Thus begins the series of posts that I’ve owed you all the weekend before last. It will be a series of posts, mind you, as this was an incredibly full and inspiring weekend. So, let’s get cracking…. Two weekends past, we traveled to Segou, one of the older, more historical cities in Mali. It seemed like everyone found something there that excited them. No one wanted to climb onto the bus to come back to Bamako. For me, as an art history student, this trip was full of different things to amuse and interest me. Segou is a music and art center and also boasts impressive historical architecture, so I was busy running to and fro meeting sculptors, photographers, weavers, musicians, mayors, etc.
The drive was not bad, about 4 hours by bus with a few pit stops. The bus was (relatively) roomy and air-conditioned so we had a pretty comfortable ride in which we were able to chat and relax. When we arrived, we made straight for the hotel, a large enclosed fortress on the Niger river. That was the first thing we noticed, the river. Huge and the prettiest shades of teal it lay nearby, it’s shores frequented by fisherman. And there was the best breeze coming off it, so we knew right away that Segou was going to be really comfortable. And, it turns out, we were right. The hotel was stunning, filled with gardens of bushes, palm trees and flowers, modern art, and roomy accommodations that were not only comfortable, but fashionable, charismatic, and equipped with hot water. Yes, hot water. The group got really excited about that. The owner turned out to be one of the nicest men I’ve met, a total sweetheart who made it his goal to ensure our comfort and liked chatting with us in his spare time. We spent the better part of the afternoon exploring the hotel and made the most incredible discovery. Turns out Bono stayed in this hotel. In fact, Bono left for Bamako that very morning. Cherif was staying in the same room as him, so we all got to take a peak at his accommodations – totally beautiful, with some really fun art. I was actually really disappointed to miss Bono. Segou was great and totally worth it, but I’ve been the biggest U2 fan for years. Dad used to play them all the time in the car when I was little, and I truly started to discover/appreciate them at 13. By which I mean I acquired over half their albums, researched the whole band’s history, picked up trivia, memorized nearly every song they wrote, and made it my dream to get to sing with Bono someday. I’ve recently realized just how excessive that was, and that that dream is probably not a realistic one, but this slight brush with him was crazy cool for me. And I totally got super excited when I saw him being interviewed on Malian news.
Back to the hotel. Yes, Bono stayed there, yes it was clear why. Beyond the fact that everything was beautiful, clean, and lovely and that there was free wifi, the meals were also phenomenal. Really really exquisite. Breakfasts came with these delicious warm buttery croissants – so tasty! And they gave us vegetables! Not to mention some of the best fish I’ve had in my life! It was so tender and drizzled with lime and it totally melted in your mouth. Suffice to say I overate both nights….
Furthermore, we were treated to free music every night. Our first night a really fun young group played – very percussive and great to dance too! Also one of the players was married to an Italian woman, who Cherif quickly introduced me to and I chatted with for a bit. Unfortunately, my Italian is disappearing as my French gains ground, so my speaking was pretty broken, but she was a good sport about it. Also, later in the evening one of the players, seeing me eying his kora, handed it over and let me fiddle around with it. For those of you who don’t know, I play the harp and the kora is essentially the harp’s great, great African grandfather and is kind of a crossover between harp and lute. It was, in short, a totally different animal than that I’m familiar with and I cannot for the life of me understand how one plays it and moves their fingers as fast as kora players are want to do. It was cool though to see one up close and realize I can’t play it.
Right, that’s a good place to get started. Enjoy the pictures! More to come tomorrow (that’s a promise)! Bonne journée!