and Social Life Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:18 AM

See subsections on Recreation and Social Life.

Sports Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:32 AM



Americans in Bamako spend a lot of time outdoors, swimming, golfing, playing tennis, and enjoying other sports and activities. Sports are usually played early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the intense heat.

Swimming is a year-round pastime in Bamako and a good way to "beat the heat." All government-owned and leased houses have swimming pools. The Sofitel, the Grand Hotel, Hotel Salam, Hotel Rabelais, Hotel Kempinski, and the Mandé Hotel have larger pools and sometimes children's wading pools that are open to non-residents for a small fee.

The nine-hole golf course and clubhouse at the Sofitel Hotel are open to members and non-members. Quarterly green fees are 225,000 CFA (about $415). Non-members pay 10,000 to 15,000 ($18-27) for the day, plus a caddie fee of about $5.

Small-boat owners may join the Bamako Canoe Club, which provides docking and storage. Between July and November, the Niger is high enough for a boat to travel upriver from Bamako to the Guinea border and as far north as Timbuktu. When the river level is low (December to June), the river is not navigable for larger craft (10 hp and above), but smaller boats can still be used in some places. Members can enjoy the pleasant riverside bar.

The biggest spectator sport in Mali is soccer. Mali has several good national teams, whose games are enthusiastically attended. Every neighborhood has a soccer field and many neighborhood teams. Games are played on Sundays and any other day that teams can get together. Basketball is also popular and there are several national teams.

Expatriates organize Sunday softball games in the cool season. Some equipment (bases, bats and balls) is often available, but you should bring your own glove. Bamako has fielded teams to participate in the various West African softball tournaments including the West African Invitational Softball Tournament (WAIST), usually held in February in Dakar, and the SofanWet tournament, held in January in Ouagadougou. The American community has in recent years organized Little League and youth softball games between October and February.

A regular Frisbee game on Saturday mornings that is well attended by expatriates and is open to players of all levels. Some expatriates currently play cricket on Sundays, and also teach the game to local schoolchildren on Saturday mornings. A group of mainly French, British, and other expatriates play rugby in the cool season. There is also a good Malian rugby team.

The Marine House hosts a number of unofficial functions open to the American community. The Marines may also organize social/holiday activities for general community participation, as well as Friday night movies and occasional family days on Sunday afternoons, when volleyball, swimming, and table football are available. Mission employees can use the tennis court, one basketball hoop, and the exercise/aerobic equipment located on the premises.

The Hash House Harriers, organized by the French community, run every Saturday late in the afternoon. There are trails for runners and for walkers. It is a good opportunity to discover the outskirts of Bamako.

The Bamako Tennis Club and several hotels have tennis courts available for a fee. An annual tennis tournament is held at the club. Rates for experienced coaches ($5/hour), practice partners, and ball boys are quite inexpensive.

The Club Hippique de Bamako (riding club) offers English-style horse and pony riding and jumping. Annual membership is 80,000 CFA for an individual or 140,000 for the whole family. Group lessons for adults and children are 6,000 to 10,000 CFA per hour. Members may board horses at the club for 80,000 to 110,000 CFA per month. Non-members may rent horses, with tack provided, at 10,000-15,000 CFA per hour. If you bring your own tack, remember that local horses are small Arabians, 1.5 to 1.6 meters at the shoulder. Horse races are also held on Sundays in season at the local Hippodrome.

African dance and salsa, as well as judo, karate and other martial arts, are taught at several clubs in Bamako.

Jogging is possible, although air pollution, dangerous drivers, and lack of sidewalks and green space are obstacles. There is a running machine at the Marine House. Several runners ship treadmill machines with them.

Fishing is good on the Niger River during the dry season and large capitaine (Nile perch), carp, and catfish are common catches. Local fishermen will take you out in their wooden dugout canoes for a small fee.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:32 AM

Touring and Outdoor Activities

The Government of Mali is making an effort to encourage tourism. A number of private travel agencies have offices in Bamako and in other cities of interest to tourists. Tours can be arranged through local travel agents or the hotels.

Be sure to bring photography equipment and film. Photo opportunities are limitless and varied in Mali. A photo permit is not required, but photography of airports, bridges, and military installations is forbidden.

The best time to see the country is during the cool dry season from November to February. Travel is sometimes difficult in Mali: many Malian towns can be reached by paved road, but distances are great. Beyond the paved network, roads are laterite and dirt, varying from fair to nearly impassable. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are necessary off the main roads.

Bring camping equipment such as tents, lightweight cots, sleeping bags, canteens, cooking equipment, camping foods, coolers, etc. Hotels are found only in the larger cities and towns and, while not inexpensive, are quite basic. In other areas of Mali, overnight lodging and cooking facilities are available only at primitive campements, which may lack indoor toilets, running water, and electricity.

