The Sahel



This northern area of the country is really the fringe of the Sahara Desert. Geographically, it's unusual—sand dunes and marshlands appear right across the road from each other in the Oursi and Gorom-Gorom area. Culturally, it is strikingly different from the rest of the country, with its unique and colorful mix of Sahelian peoples and lifestyles. Occasional Tuareg nomads and their camels can be seen by the road, passing by the igloo-shaped mat huts of the Fulani cattle herders. Fulani women may be seen walking along with two or three giant half-gourds (filled with milk) stacked on top of their heads and their hair worn in long braids around the ears, with silver coins, jewelry and other adornments strung into it. These and other Sahelian peoples, such the Bella and Songhai, come together in a fascinating mix at Gorom-Gorom's Thursday market. In Markoye, too, there's a weekly camel and cattle market: Surprisingly enough, the camels have a certain beauty to them—these one-hump camels are taller and more graceful than the more familiar two-hump variety. On the way to Gorom-Gorom from Ouagadougou, you may want to stop off at the village of Bani, with its intriguing collection of mud-brick mosques, built by an unusual local Islamic sect.

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