Crossroads of Culture: Segou - Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Ségou "Crossroads of Culture"
February 28, 2001

Founded in 1620, the town of Ségou is the second largest city in Mali. Ségou was capital of the eighteenth-century Bamana Empire, whose influence stretched from the Senegal River to Timbuktu. The French took the city in 1892, using it as an administrative center for the Office du Niger, a colonial development scheme. The town's French influences are readily apparent in its wide, tree-lined boulevards. Most of the town's inhabitants of Ségou are Bozo, fisherman who have worked this section of the Niger since the seventh century A.D.


Boat Races held in celebration of Independence Day, September 22

Though traditional Bamana architecture can be found throughout town, the oldest remains can be found in Ségou-Koro (old Ségou) five miles west of the modern city, where narrow streets lined with ancient mud-brick and banco (liquid mud) buildings abound.

With a thriving community of artisans--potters, weavers, and woodworkers--Ségou offers a wide variety of shopping opportunities.


Visitors should also take in a visit to a millet beer bar, of which there are several in Ségou-Koro. The making of millet beer takes about two weeks. Husked millet is soaked for at least a week until it ferments. It is then placed in a shallow, hard-fired ceramic plate over a ceramic brazier that has been built into a wood-fueled clay oven. Here the fermented millet will simmer for about a week. Its consumption is accompanied by music and group dancing.

Among the best places to stay in Ségou are L'Auberge and the Hôtel Independence. Owned by two sets of Lebanese brothers (who happen to be cousins) these hotels are quintessential expat hangouts, complete with a European-style bars and music. Their restaurants offer a selection of both Malian and Middle Eastern specialties. Don't miss the cheese crêpes!

© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America