A few places are close enough to Bamako for day or weekend trips. Kati, a pleasant little town about 30 minutes from Bamako, has a colorful market on Sunday mornings. A drive down the Guinea Road to Siby, 1.5 hours from Bamako, affords views of waterfalls and an impressive natural stone arch. The Siby market on Saturdays is also worth a visit. There are a few pleasant outdoor eateries up to 20 miles outside of Bamako, with several adjacent to the river.

The Selingue dam, a 1.5-hour drive south of Bamako is a pleasant site to spend a day or a weekend. While accommodations are not to Western standards, there are furnished villas available for rent, a large swimming pool, a restaurant, and a tennis court nearby in the small "company town," which once housed employees of the firm which built the dam. Reservations for food and lodging must be made in advance. Camping on the lakeshore is also pleasant although it is not realistic to leave tents unattended as they can be stolen.

Segou, a three-hour drive from Bamako, is located on the right bank of the Niger River near the spot where the explorer Mungo Park first saw the river. The city is notable for its red-colored mud brick walls and the government buildings, built in the Sudanic architectural style. Heavy hand-knotted wool rugs with Malian designs are made at the Nieleni rug cooperative in Segou. The cooperative is open to tourists who may watch as the women card, spin and dye the wool, and knot the rugs on their looms. Segou also has a large and colorful market on Mondays.

Mopti, an eight-hour drive from Bamako on a paved road, is located at the point where the Niger and Bani Rivers meet. It is an important fishing port, which becomes a city of islands during the rainy season. The harbor is usually crowded with large pirogues that ply the river carrying passengers and goods. It is an area of many different ethnic groups including Bambara, Fulani, Tuareg, and others. Mopti has a large mosque and a lively market, with a section reserved for Malian handicrafts including the distinctive Mopti wool blankets, Fulani wedding blankets, hats, earrings, trade beads, Tuareg jewelry, leatherwork, and carvings. The Kanaga hotel in Mopti, modeled after the mud-walled styles of the region's mosques, is basic but comfortable. An American runs Mac's Refuge, in the nearby town of Sevare. Prices are reasonable and include a pancake breakfast.

Djenne, two hours southwest of Mopti, is a major religious center famous for its imposing mosque, the world's largest mud-brick building. Three kilometers away are the excavations at Jenne-Jeno ("ancient Djenne"), an important Iron Age site and the oldest known city in Africa south of the Sahara. Visits can be arranged.

One to two hours' drive from Mopti is the town of Sangha in the heart of Dogon country, along the Bandiagara cliffs. The rock and mud cliff dwellings of the Dogon people and the distinctive round granaries with their conical straw roofs dot the steep, rocky walls of the Bandiagara escarpment. Clustered into small groups decreed by tradition, the dwellings blend into the landscape, making them almost invisible from a distance. The animist Dogon are culturally distinct from other tribes in Mali, adhering to their own ancient traditions and beliefs based on a complex system of myths, which explain and create order in their universe. They are renowned for their art, and for their dances, which they will perform for tourists for a fee.

Timbuktu (Tombouctou in French), the fabled city of gold, legendary for its camel caravans and renowned in the 15th century as a city of wealth and Moslem scholarship was once the crossroads between the Arab world to the north and black Africa to the south. Now a sleepy, sandy town on the edge of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu is still worth the visit. The ancient mosques of Djingueriber and Sankore, as well as the rooming houses of the famous explorers Barth, Caillié, and Laing can still be seen. Mud-brick houses with latticed windows and carved wooden doors decorated with metal studs line the quiet streets. This is also the home base of many Tuareg nomads, the fierce "Blue Men" of the desert, so-called for their indigo turbans and robes. Flights from Bamako to Timbuktu usually go once a week, returning the following day, but can be unreliable and the round trip costs around $300.

As of 2004, travel by all Americans under Chief of Mission authority to the areas east of the point where the Mali/Mauritanian border turns north extending to the Niger River and including all regions (except the towns of Timbuktu and Gao) north of the Niger River until it enters Niger requires prior written approval by the Chief of Mission. Banditry and carjacking continue to plague the northern regions, which have also become a safe haven for the Group Salafist for Prayer and Combat (GSPC), a terrorist group seeking the overthrow of the Algerian government. In these areas, distances between towns are great and government security forces do not regularly patrol the roads.

