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Where the Dirt Road Leads

Where the Dirt Road Leads

If you are familiar with the Djenné Series, you know that it is centered around the architecture of the Great Mosque of Djenné and market activity around it.  Though there is much to see and experience within the city limits, there was one day when I wanted to venture out and explore elsewhere.

Having heard of a Fulani village somewhere close to Djenné, I asked my guide extraordinaire Mamadou if he knew where this village was located. He was familiar with Senossa and offered to take me out there.

Senossa is a small village in the Ouro Ali Commune, about 10km from the city, and is home to sedentary Fulani.

It already being around two o'clock in the afternoon, I excitedly hopped on the Mobylette behind Mamadou. These French mopeds are a popular mode of transportion around Djenné. Leaving the city behind, we sped across the dirt road (at least as fast as the Moby let us go).

The sky was hazy from the early summer weather with a manageable dry heat. The speed of the Moby allowed us to catch a soft breeze. Left and right, I could only see large swaths of desert land alternating with stretches dotted with trees.

You would think that traveling on a dirt road would mean a lot of dust kicking up in the air. This actually wasn't the case! I was able to keep my face uncovered to take in the fresh air. The only thing I could smell was the excitement for discovery in anticipation of arriving at the village.

A little further down the stretch of road, I encountered two youths pulling along a donkey cart. As another common mode of getting to Senossa, I wanted to experience this myself. So up I went. Best way to take in the scenery at your own leisure.

I could tell when we were getting closer to the village once livestock came into view. Large numbers of cattle, goats, and sheep were grazing on different stretches of pastureland without the boundaries of any fencing. The breeze carried a faint whiff of the cattle to the road. Typical of Fulani villages, the livestock are well cared for so the odors are just the natural scent of the animals.

Reaching the outskirts of the village, I could see the water side where the villagers pulled their drinking water from concrete wells. A group of women were busy at work washing dishes and clothes for the family. The children who were out with them looked well practiced in assisting with drawing water and carrying the pails back and forth.


Arriving at Senossa, I was immediately struck by the similarity in the architecture between the village and the Great Mosque of Djenné. The walls and buildings here are erected in the same mud adobe style.

Sections of the outer wall and building within look almost as if they are constructed of brick or stone but are actually all formed of mud. These "exposed brick" spots are actually areas that the villagers likely have not finished plastering to create a smooth facade.

There is only one gate used as both the entrance into and exit out of the village. On entering through the gate, there doesn't seem to be any logic to the way the streets are designed. Instead, it's a fun maze of narrow paths leading to different homes and areas of the town.

That everyone was so welcoming was to be expected, as the people of Djenné are known for their hospitality. What was most surprising was how curious all the villagers were.

It seems that the villagers are accustomed to Western foreigners who love history and who seek out destinations less traveled. They were fascinated that someone who looked like them had an interest in visiting and learn about the village.

While I love contradicting these common perceptions, I hope I can also inspire the same love of discovering Africa in others.


  • Zainab

    Hi Kathleen, Hope all is well. So wonderful to hear from you. Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. Yeah I know, can’t wait to travel again! Cape Verde is happening soon, any advice?

  • KAthleen Leitao

    I always enjoy your pictures and feel your admiration and excitement of Africa. I hope to go to Kenya in July with my sister. Our trip was cancelled this year like everything else in world. We have been to Cape Verde which is a diaspora of Africa and felt like we were home. Thank you for your posts!

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