20 Interesting And Fun Facts About Mali [Explained]

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Mali is a landlocked country situated in the Western part of the African continent. It is not a regular travel destination, due to the prevalence of conflicts and security risks. Despite that, there are several interesting and fun facts about Mali you should know apart from the usual misfortunes reported in the media.

Common Facts About Mali

The Republic of Mali is a country with a decent population of approximately 22 million people. This African nation is known for its rich history and was rather prominent during the reign of the Mali Empire.

Although Mali is plagued by constant insecurities and deemed an unsafe travel destination, there are several facts about Mali worth knowing to understand this country better.

Several countries in Africa are prone to armed conflicts and civil/social unrest. Always double check the latest situations from both your government and the local government advisories.

Historical Facts Of Mali

Mali Is Over 1000 Years

There are many reasons to believe that Mali is over a thousand years. The existence of the era before the Mali empire was built suggests the country has been inhabited for over a thousand years.

More recently, rock art discovered in the Sahara has shed more light on this topic suggesting that present-day Mali has been inhabited since around 10,000 BC. A time when the Sahara was said to be extremely fertile and diverse with intriguing wildlife.

Independence In Mali

In the 19th century, France took control of Mali and it became a member of French Sudan. The French ruled the region for close to a century.

Mali joined forces with Senegal to gain independence in 1960, and it became the Mali Federation.

A few years later, when Senegal withdrew from the federation, Mali became the Republic of Mali. The year 1991 saw a radical change in the way the country was ruled. A new constitution was required as it changed from a socialist state to a democratic state.

Mansa Musa

Here is the first of our many fun facts about Mali. It has been suggested that Mali’s Mansa Musa was one of the wealthiest men to ever live. One thing Mali is known for is the Malian Empire which lasted from the 13th to the 16th century.

Mansa Musa was the Emperor of the Malian Empire who ruled from 1280 to 1337. He made his Mecca pilgrimage in the early 1300s. At the time he put the spotlight on Mali and made them famous.

He traveled with over 70,000 people, 12,000 of which were slaves. He also brought with him 80 camels. Each camel was carrying a pouch of gold weighing about 50 pounds. Interestingly during his journey, Mansa Musa is said to build a mosque every Friday.

The Great Mosque Of Djenne

This is one of Mali’s ancient architectural wonders. The mosque of Djenne was built in 1907 and it adopted the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. The distinct structure is built with mudbrick.

This Great Mosque of Djenne is one of the most famous buildings in Africa. It is 52 feet high, and represents the world’s largest mud-brick building.

Geographical And Climate Facts On Mali

Large Country

Mali is one of the largest countries in Africa. It ranks 8th in terms of land size with the country covering around 1,240,192 square km. That is almost twice the size of Texas in the U.S.

Region And District In Mali

Mali is divided into eight large regions and one district. Bamako, which is the capital city, is the only district in Mali. Kayes, Gao, Kindal, Koulikoro, Mopti, Timbuktu, Segow, and Sikasso are the different regions in Mali.

Mount Hombori And Senegal River

Mount Hombori and Senegal River represent the highest and lowest points in Mali respectively.

Mali finds its most fertile region in the south because of the Senegal and Niger rivers.

A Hot Country

Here’s one of the literally not-so-cool facts about Mali. It is a very hot country. The thermal equator passes through the country making it one of the hottest places in the world.

Although the country gets some rainfall, it is still a very hot country as it experiences high temperatures year-round. Drought is common in Mali.

Natural Land Zones in Mali


Mali has 3 major natural land zones. The southern cultivated Sudanese zone is the famous zone as it houses the majority of the country’s population. The other two zones include the arid Sahara Zone and the semi-arid Central Sahel zone.

Quick Fun Facts About Mali Empire

How Old Was The Mali Empire

The Malian empire was founded by King Sundiata in C. 1226 and it lasted until 1670.

Largest Empire In West Africa

West Africa has overseen many empires, some of which are still in existence. The largest empire in West Africa was actually the Empire of Mali. At its peak, it spanned from the Atlantic coast down to the central parts of the Sahara Desert.

Emperors Of The Mali Empire

The empire of Mali had some great rulers, but one stands out. Mansa Keita (Mansa Musa). His name means the “King of kings.” He was one of the wealthiest men to ever live.


This was the first capital of the Malian Empire. Niani was the hometown of Sundiata Keita who was the founder of the Mali Empire.

Trade Channel


The Mali empire was significant as an important trade route. High-value trade was executed in the Malian Empire. The empire continued to grow richer due to the gold and copper mines in the country.

Here’s an interesting empire of Mali fact. Beyond the gold and copper mines, the empire was wealthy because residents of Mali at the time had to pay taxes and tributes. It could be rice, millet, arrows, or whatever was trending at the time like cowries (a type of sea snail).

Cultural Facts Of Mali

Crepissage de la Grand Mosquée 

Crepissage is an important festival for the Malian people. This is a one-day celebration that happens in Djenne.

Crepissage de la Grand Mosquée means “replastering ceremony.” Every year in April the inhabitants of Djenne gather to plaster the mosque. This ceremony is done to preserve the mosque and prevent it from crumbling during the heat.