Three riverboats (the "Tombouctou," the "General Soumare," and the "Kankan Moussa") leave from Koulikoro (an hour north of Bamako) on Tuesdays and go to Segou (Wednesday), Mopti (Friday), Timbuktu (Saturday) and Gao (Sunday). Riverboats generally operate between early September and late November or mid-December, depending on the depth of the river. The return trip from Gao takes seven days (against the current). Long delays should be expected in both directions. Many people travel one-way to Mopti on the boat and return to Bamako by road. Others board the boat in Mopti after visiting Djenne and Dogon country. The riverboats are austere and crowded even in deluxe or first class. It is essential to bring a week's worth of drinking water, fruit and snacks, although African-style meals are included in the fare. The one-way trip to Gao currently costs CFA 283,000 ($525) for deluxe class per person. While difficult, the trip is a wonderful opportunity to observe the life of the fishing people and herders along the riverbanks and maybe even to see hippopotami swimming in the river.

U.S. personnel are encouraged to visit countries in the region to gain the most out of their tour in Mali. Although air travel is expensive and timetables often unreliable, you can fly from Bamako to most of the major cities in neighboring African countries.

It is possible to drive to Ouagadougou (10 hours) and Bobo-Dioulasso (8 hours) in Burkina Faso, to Niamey, capital of Niger, and on from these cities to other African countries. The rocky track to Dakar is not recommended because it is very long and arduous. Mission staffs are discouraged from taking the Bamako-Dakar train because of frequent thefts of passports and money. Road trips into Ivory Coast are currently not permitted because of the conflict in that country. However, there are several interesting towns and a game park should peace return.

The designated R&R post for employees assigned to Mali is the nearest port of entry into the U.S. (New York or Boston) or, for non-U.S. destinations, Paris.

Entertainment Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:32 AM


The French Cultural Center also sponsors numerous cultural presentations annually, including popular and classical music, local theatrical groups, and dance.

The Babemba, a very comfortable and modern movie theater, mainly offers recent Hollywood movies dubbed in French. The French Cultural Center presents film series and occasional children's matinees.

Many families in Bamako have VHS video/DVD equipment. The Commissary runs a VHS video/DVD club, open to all U.S. Mission employees. The Video Club charges a membership fee of $25 and rental costs $30 for ten movies. The club has a varied selection of videos and DVDs including classic films, recent movies, children's films and cartoons and sporting events. Also, local video/DVD clubs in town carry movies. French videotapes can be played on SECAM systems only and local DVDs are on the European system. If you plan to purchase video equipment, consider buying a multi-system, multi-speed set. The advantage of DVD players is that one DVD often offers different language options, so locally rented movies can be watched in English or French, and subtitles can often be shown in the other language as a learning tool, or for the benefit of French-speaking friends.

You will have plenty of time to listen to music and to enjoy reading. Bring along a good collection of CDs, tapes, and books.

Books in English can be borrowed from the Community Liaison Office (CLO) lending library. The Commissary plans to add a library of contemporary books. Children at the American International School can borrow books in English from the school library. The French Cultural Center has a large library of books and periodicals in French and a small collection of books in English. A few local shops carry a small selection of books in French, and occasionally a few books in English. Technical books, good dictionaries, and recent novels are rarely available locally.

Bamako has a number of restaurants that serve African, French, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Italian, and Lebanese specialties. A few cafes and local bakeries serve sandwiches, burgers, pizza, etc. Brochettes (skewered meat) are widely available. The Kempinski Hotel, the Sofitel, and the Mandé Hotel offer a Sunday buffet brunch and the Hotel Salam offers a buffet breakfast. The Broadway Café in Hippodrome offers pancakes, eggs, shakes, and so on at all hours of the day and evening. Restaurant reservations are rarely required.

A number of nightclubs and discotheques offer either live (African original or cover versions) or recorded (largely Western) dance music. When in Mali, well-known Malian musicians such as Habib Koité, a popular singer/guitarist, and Toumani Diabaté, a kora player, perform their compositions locally on weekends in pleasant open-air clubs that serve food and beer/sodas. Note that concerts start at around midnight. There is also a casino at the Sofitel.

The small Embassy snack bar, open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, serves breakfast and lunch. Lunches consist of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and a daily hot lunch special. U.S. Government employees often eat lunch there. The concession will cater on weekends. Local Embassy employees have their own lunch facility. USAID has a small café that serves hot lunch specials, soups, and salads during the working week. The NIH café offers hot lunches Monday to Saturday.

Social Activities Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:37 AM

Social Activities

Social activities among the American community in Bamako are relaxed and informal. Happy hours, buffets, informal dinners and barbecues around the pool are popular ways to entertain.

Among Americans Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:35 AM Among Americans

Mission staff also organizes frequent social evenings, such as bridge and poker game nights and there is a monthly book club, with contemporary novels and other genres ordered through the pouch. An International Women's Club meets monthly and organizes visits to places around town. Individuals often organize group activities and trips. Recent events have included an Indian cookery class and trips to visit local fabric dyers.

The expatriate community currently organizes a weekly playgroup for babies and young children and there are frequent children's birthday parties, sleepovers, etc.

