This summer I plan to create new content for my educational site The Saharan World at a Glance. I am currently conducting preliminary dissertation research in Bamako. When I am not I’m the archive I plan to travel as much as possible to observe and photograph trade, Islam and leisure in Mali. Originally I had hoped to focus on Islam in the region, but I will be unable to travel to important Islamic centers in the North at this time. However, I (rather accidentally) rented an apartment in the Hippodrome quarter of Bamako, a district with several leisure attractions. It is named for the hippodrome where folks race horses. Soccer matches are held in the patchy grass at the edges of the race track. Betting on horses seems to be quite popular. I noticed one of my many new friends Abu Bokar obsessing over a program that contained the ponies’ stats and schedules. I was able to attend the last race of the season and will collect data to write a brief lesson.
My experience at the race has inspired me to write up a small unit on leisure in Mali based on my experiences. In order to show people something a bit out of the ordinary, like horse racing, that people don’t often associate with West Africa, but include some distinctly West African pastimes. Tomorrow I have made plans to watch a wrestling match. The Senegalese style of traditional wrestling has become popular in Mali. I also plan to attend local theater, and the end of Ramadan will no doubt present numerous opportunities to observe how Malians spend their leisure time. I have been writing informal travel pieces on my personal blog Abu Battuta’s travels in Africa, and I hope some of the material can also be worked into lessons about Mali’s beautiful culture.
So as one door shuts a new opportunity presents itself. Research trips are unpredictable so one might as well adjust. I still plan to travel to Jenne and work up a history of the city for my site, but travel north will be determined by other factors. الله هو يعرف
Look for the new units next fall and more to follow as I continue to develop SWAG.