Sweet Tea, The National Drink


Sweet tea is the national drink in Mali. It is simply a black tea made by brewing it in hot water and sweetening it with sugar. However, people like to have it cold due to the warm climate. Therefore, after sweetening, the tea is refrigerated until it is ice cold.

In Mali, sweet tea is used to welcome visitors. How about this for a cliché Mali fact? While sweet tea is used to welcome visitors. It can be used as a signal to tell a visitor they are not welcome.

You can refill the same cup with sweet tea three times. The caveat though is, if you are served a fourth cup, it means you have overstayed your welcome.

Tiga Degue The National Dish


Mali, like other African countries, has a wide variety of locally prepared cuisine featuring, vegetables, carbohydrates, and some locally grown spices.

The national dish in Mali though is Tiga Degue. It is a popular dish in some West African countries. Tiga Degue is typically cooked with meat (mostly beef or lamb) or chicken.

The standout ingredient of the Tiga Degue dish is peanut butter. Some other ingredients include carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes. This delicious Mali food is usually served with rice.

General Culture In Mali


Similar to many West African countries, most Malians prefer to wear Boubloveous. These are flowing robes of different patterns with beautiful colours.

Malians also love to partake in different dance festivals, traditional rites, and various ceremonies all year round. Due to the ethnic diversity in Mali, there are numerous traditional celebrations throughout the year.

African Intellectual Center

Here’s an interesting fact about Mali’s culture. Literary tradition in Mali is passed down to the younger generation by word of mouth.

The elder or “Jalises” as they are referred to recite stories or history of different communities by heart.

Language, Ethnicity, And Religion


Although French is the official language in Mali, there are other Malian languages spoken in the country. Bambara is the most famous lingua franca in Mali after French.

There are at least nine ethnic groups in Mali. Some of these ethnic groups include 33.3% Bambara, 8.8% Malinke, 9.6% Soninke, 13% Fula, 8.7% Dogon, 9.6% Senufo, 5.9% Songhai, 3.5% Tuareg, 2.1% Bobo, and 4.5% other ethnic groups.

Islam is the dominant religion in Mali. At least 95% of the country’s population practices Islam while 5% practice other religions.

Simple Mali Facts For Kids


This is the capital of Mali. It is also the largest city in the country. Bamako has a total land area of 245 square km. It also has an elevation of 350 meters above sea level.

Unsafe For Tourist

Mali makes the list of the 17 countries deemed unsafe for tourists to visit in the world. Another unfortunate fact about Mali is that, is often ranked in the top 10 deadliest countries in the world.

Two Hemispheres

In Gao, a region in Mali, you can see the spot where the prime meridian passes. This is one of the cool facts about Mali that is sadly hard to experience. In Gao, you can stand between the two hemispheres.

Other countries that are situated along the prime meridian include Algeria, Burkina Faso, France, Ghana, Spain, Togo, and the United Kingdom.

Gold Producers


Did you know this fun fact about Mali? It ranks third on the list of highest producers of gold in Africa, only behind South Africa and Ghana respectively. Their standing jumps between third and fourth, but regardless they are one of the highest gold producers within the African continent.

Other Interesting Facts About Mali

High Fertility Rate


Here’s one Mali fact that is not entirely surprising. Poorer countries tend to have higher fertility rates, what an irony.

Mali has one of the highest fertility rates in the world at 5.461 births per woman. This number is very high when you consider the world’s global average fertility rate is a little over 2.0 births per woman.

Conflict In Mali

The conflict in Mali and the crisis is an open secret. In 2013, the country’s president had to request aid from France as Islamist fighters captured many of the top northern cities like Timbuktu.

Mali’s assignment for UN peacekeepers is considered one of the deadliest. Since 2013 at least 100 of the peacekeepers deployed to the country have been killed. This is one of the sad and unfortunate facts about Mali.

A Poor Country


Mali ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world today. So who would have ever thought that Mali was once, one of the wealthiest countries in the world?

However, at one point Mali was a very rich country. In fact, Mansa Musa was said to have left gold in some regions along his travel journey which led to inflation in those places.

Unfortunately, now at least 65% of Malians live under $1 per day.

Boucle du Baoulé National Park

This is one of the finest national parks in West Africa. The park covers a total land area of about 25,330 square km.

It is home to some of the world’s famous herbivorous animals like elephants, gazelles, antelopes, and giraffes are some of the poster boys of the park.

Because of the ecoclimatic nature of the Sudan and Sahel savanna, the animal life in the park is rather varied. Beyond the large herbivorous mammals, the wildlife ecosystem also consists of some carnivorous animals like panthers, lions, and hyenas.

Discovering More Fun Facts About Mali

Mali is a fascinating country with interesting traditions and stories. From its ancient history of the Mali Empire to the incredible nature of Boucle du Baoulé National Park, there are plenty of facts about Mali that make it a curious country to learn about.

Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, it was once incredibly wealthy. Mali remains an important part of Africa’s cultural landscape while battling poverty and other challenges. Apart from its conflicts and misfortunes, there are still so many more interesting facts about Mali waiting to be discovered.



Book Your Flight

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Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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