Rotary and Lions Clubs hold regular meetings in Bamako and sometimes hold formal charity balls. The Marines hold an annual formal ball in November.

International Contacts Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:06 AM Nature of Functions - International Community

Officers at all levels will have many opportunities for representational entertaining, both for Malians and for other local diplomats and members of the foreign community. Types of social entertaining include luncheons, cocktail receptions and dinners.

An ability to converse in French is very important for full participation in the international social life.

Official Functions Last Updated: 8/23/2004 5:05 AM

Official Functions

The diplomatic community in Bamako is small, and official events are relatively few. Senior officers may expect to attend, several times monthly, affairs such as Malian government-sponsored opening ceremonies, cultural events and seminars, events related to official state visits, and celebrations of national days of the various countries represented in Mali.

Social events in Bamako are generally informal; tenue decontractée (casual dress) is appropriate for most social events, while tenue de ville (coat and tie) is worn for some official events. Dress is generally prescribed by invitation. Few occasions in the course of a year call for formal dress, even among senior officials.

The spouse and dependents of Mission officers are under no obligation to assist in official entertaining although voluntary participation in social and community activities, as well as on official occasions, is helpful to the Mission and can be personally rewarding.

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 8/16/2004 8:00 AM

The diplomatic community in Bamako is small, and official events are relatively few. Senior officers may expect to attend, several times monthly, affairs such as Malian government-sponsored opening ceremonies, cultural events and seminars, events related to official state visits, and celebrations of national days of the various countries represented in Mali.

Officers at all levels will have many opportunities for representational entertaining, both for Malians and for other local diplomats and members of the foreign community. Types of social entertaining include luncheons, cocktail receptions and dinners.

Social events in Bamako are generally informal; tenue decontractée (casual dress) is appropriate for most social events, while tenue de ville (coat and tie) is worn for some official events. Dress is generally prescribed by invitation. Few occasions in the course of a year call for formal dress, even among senior officials.

An ability to converse in French is very important for full participation in the international social life.

The spouse and dependents of Mission officers are under no obligation to assist in official entertaining although voluntary participation in social and community activities, as well as on official occasions, is helpful to the Mission and can be personally rewarding.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 8/16/2004 7:45 AM

Standards of social conduct in Bamako are informal. Formal courtesy calls are not expected, except for those that the Ambassador and DCM normally make on Malian officials and diplomatic colleagues.

It is not necessary to leave calling cards in Mali, although business cards are useful. Quality of printing is good, and it is easy to have business cards made in Bamako upon arrival. Cards may also be ordered after arrival at post from various stationery companies in the U.S. that are familiar with Foreign Service formats.

Small, folded note cards are useful for both invitations and thank you notes. You may wish to bring your own, although a few cards with African motifs are available locally.

Special Information Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:38 AM

Post Orientation Program

The Community Liaison Office (CLO) coordinates a voluntary sponsorship program for newcomers. Sponsors help to prepare the house for incoming families, meet newcomers at the airport, and help them to settle in and adjust to life in Bamako. The CLO also coordinates a formal orientation program for all new arrivals and their spouses. Newcomers also receive a copy of the Welcome to Mali booklet and the Health & Medical Information Handbook. The CLO can provide you with up-to-date information about Bamako if you e-mail your questions well in advance of arrival. Contact the CLO via email at: or via the Department of State internal email system under CLO, Bamako.

Related Internet Sites Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:39 AM


U.S. Government Sites

The Embassy of Mali to the USA The U.S. Embassy in Mali USAID Mali Peace Corps Mali site Library of Congress Global Gateway to Mali State Dept Consular Sheet CDC web site for West Africa

Tourism The Malian Government's Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts site (lots of photos, but a focus on monuments) The Malian Government's Ministry of Culture site Mysterious Places Travel website Real Post Reports: from those who have lived there Experience Mali site: excellent info with a realistic description of the main towns. A bike adventure tour in Mali with photo essay Lonely Planet Guide

Culture Malian languages on the SIL website Database of African recipes Includes the Babemba cinema schedule (in French) National Museum of Mali Modern Malian music African South of the Sahara: Mali (links as diverse as an exhibit of historical postcards to the Malian programs of various NGOs Malian-made crafts designed by an American artist Malian literature, Malian women, and links The French Cultural Center

Schools The French School Liberté in Bamako and Liberté Elementary School and The American International School in Bamako

Miscellaneous The website of local ISP Afribone, and a good source of local news and information on Bamako. and (in English). Mali internet service links The Malian World Network E-Gouvernance Mali (In French) Mali Pages Business site

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:40 AM

Getting To Post

Include in your accompanying luggage any personal items, which you might need in the first weeks at post. Don't forget special medications, important papers, an alarm clock, mosquito repellent, etc. Some travelers who have hand-carried such items as video equipment and desktop computers have been required to leave them with customs officials for several weeks to complete clearance procedures. If you wish to carry such items, notify the GSO shipping office, in advance, of the make, model, and cost of the item, and carry the invoice with you. Even with such precautions, however, there is no assurance that the items will not be held for customs clearance. In general, however, personnel with diplomatic status do not have problems entering Mali.

