What may be a once in a lifetime trip.

1. Djenne is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. The Grand Mosque rivals Great Zimbabwe and Ancient Egypt as the most spectacular structure on the continent.

2. In 2012 there were 17,000 tourists a year. I was the 100th person of the year and visited in November. My hotel booked 630 people in 2011 (guestbook records) and I was the 16th of the year and the first in 3 months. It is incredible to be THE ONLY tourist in a whole town.

3. In 2012 jihadis who had been on Ghadaffis side in Libya headed across the desert and went through the north of Mali on a killing spree. That scared away the tourists.

4. I wanted to go one step further to Timbuktu and given the opportunity I probably would but hadn’t booked enough time.

5. Apart from the first 10 (my faves) the photos are in order. They cover the sunset and the next morning sunrise from 6am. 

6. The mosque is off limits to non Muslims. I’ve seen documentaries of people trying to get in, read online etc.. and it doesn’t happen. My guide spoke to the Imam that I had been to 38 Muslim countries and studied the history and.. I was given an invite in and to the roof to photograph. This would obviously be impossible if 300 tourists a week were in town.

7. One only needs to think about the economic impact of the terrorists on the people here. 300 tourists a week buying arts and crafts, eating, hotels etc.. to 1-2 a week. Really sad stuff. The morning was the morning of the shootings in Paris and people were coming and apologizing/saying sorry to me. Reality is they have nothing to do with it but are paying the heaviest price.

8. A week later terrorists murdered a bunch of foreigners in the capital, Bamako.

9. I shot a chapter for Touchable Earth in Mali which I am editing. A huge thanks to Sounkalo DEMBELE from iEARN.orgfor taking a week off work just to help me produce it and take me on this tour. If you go to Mali he can arrange the tours as well.