Old Town of Djenné (1988)
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Inhabited since 250 B.C., Djenné became a market centre and an important link in the trans-Saharan gold trade. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was one of the centres for the propagation of Islam. Its traditional houses, of which nearly 2,000 have survived, are built on hillocks (toguere) as protection from the seasonal floods.
||Djenné is located in southern Mali, 400 km (250 mi) north-northeast of the Malian capital of Bamako. An ancient center of trade and Islamic learning, Djenné remains a locally significant trading center for fish and the region's coffee and kola nut crops. Artisans produce leather articles, cloth, and blankets. The town is linked by road to San to the south and Ké Massina to the west. Djenné has noteworthy examples of Islamic architecture, including a large mosque rebuilt by the French in 1907.
The early inhabitants of the Djenné area, the Bozo fishermen, came under the rule of the Nono, a branch of the Mande. Djenné was founded by the Nono in the 13th century, and developed into a commercial center the following century.
Djenné's importance resided chiefly in its role as a marketplace where salt traders from the Sahara met gold traders from the forested regions to the south.
| A dependency of the Mali Empire during the 13th and 14th centuries, Djenné gained independence early in the 15th century.
Despite the natural protection afforded by the nearby marshes and rivers and the large number of sieges that Djenné is said to have resisted, the town's wealth and strategic position attracted a series of conquerors:
Djenné was captured by the Songhai emperor Sunni Ali in 1471; after having become a well-known center of Islamic learning by the middle of the 17th century, Djenné was occupied by the Bambara Kingdom from 1670 to 1810.
In 1818 the town was besieged, and finally subdued, by the Fulani cleric Ahmadu of Macina.
In about 1861 Djenné was conquered by the Tukolor Emperor Umar Tal; it was occupied by the French in 1893. Thereafter, its commercial significance was overshadowed by Mopti, situated to the north of Djenné at the confluence of the Niger and Bani rivers, and by Ségou to the west.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage sites in Mali (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Mali Section, for further information about the individual properties.
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Revised 20 jul 2006