Contact the travel/transportation division of your employing agency before packing your airfreight and household effects. They will notify you with specific advice on the shipment of items to post.

Unaccompanied airfreight should contain basic items that you will need to keep house for the two to three months before your household effects arrive. This should include dishes, glassware, silverware, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, an iron, linens, clothing, toys, and baby items. It is good to bring a boom box with radio, CDs and tapes. Welcome Kits containing essential household items are supplied to new arrivals until the air-freight shipment is delivered. Airfreight generally takes 2-4 weeks to arrive.

Airfreight should be shipped directly to Bamako via Paris, addressed as follows:

Owner's Name American Embassy Bamako, Mali

Consumables shipments should be addressed:

American Ambassador (Owner's initials in parentheses) American Embassy Bamako, Mali via ELSO in transit

It is important for customs clearance purposes that the consumables shipment be addressed to "American Ambassador" and not to "Owner's Name."

Household effects packed properly for overseas shipment by professional packers usually reach post in good condition. Be sure that all shipments are packed in sturdy, waterproof wooden containers. Lift vans (the wooden crates in which the HHE is packed) are subject to rough handling and so should be constructed durably and braced inside to protect packed items. Shipments should also be secured by steel strapping on three axes to add structural integrity and prevent theft. Lift vans should not exceed the sizes dictated for shipment by aircraft as household effects and consumables shipments are shipped by airfreight from Antwerp to Bamako.

Hand-carry to post a detailed packing list or an inventory of all your freight, which includes an estimate of the dollar value of the goods and serial numbers contained in the shipments. This can facilitate customs clearance on household effects and consumables. Other necessary shipping documents (original bill of lading, packer's list of contents, measurements and weight of containers) are generally sent to post by the GSO at the previous post or by the U.S. Dispatch Agent if shipment originates in the U.S.

Also, hand-carry an extra copy of the inventory as a record in case of loss. Although the U.S. Government will reimburse losses up to a certain limit, you should carry private insurance against damage or loss of personal property.

For other information on packing, shipping and traveling, check the Foreign Service Assignment Notebook available from the Overseas Briefing Center.

For information on shipping of privately owned vehicles (POV), see Transportation, Automobiles.

As of June 2004, personnel are required to attend a one-week security-training course prior to arrival at post.

Customs, Duties, and Passage Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:44 AM

Customs, Duties, and Passage

It is important for customs clearance purposes that the consumables shipment be addressed to "American Ambassador" and not to "Owner's Name."

Household effects packed properly for overseas shipment by professional packers usually reach post in good condition. Be sure that all shipments are packed in sturdy, waterproof wooden containers. Lift vans (the wooden crates in which the HHE is packed) are subject to rough handling and so should be constructed durably and braced inside to protect packed items. Shipments should also be secured by steel strapping on three axes to add structural integrity and prevent theft. Lift vans should not exceed the sizes dictated for shipment by aircraft as household effects and consumables shipments are shipped by airfreight from Antwerp to Bamako.

Hand-carry to post a detailed packing list or an inventory of all your freight, which includes an estimate of the dollar value of the goods and serial numbers contained in the shipments. This can facilitate customs clearance on household effects and consumables. Other necessary shipping documents (original bill of lading, packer's list of contents, measurements and weight of containers) are generally sent to post by the GSO at the previous post or by the U.S. Dispatch Agent if shipment originates in the U.S.

Also, hand-carry an extra copy of the inventory as a record in case of loss. Although the U.S. Government will reimburse losses up to a certain limit, you should carry private insurance against damage or loss of personal property.

For other information on packing, shipping and traveling, check the Foreign Service Assignment Notebook available from the Overseas Briefing Center.

For information on shipping of privately owned vehicles (POV), see Transportation, Automobiles.

As of June 2004, personnel are required to attend a one-week security-training course prior to arrival at post.

Passage Last Updated: 8/16/2004 7:47 AM

For diplomatic passport holders, visas are required prior to entry into Mali. Both the Malian Embassy in Washington and the Malian Mission to the UN in New York issue visas. Airport visas may be arranged only for employees on a direct transfer from another country who cannot obtain a Malian visa. You must contact your agency at post to arrange for airport visas. For those traveling on tourist passports, a visa may be obtained at the airport. The cost is currently 15,000 CFA.

