25 interesting facts about Mali

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From the richest man who has ever lived to the world’s largest mud structure, these are the most interesting facts about Mali.

Interesting facts about Mali include its mud-brick buildings
Interesting facts about Mali include its mud-brick buildings (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Mali
Capital city: Bamako
Population: 19,553,397
Area: 1,240,192 sq km
Major languages: French, Bambara
Time zone: UTC 0 (GMT)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Mali

1. Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa. A landlocked country is completely enclosed by land with no access to the open sea. Currently, there are 45 landlocked countries and five partially recognised states in the world.
– Source: CIA World Fact BookThe Telegraph

2. The discovery of rock art in the Sahara suggests that Mali has been inhabited since 10,000 BC when the Sahara was fertile and rich in wildlife.
– Source: Lonely Planet

3. The Mali Empire was one of the largest and most widely known pre-colonial African states. It was founded in the 11th century and lasted until the late 16th century when it was conquered by Morocco.
– Source: Oxford Research Encyclopedia


4. Mansa Musa, who was king of the Mali Empire from 1280 to 1337, is believed to be the wealthiest man who has ever lived.
– Source: BBC News

5. The Songhai Empire was also located in Mali during the 15th and 16th centuries. A great trading state of West Africa, the empire centred on the Niger River and eventually extended all the way to the Atlantic coast and east into Niger and Nigeria.
– Source: Britannica

6. The UNESCO-listed Tomb of Askia was built by Askia Mohamed, the Emperor of Songhai, in 1495. The complex includes a pyramidal tomb, two mosques, a cemetery and an open-air assembly ground.
– Source: UNESCO

The Tomb of Askia in Mali
The Tomb of Askia in Mali (Shutterstock)

7. In 1898, France colonised Mali and named it French Sudan.
– Source: BBC News

8. In 1959, Mali gained independence as the Sudanese Republic (previously French Sudan) – part of the Mali Federation, an alliance linking Senegal and the Sudanese Republic (Mali).
– Source: Britannica


9. In 1960, the federation dissolved and Mali became completely independent as the Republic of Mali.
– Source: Britannica

10. Founded in the 5th century, the UNESCO-listed city of Timbuktu was a key trading post and centre of Islamic culture, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries.
– Source: UNESCO

11. Mali’s Great Mosque of Djenné, constructed in 1907, is the world’s largest mud-brick building.
– Source: BBC Travel

Mali’s Great Mosque of Djenné
Mali’s Great Mosque of Djenné (Shutterstock)

12. Every April, residents of Djenné maintain the walls of the mosque during a one-day festival called Crépissage (Plastering) where they reconstruct the walls with mud.
– Source: BBC Travel

13. The Old Towns of Djenné are a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprised of nearly 2,000 traditional houses built on hillocks (toguere) as protection from seasonal floods. The town has been inhabited since 250 BC and was an essential link in the trans-Saharan gold trade.
– Source: UNESCO


14. By total surface area, Mali is Africa’s 8th largest country and the world’s 23rd largest.
– Source: World Bank

15. At just 58.9 years, Mali has the world’s 11th lowest life expectancy. The global average life expectancy is 72.6.
– Source: World Bank

16. Mali has a vertically striped green, yellow and red flag. The colours, which later came to be known as the “pan-African colours”, are also used in the national flags of Ethiopia, Ghana and Guinea.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of Mali
The flag of Mali (Shutterstock)

17. Mali is recognised for its thriving music scene and its most famous musician is singer-songwriter Salif Keita, who is known as the “golden voice of Africa”.
– Source: Lonely Planet, The Guardian

18. Mali is home to the Festival au Désert, a music festival known as the “African Woodstock”. Unfortunately, the festival has not been held since 2012 due to security concerns.
– Source: New York Times


19. Mali has the world’s fourth-highest fertility rate at 5.9, compared with the global average of 2.4.
– Source: World Bank

20. Since independence, Mali has suffered from droughts, rebellions, coups and 23 years of military dictatorship. Following the 1991 coup, democratic elections were held in 1992 for the first time after General Traore seized power in 1968.
– Source: New York Times, BBC News

21. The UNESCO-listed Cliff of Bandiagara (Land of the Dogons) is a 150km-long sandstone cliff. The cliff features 289 villages inhabited by the Dogon people.
– Source: UNESCO, Armstrong et al. (2010) Lonely Planet Africa. Lonely Planet: London

The Cliff of Bandiagara
The Cliff of Bandiagara (Shutterstock)

22. Mali has been plagued by sustained violence from Tuareg separatist rebels who seek an independent state and jihadist insurgencies. In 2013, French troops intervened militarily upon the Mali government’s request. UN peacekeeping forces remain in the country.
– Source: BBC News, UN Peacekeeping

23. According to the UK Foreign Office, Mali is one of 17 countries deemed to be entirely unsafe for tourists to visit.
– Source: The Telegraph


24. Mali’s capital city Bamako means either “crocodile tail” or “crocodile river” in the Bambara language. Three crocodiles appear on the city’s seal.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

25. Mali is home to part of the Sahara desert, the largest desert in the world.
– Source: Britannica

26. Mali is among the 10 most dangerous countries in the world according to the International SOS Travel Risk Map. It has been assessed as carrying an ‘extreme travel security risk’.
– Source: The Independent


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