Unless you're on your way to or from Mali, the regional capital of Upper Guinea is far off the beaten track. The nation's second-largest city, Kankan (pop. 310,000) claims a large university population and is the stronghold of political opposition to Conte's Party for Unity and Progress (PUP). Kankan is the place to buy traditional wood carvings such as masks and statues. To the northeast, Niani is the birthplace of Soundiata Keita, founder of the Mali Empire in the 13th century. The legend of this quasi-mythological figure is preserved by local Malinke people, who'll insist on showing you the sites of the warrior's great battles. 300 mi/485 km northeast of Conakry.

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