I left Italy during a snow storm. The weather was so bad that the flight had to be postponed for one day. I like when trips start off with complications because I know from experience that it’s a good sign.
I land in Bamako, the city of mangoes. Another world.
A small plane from Timbuktu takes me to the sands of the desert.
My friend Tahara hosted me at her hotel. It is the only hotel in the sacred city of Timbuktu that does not sell alcohol to its customers.
She offered me one of the employees at her restaurant to act as my guide and helper during my stay. He was a young Tamashek Tuareg named Al Mansour.
I started right away to look for a suitable place to dig a well and install the windmill, that would have arrived shortly from France.
I was told that there was a shortage of water in the suburbs of Timbuktu, where water taps had not yet been installed. I went with al Mansour to check out the situation.
When you want to help resolve a problem, the first thing to do is to understand the situation, otherwise you will become part of the problem, instead of being part of the solution. It always takes a few weeks to begin to understand a situation, and I knew that, so I was not in a hurry. I plan to stay 2 or 3 months there.
The city was expanding into the sands of the desert that had besieged it. Strangely, Timbuktu is conquering the desert, but only to become part of it, like a desolate ghost town.
The rich people of the city hall design lots on a map, buy the land for cheap, and force the poor people to move further and further out. Then they build and sell real estate, making big profits. This is the reason why I do not want to dig a well for the poor people on public land: it will increase its value and the powerful ones will expel the weak ones
In the suburbs, water is carried by donkeys. Water is needed there for 2 main purposes: drinking and building. A lot of water is necessary to transform dirt into mud bricks.
After my visit to the suburbs I realized that it was not the right place. I would have had to buy a piece of land at a very high price and certainly within a short time the tap water would have been hooked up and the city would have expelled the poor people who had settled there.
Timbuktu seen from the suburbs of the city, with Al Mansour.
Continue next week…