After arrival, persons holding diplomatic or official passports are required to obtain one-year, multiple-entry visas. Persons with regular passports must obtain short-term or resident visas on entry and exit visas on leaving the country.

Official Americans are issued Malian identity cards. It is a good idea to bring at least six extra passport-sized photos for the ID and the visa extension. ID photos for visas for out-of-country travel can be taken locally.

Pets Last Updated: 8/16/2004 7:48 AM

Mali has no quarantine restrictions for pets; however, proof of rabies vaccination and a current certificate of good health must accompany pets entering the country. It is therefore important to carry an immunization record for your pet. Dogs and cats are required to have yearly rabies shots. Basic veterinary services and routine immunizations are available through several private veterinarians.

Owners wishing to ship pets should contact all airlines on which a pet is to fly to find current information and to make arrangements several months in advance of the flight. Delta Airlines notes that arranging for pets to transit France takes about four months. Delta's pets web page for is:, but it is important to speak with a representative to confirm arrangements. It is also useful to contact the embassy or consulate of the destination country to be aware of their regulations. If coming from the U.S., the State Department has a list of agencies that can ship pets for you.

Airline restrictions currently prohibit pets from being shipped to many airports between the months of May and September because of the risk of heatstroke. Pets must be booked on flights well in advance: you should indicate to the airline when you book your flight your intention of traveling with a pet. You will incur an excess baggage charge for your pet, payable for each leg of your itinerary. To determine the cost of transportation for your pet, contact the appropriate airlines in advance.

On some airlines, certain smaller pets may fly in the cabin as excess baggage, but certain others, and usually all animals weighing over five kilograms (about 11 pounds), must be transported in the hold of flights you are traveling on.

The cage you must provide for transporting a pet in the hold must be large enough for the pet to be able to stand, to turn around, and to lie down naturally. Wire mesh or weld mesh containers are forbidden for international air transport; only securely built shell-shaped containers made of fiberglass or rigid plastic and locked to be tooth and claw-resistant will be accepted.

At time of writing, to enter or transit France with a pet you will have to show that your pet has been tattooed (series of numbers and/or letters pricked and stained with indelible ink inside the ear) or has a microchip implant for identification purposes. You will also need to show a health certificate (certificat sanitaire, issued no more than 10 days before transportation) and rabies vaccination certificate issued by an official veterinary surgeon stating that rabies vaccination has been made more than 30 days and less than one year ago or revaccination within one year. The phone number for the veterinary office at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport is 33 01 4864 9862; and the fax number is 33 01 4864 6936

When transiting Paris, you need several hours between flights and must keep on your person all documents (for you and your animal) required to enter France, as well as of those for your final destination.

It is important to note that some ethnic groups in Mali are known to eat cats and/or use them for black magic. A number of outdoor cats, particularly fleshier Western animals and those with ginger fur, have disappeared or have returned with their skin badly cut around the joints.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:40 AM

Firearms and Ammunition

U.S. Government personnel assigned to Bamako must obtain explicit prior approval from the Chief of Mission to import firearms. The importation of firearms must be in strict accordance with local laws as well as the post's firearm policy. Malian Government procedures for clearance of arms and ammunition are, at best, complicated and drawn out, and there is no assurance that permission will be granted for importation. Contact the Regional Security Officer regarding present limitations on types of arms and ammunition allowed, clearance procedures, and shipping regulations before making any plans to bring in firearms.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:46 AM

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

Mali is a part of the West African Monetary Union (known in French as UMOA), whose members use the CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) Franc, a convertible currency tied to the Euro. In June 2004, the average exchange rate was 540 CFA = $1.

The CFA group of countries includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, and Togo. The CFA franc is valid in all these countries. The CFA community has its own central issuing bank; however, the monetary reserves of the CFA countries are held on deposit in the French Treasury.

The metric system is used as the standard system of weights and measures.

The Embassy and USAID provide accommodation exchange services for American employees and official visitors through cashier facilities.

Local currency can be obtained from the cashier by a personal check written on a U.S. bank, dollar traveler's checks, money orders, or U.S. currency. Checks can be cashed for CFA francs up to a daily maximum of $500 unless otherwise approved in advance. Dollars as available are paid out only for official travel outside of West Africa.

Banking services such as checking accounts are available through several local banks, but procedures are cumbersome and slow, and hence are rarely used by Americans. Payments for local purchases are generally made in cash, except in the larger stores where checks for CFA francs or Euros are accepted. Employees coming to Bamako should maintain a checking account in the U.S., as dollar checks are needed to obtain local currency from the Embassy cashier and to make payments to mail order companies and creditors in the U.S. The USG requires all pay to be deposited directly into your personal bank account.

