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About the area

Bandiagara cliffs: from Tellem to Dogon

In the Central Mali, you will find the Bandiagara plateau: an area at the South-border of the Sahel that rises slowly from the river Niger towards the Falaise. Here, the plateau abruptly ends into a hundreds of meters high, steep rockface, stretching out over a total length of more than 150 km. The magical area at the piedmont of these cliffs was home to the Tellem since ancient times. Unfortunately little is known about this people, but they did leave mysterious and inaccessible buildings and artefacts in the steep slopes of the cliff. In the 15-th century, the Dogon were looking for a well-protected dwelling-place where they would be save from slave traders and for the advance of Islam. Originally this people lived in the neighbourhood of Mandé, the old core area of Mali, but stories about their origins differ widely. When the Dogon settled in the well defensible cliffs, little remained of the powerfull people of the Tellem. The buildings they left behind, became a source of worship of this mysterious holy people to the Dogon.