A rainy week has passed in Djenné, but on the 13th
of August this year the sun appeared long enough to
impale itself on the central minaret of the Great Mosque.
This event arrives a couple of days earlier
every year. If I had been any good at science this might make me contemplate the reasons for what seems like an interesting yearly discrepancy in the movement of the earth and the sun. As it is, I am content simply
to enjoy the pleasant spectacle from my sunset terrace, sipping my whisky and water.
As far as the hotel
goes, there was some rare guests expected last week end. A reservation had been made three weeks ago
by telephone from a Malian travel agency called Mali Aventure, with which we
have had dealings in the past. The
reservation was for three rooms for two nights. This is a good reservation for
us now, since there is hardly ever anyone here. So Baba and I spent plenty of
time in the rooms to make sure everything was in good shape the day before the
arrival of the group. On the morning
they were supposed to arrive, I phoned the tour leader and asked if the guests
were going to have dinner and if so, if there were any special instructions re:
vegetarians etc. The tour leader said he
He did not get back to me immediately and when he did he did
not enlighten me on this matter but came up with rather an irregular request:
‘We are in the Dogon country, and have just crossed over the border from
Burkina. Our vehicles are stuck in the mud and we are going to have to wait for
assistance. But there is another vehicle
joining our group in Sevare. I would like that vehicle to leave now and then at
least that part of the group will arrive in good time to Djenne and they will
eat at the hotel. We will arrive much later tonight. And can you call me please? I am going to run
out of credit’ And indeed the telephone went dead.
I was beginning to feel
annoyed and had started to smell something which was likely to be a a rodent. It is certainly not professional not to carry
enough money to be able to put in your phone if you are a tour leader in charge
of a group of toubab holiday makers! Nevertheless I did not want to be
unfriendly so I called him back of course, and now he put the following request
to me: ‘Can you send 75 000FCFA with Orange Money to the
driver who is waiting for us in Sevaré?
Then he will be able to leave now and be with you by sunset. I will pay you
when I get there, later on in the evening. And by the way, we have decided to
stay three nights instead of two. The guests will not eat tonight but tomorrow
night and the next.’
The last informations were of course welcome to a hotelier suffering from
penury and it had the desired effect in
that my wish to help increased. But at
the same time there was undoubtedly a funny smell about the whole business which
was increasing by the minute. ‘Now hold on here, I objected.’ For a start, why
don’t you send him the money yourself?’ Or
if you are in the bush and cannot send it, why don’t you get someone in Sevaré
to lend him the money? You are a Malian tour operator. You must know several
people to help you in Sevaré! And in any case, it doesn’t cost 75 000FCFA
in petrol to travel between Sevaré and Djenné! It costs max 25 000FCFA!’
The tour operator said that he did not know anyone to help
him in Sevaré and that he had said 75 000 because their drivers normally filled
their 4X4s up full tank. The deal was finally concluded in that I promised to send 25 000FCFA by Orange money
transfer to his driver who was waiting,
ostensibly, in Sevaré.
And that was of course the last we ever heard from Mali
Aventure Tours.The hotel garden glittered in vain that night with a multitude of little storm lamps and
Keita and I dined alone under the stars so that it would look welcoming for the vanguard group that were to arrive fom
Sevaré. Of course they never did.
The next day we tried the ‘tour operator’s ‘ telephone number
but he never replied again. I wonder why?