Travelers checks are accepted by banks, airlines, and hotels but not in local shops. American dollar traveler's checks are usually available in the Commissary. Euro traveler's checks may be purchased at several banks in Bamako, including at the Bank where the Embassy maintains its account but it may be easier and less expensive to bring a supply from home.

Credit cards are not widely accepted in Mali. The larger hotels will take American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Diner's Club. International airlines such as Air France accept several credit cards. However, credit card theft and abuse is common in this region and it is therefore inadvisable to carry credit cards or to give the number out here. Credit cards are useful to purchase items on-line or by phone from the U.S. but like cash and checks, they should at other times be kept in a safe at home and only taken out when needed.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:46 AM

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property

Official and diplomatic personnel are exempt from Malian income taxes or excise levies, other than airport departure taxes and restaurant consumption taxes.

Employees need Embassy permission to sell personal property or vehicles and sales are subject to certain restrictions. The Embassy's General Services Office must submit a yearly request to the Government of Mali for blanket permission to allow official employees to sell property that has been imported into Mali duty free. According to the terms of this exoneration, the property in question must have been brought into Mali for personal use and have been in the country for at least 20 months before resale. Also, employees who wish to sell items must be scheduled to depart permanently.

In order to sell an automobile, you must have the original importation documents and registration papers (Carte Grise) for the vehicle. An automobile may be sold to a person without duty-free status; however, the buyer must pay the necessary customs duties and taxes to the Government of Mali. GSO (or EXO for USAID) generally handles the formalities for sales of automobiles by official employees. The buyer must complete customs clearance and registration procedures before conclusion of the sale and release of the vehicle by GSO/EXO.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:47 AM

Recommended Reading

Many of the following books can be found on the internet. Otherwise, these books are available only from a good library such as the State Department library or (if still in print) direct from the publisher. Consult Books in Print at your local library for publisher's addresses.

These titles are a selection of general works published on Mali. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Travel Guides and Travelogues

Caillié, René. 1968. Travels through Central Africa to Timbuctoo. Frank Cass.

Else, David, et al. 2004. Africa on a shoestring (10th Edition). Lonely Planet Publications. (ISBN: 1740594622; US$33.99. A backpacker's definitive guide.)

Fitzpatrick, Mary. 2002. West Africa (5th Edition). Lonely Planet Publications. (ISBN: 1740592492; US$29.99. The definitive travel guide to the region, with very good section on Mali.)

Joris, Lieve, Mali Blues, 1998. Lonely Planet Publications. (A colorful modern travelogue of Mali from a Dutch woman.)

Velton, Ross. 2000. Mali: The Bradt travel guide. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press. (The only English-language guide dedicated to Mali, it became quickly outdated.)


Bovill, E.W. 1994. The golden trade of the Moors, Markus Wiener Publishing. Classic account of early trans-Saharan trade.

Chu, Daniel, and Elliott Skinner. 1996. A glorious age in Africa; The story of three great African empires. Africa World Press.

De Gramont, Sanche. 1976. The strong brown God. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co. (A history of Niger River exploration, in highly readable form. Out of print, but possible to find in bookstores.)

Imperato, Pascal James. 1996. Historical dictionary of Mali. Africa historical dictionaries, No. 11. 2nd ed. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. (Up-to-date reference work on Malian history, geography and personalities, also with a comprehensive bibliography.)

Miner, Horace. 1953. The primitive city of Timbuctoo. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (An anthropologist's account of the famous old city just after World War II. Out of print.)

Perimbam, B. Marie, Shula Marks (Editor). 2000. Family identity and the state in the Bamako Kafu c. 1800 - 1900. Westview Press.


Imperato, Pascal James. 1983. Buffoons, queens and wooden horsemen: The Dyo and Gouan societies of the Bambara of Mali. Kilima House.

Ouattara, Mouhamadou. 1992. Essential Bambara: For English-speaking travelers. Osborne Communications.


Brenner, Louis. West African Sufi. 1984. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Historical study of Islam in Mali by a leading scholar of the subject.)

Griaule, Marcel. 1990. Conversations with Ogotemmeli: An introduction to Dogon religious ideas. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. (One of many works on the Dogon by this French scholar. Out of print, but available on the internet.)

Art and Architecture

Ezra, Kate. Art of the Dogon. 1998. Selections from the Lester Wunderman Collection. Yale University Press,

Lawal, Ibironke (Ed.). 1995. Metalworking in Africa south of the Sahara. Greenwood Publishing. Group Inc.

O'Toole, Thomas (Ed.). Mali in pictures. Lerner Publishing. 1990.

Ethnic Studies

Cornell, Christine. 2000. The Dogon of West Africa. Rosen Publishing. Group.

Van Beek, Walter, E. A. 2001. Dogon: Africa's people of the cliffs. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Photographs and text on the culture of the cliff-dwelling Dogon people.)


