Sunday, October 17, 2010

The new National Park of Mali

 a hibiscus tea break at the garden
Around 12:30 a lunch bell rings in my head and I fish 300 CFA out of my wallet, tie my sun hat on my increasingly blond head, slip my lanyard-string museum pass around my neck and look both ways before crossing the street from the PHARE complex to the parking lot of the National Museum of Mali.  Fatoumata's table, surrounded by broken-down museum buses in a forgotten corner of the lot, is laden with rice and sauce and occasionally frozen sweet drinks that she sells to museum employees, security guards and toubabs like me on a limited lunch budget.  I set my money on the table and collect a plate of tigadegana with hot pepper sauce and a bottle of hibiscus juice and enter the park grounds through the back door.

On October 1st the National Museum of Mali hosted the opening of the National Park of Mali situated on the museum grounds and spanning over 250 acres.  The National Park, financed and designed by his Highness Aga Khan and his eponymous foundation, offers two restaurants (in addition to the museum's), a tea house, playgrounds, a fully-equipped fitness center and juice bar, a traditional medicine garden, fountains and numerous benches to support tushes tired from walking around the expansive environs. 

yellow-brick road
For 5,000 CFA/month I have unlimited access to the gardens where I eat lunch each work day and, if I'm feeling spunky, run in the afternoon.  The paths on the perimeter are lined in loose gravel and the center walkway is paved in cobblestone and culminates in a multi-level restaurant with a terraced duck-pond below.  Strolling couples and track-suited joggers crunch up and down the gravel paths, teenagers with cell phones and ear pieces try out the fitness equipment and friends sip afternoon sodas and coffee and munch on croissants at the tea house while soaking up the garden air and sacred sound of silence in air-and-noise-polluted Bamako. 

 Fletcher in the flowers (he's another PCV at PHARE)
On Saturday night the museum hosted the opening of an exposition titled 'North meets West' in their temporary exhibit space.  Massaran and I, a neighbor and friend, ventured to the museum on Saturday afternoon with her baby Aboudou on her back and my camera in hand.  The exhibit is the culmination of a 10-day workshop held in Bamako for a group Norwegian and West African artists from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo and Mali.   

Mama Bamako, 2010 - Bjoern Noergaard
Lunch, art exhibits, scenic benches - whatever the reason, the National Park and Museum of Mali provide the answer.  It's the right price, $10 a month for unlimited entry and 250 CFA/visit for residents (about 50 cents) and the right location for me (across the street from work and a 10 minute drive from home).  The garden gods have smiled on Bamako and I feel blessed for it!
tea house by night-light
see more pictures from the park and Bamako here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, my, Jennifer...it's lovely. Wish I were there! love you, mom

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