If you had traversed this scorching hot, dust-laden desert territory around 14th century you would have been crossing a famed African empire, one that had an enormous share in trans-Saharan gold, slave and salt trade. It was here, in the ancient Djenne and Timbuktu, where Berber, Arab, and Jewish trade routes converged, scholarship thrived at the world's first university and book writing and copying bloomed making a long-lasting contribution to both Islamic and world civilization.
Landlocked in the Sahel, Mali is a budding nation of fishermen and farmers whose history has always been closely bound with its lifeblood rivers and arid deserts. A destination of alluring sites like the glorious mud-built mosque of Djenne, the scenic Niger River slow cruises to Timbuktu, villages carved into cliff sides and markets throbbing with colorful local produce. Mali and its rugged cliffs are home to the intriguing Dogon people known for their animist religious traditions, mysterious mask dances and vibrant mythology revolving around Sirius. The stunning cultural hotchpotch also includes the nomadic Tuaregs, often dubbed as the Blue Men of the Desert, who have roamed the dusty expanses with their camel caravans for millennia and the Niger societies of the Bozo, fishing river masters for whom the legendary river has no secrets at all. As a result, anywhere you head to in Mali, the country whirls with fascinating ceremonies and world-famous musical traditions. If you come in January and you'll top your Mali experience with three days of an amazing feast when right under the stars and shiny moon the Sahara resounds with Tuareg music, camel racing and ritual swordplay during the famous Festival in the Desert.