Bingen, R.J., Robinson, D., & Staatz, J. 2000. Democracy and development in Mali. Michigan State Univ. Press.

Coquery-Vidrovitch, Catherine, and David Maisel (Translator). 1992, May. "Africa: Endurance and change south of the Sahara." University of California Press.

Dettwyler, Katherine A. 1994. Dancing Skeletons: Life and death in West Africa. Waveland Press, Inc.: Ill.

Gann, Lewis H. and Duignan, Peter. 1981, January. "Africa south of the Sahara: The challenge to Western security". Hoover Institution Press.

Lucke, Lewis. 1999. Waiting for rain: Life and development in Mali, W. Africa. Christopher Publishing House.


Auster, Paul. 2000.Timbuktu. St. Martin's Press.

Brooks, Larry, and Ray Webb (Illustrator). 1999.Daily life in ancient and modern Timbuktu. Learner Publishing. Group.

Condé, Maryse. 1998. Segou. Penguin USA: New York. (A best-selling novel based on the history of a Malian family from the last great pre-colonial kingdom.)

Courlander, Harold, and Ousmane Seko. 1994. The heart of the Ngoni: Heroes of the African kingdom of Segu. University of Massachusetts Press. (Traditional history from the kingdom of Segou.)

Culhane, K. (Ed.) 2003. Mali: Cuisine and culture. USAID/Mali. (Local recipes from across Mali, from Steamed Boiled Millet to Spiced Oily Tomato Sauce.)

Europa Publications: Bernan Associates. Africa south of the Sahara 2000. 1999. Author.

Imperato, Pascal James. 1975. A Wind in Africa: A story of modern medicine in Mali. St. Louis: Warren H. Green. (Memoirs of the author's five years as a USAID epidemiologist in Mali.)

Imperato, Pascal James. 1977. African folk medicine: Practices and beliefs of the Bambara and other peoples. Baltimore: York Press.

Jackson, Elizabeth, and Paul Quinn (Illustrator). 1999. South of the Sahara: Traditional Cooking from the lands of West Africa. Hollis, NH: Fantail.

McIntosh, Susan and Roderick. 1982, September. "Finding West Africa's Oldest City." National Geographic Magazine Vol. 162, No. 3, pp. 396-418. (Article on Mali's most significant archeological site.)

Serle, William and Gerard J. Morel. 1977. A field guide to the birds of West Africa. London: Collins. (First-rate field guide to Mali's diverse bird life.)

van Maydell, H.J. Trees and shrubs of the Sahel. 1986. Eschsborn, Germany: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). (A guide to "the bush" published by the West German AID program. Along with the Serle and Morel bird book, this is a useful reference for those working in Mali's rural areas.


U.S. Government Sites

The Embassy of Mali to the USA The U.S. Embassy in Mali USAID Mali Peace Corps Mali site Library of Congress Global Gateway to Mali State Dept Consular Sheet CDC web site for West Africa

Tourism The Malian Government's Ministry of Tourism and Handicrafts site (lots of photos, but a focus on monuments) The Malian Government's Ministry of Culture site Mysterious Places Travel website Real Post Reports: from those who have lived there Experience Mali site: excellent info with a realistic description of the main towns. A bike adventure tour in Mali with photo essay Lonely Planet Guide

Culture Malian languages on the SIL website Database of African recipes Includes the Babemba cinema schedule (in French) National Museum of Mali Modern Malian music African South of the Sahara: Mali (links as diverse as an exhibit of historical postcards to the Malian programs of various NGOs Malian-made crafts designed by an American artist Malian literature, Malian women, and links The French Cultural Center

Schools The French School Liberté in Bamako and Liberté Elementary School and The American International School in Bamako

Miscellaneous The website of local ISP Afribone, and a good source of local news and information on Bamako. and (in English). Mali internet service links The Malian World Network E-Gouvernance Mali (In French) Mali Pages Business site

Local Holidays Last Updated: 8/16/2004 9:47 AM


All employees of the U.S. Mission in Mali observe both Malian and American holidays. Shops and government offices are closed on local holidays. Personnel arriving at post need not schedule arrival to avoid holidays: the Embassy will arrange for airport assistance. Official local holidays observed by the Mission are:

Local holidays (2004): January 1 New Year's Day January 20 Armed Forces Day March 26 Day of Democracy April 12 Easter Monday May 1 International Labor Day May 25 Africa Day September 22 Independence Day December 25 Christmas Day

Islamic Holidays: (dates vary according to the lunar calendar) End of the holy month of Ramadan (Id al-kibir), currently November Tabaski (The feast of the sacrifice, or Id al-fitr), currently February Mawloud, the Prophet's baptism, currently March

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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