Timbuktu treks available via U.S. office

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NEW YORK -- Arranging a journey on the road to Timbuktu has become easier with the opening of a U.S. booking office for Mali-based Bambara African Tours.

Headquartered in Bamako, the Bambara specializes in culturally rich, risk-free adventure expeditions to sub-Saharan Africa for small groups of four or more people.

According to Bambara's director, Thiemoko Dembele, "While our company has explored in depth most of West Africa -- Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Benin and Togo -- our home base country of Mali offers U.S. travelers a fascinating one-stop destination, which we have packaged into itineraries lasting from seven to 11 nights.

"We are marketing Mali directly in the U.S. through Waterfall Communications to make our exotic destination more accessible to agents, who will find that Mali offers U.S. travelers a uniqueness found nowhere else," said Dembele.

The company's marketing tools include a brochure on Mali, a Web site at www.discovertimbuktu.com that introduces both the country and Bambara African Tours' products and services and a series of travel agent fam trips.

Bambara's 11-night itinerary includes all accommodations, meals and overland transportation. The land cost is $2,700 per person for four or more persons and $3,100 for two people. Group bookings of 11 participants earn a 12th passenger a free tour.

Tour guests will visit the Ahmed Baba library for a general overview of the mysteries of legendary Timbuktu; see the town's Sudanese mosques and Buktu museum along with meeting Tuareg artisans, and hop on a camel ride to a Tuareg tribal encampment for tea, accompanied by a local dance and music performance.

The itinerary starts in Bamako, following a flight aboard Sabena from the U.S. to the Mali capital with a connection in Brussels.

After a tour of Bamako's lively markets, colonial buildings and ethnic museum, travelers continue by air-conditioned desert cruiser to Segou on the Niger River. This was once the royal residence of the Bambara emperors and is now the takeoff point for Dogon Country.

The Dogon is a community whose people live mostly in the Homburi Mountains near Timbuktu. The inhabitants are famous as artisans who express themselves with wooden masks, ritual figures and elaborately carved doors.

Visitors also tour this region's 90-mile escarpment, the Bandiagara Cliff, a spectacular setting for the villages and cave dwellings -- some dating to the 14th century -- that are built into the cliff.

From Dogon, visitors travel to the colorful market in Djenne, where the tribes of the Niger Valley come weekly to trade. Here are the majestic adobe structures created by the Songhai known as the Sudanese architecture.

The visit continues from Djenne to Mopti, known as the "Venice of Mali" due to its many riverfront canals.

Along the Niger river banks are many examples of Sudanese architecture, and travelers will take a river boat trip to visit seminomadic villages.

For further information, contact Waterfall Communications in New York at (877) GO-2-MALI or via e-mail: [email protected].

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