‘Are you afraid to travel up North?’, a visitor asked me today.
‘No’, I answer honestly, ‘not at all.’ Both he and his brother develop wide grins on their faces. ‘Good’, they nod, ‘because there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s quiet in the entire country, also in the North.’
The two men are soldiers, having the weekend of, enjoying some quiet time in their home town Ségou. Yes, the army is always prepared, since you never know what might happen. And especially around the border with Mauretania and some other neighboring countries they are paying extra attention to what enters Mali.
But no, there’s nothing to worry about, they assured me with warm smiles.
They confirmed, what I’ve been feeling, experiencing and saying all the time: there’s nothing going on in Mali at the moment. It makes me once again wonder why embassies spread information that’s telling people quite the opposite. Over the past year I’ve encountered tourists, thoroughly enjoying their journey through Mali, who were disappointed with their embassies. I’ve even met people who were upset with them.
I’m also meeting a lot of Malians, who do not at all understand our embassies.
‘Monique, why are they doing that to us? Have they actually been there?’, I’ve been asked over and over again and I still don’t have the answer. Why would the Dutch embassy (and other embassies as well I’m guessing) have changed their travel advices since the end of last month, giving you the impression there’s a terrorist waiting for you around almost every corner in the country?
You might encounter desperate Malians, wanting to sell you something, hoping to find a decent meal for their family, hoping to be able to pay some of the overdue rent before their land lord throws them out…
Yes, you might encounter desperate, but still proud people. People who love their country and who will warmly welcome you, even to their homes. Generous hosts who will be more than happy to share the beauty of Mali and their culture with you.
‘I’ve never felt as safe in any other country, as I’ve felt in Mali, even though we were two women traveling independently’, a friend wrote to me.
Another friend wrote me that he would highly advise anyone to stay away from The Netherlands these days… He and his wife are very much looking forward to returning to Mali in a couple of months.
If you would like to travel to Mali to meet these wonderful people, don’t hesitate to contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information on the actual situation. Or get in touch with the Malian embassy in your home country.
And if you’d prefer to hear about the experiences of others that recently traveled in Mali, we will be more than happy to get you in touch with them, as will they be happy to share their experiences with you.
Warm regards from Ségou!