Its Monday in Bamako. The planning for the Festival au Desert in Timbuktu has reached a fever pitch with artists being added to the program as I write. Hassan Hakmoun the reknowned gnawa artist is going to try to shuttle over from Dakar where he performed at the Festival des Arts Negres. The weather is warm and sunny. The mobilization of the festival's supplies, tents, water and sound/light equipment is underway. All roads lead to Timbuktu this week for the opening ceremony on Thursday afternoon.
For the first time in the festival's 11 years, the President of Mali will attend. He is hosting a special camel race on Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Malian independence. In his State of the Nation address on New Years Eve the President took a bold step. He proposed the division of the current 8 states of Mali into 19! Imagine ithe President of the USA at his State of the Union address saying that California has been reorganized into northern and southern governing regions! Imagine if New York State were divided at the norther border of Westchester! This move by Mali is to increase their regional develpment capabilites. It is a bold experiment that many people are excited about.
And that is before we even get to the camel race! Who will win!
We will be on the road starting this afternoon. After stopping for the night in Mopti, we'll head up to Timbuktu for a Tuesday afternoon arrival. More reports from the road.