Bandiagara Escarpment, Mali, West Africa. HOME OF THE DOGON
'Symbolises “Nommo” the guardians of the waters and Ancient Knowledge.'
This whole journey takes place over four full on weeks of trekking and traveling, so I am disciplining myself to keeping this narrative as concise as possible and to hopefully leave you wanting to know more. The full details will be in our second book…which is almost ready and the first is out and selling well..yeah!!
Aunty Jo is with us again as the three of us fly out of Dubai on our way to Egypt. The feeling to take the “water spirit” symbol into the Kings Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza is very strong. Egypt is also one place that Paul and I have dreamt of visiting for as long as we can remember. For Aunty Jo it is a returning to a place she fell in love with many years earlier. We have four days in Egypt and there is so much to see. Our guide Mohammed Hamid meets us at the airport and before we know it has arranged for every day to be jam packed with sightseeing. We refer to this time as seeing Egypt on steroids as we are about to do in 3 days what most would do in 7. Cruise on the Nile; visit the pyramids and the Sphinx; visit papyrus and essential oil making; journey to Alexandria with Murawa our local guide, especially the Library that stands in the same place as the Library of Alexander the Greats’ time; camel rides at lunch and at dusk for tea with Ahtif and his family way out on the dunes; Light and sound show at the Pyramids; the amazing Museum of Antiquities, could have spent a whole month there and still not seen it all or taken it in and a whole lot more thrown in for good measure.
First sight of the Pyramids is rather disconcerting. We are driving to our Hotel through the crowded, congested and dusty streets of Cairo, we go over a large causeway, round a corner and then….there they are!! 21st Century imposed on the top of, and literally so, the Ancient world! Mind boggling. Very early on day 2 we are picked up by our driver Walid and our beautiful guide Riham. In minutes we are standing in front of the Great Pyramid waiting our turn to enter and go up to the Kings Chamber.
Climbing up a narrow, low ceilinged staircase and going deep within this huge structure into a room with little to no light or air was daunting to say the least. How we were going to do a surreptitious ceremony there was also on our minds given that we had just seen a dozen or more people disappear inside before us. On entering the chamber we were astonished…there was no-one there and by the way there is no other place to go either….just something to ponder on. Taking the symbol out and placing it mid center of the North wall the three of us began to tone. The sound was amazing. It swirled around us and in seconds sounded as if there was a whole chorus singing withus.
Skipping over the next three days we are now landing in Bamako having come via Casablanca, Morocco....we will be coming back to spend a few days of R&R here at the end of our journey.
Now to get from Bamako, here we spend the day after arriving at our Hotel at 6.00am after traveling all night,…… to Mopti. That adventure is a whole story in itself and incorporates the bus ride from hell that nearly saw us boiled alive, left behind and stuck in the middle of some very angry locals. It is in Mopti that we meet our guide Mamadou Traore and he will lead us on foot 135kms through Dogon country. Up and over and down and along and up and over anddown the Bandiagara escarpment we go for 14 days from village to village until we finally get to Indelou, the village nearest to the hidden sacred river where the greenstone symbol will find its final resting place. A truly wonderful journey that sees us sleeping on roof tops, gazing at some of this planets most spectacular views and dancing withthe local villagers, some of the happiest people we have met on our travels. Not the easiest of journeys physically for any of us. At the end of some days we are feeling exhausted.
Jo in particular has some painful challenges to deal with and overcome. On the way we encounter, under amazing circumstance, 3 of the 4 Hogon or spiritual leaders of the Dogon that are left. We are told there used to be one for every village. In our reckoning it means that there would have been over 60 Hogans at one time in the past.
To say we feel blessed is an understatement. The Hogan are normally very reclusive. Many of the Dogon themselves have not even seen or met one. It is almost unheard of to be able to touch them, speak to them or have them approach you.
The Hogon of Indelou tells the chief of the village who is Mamadous’ blood brother, where the symbol needs to go. He has recognized it as an ancient symbol and tells Umbargo the prayer to say to the water spirits as it is gifted to them.
How we help a very sick wife of a village chief, are attacked one windy night by spirits, are welcomed to the village of Indelou, meet the Hogans, find and then get the stone to the hidden river and why Jo sadly misses out on the stone ceremony and how our rest time in Morocco fares, will be told in book two of “Set By The Ancients”.
Paul and I would like to thank Mohammed, Walid, Reham, Murawa, Mamadou, the Dogon people, especially those of Indelou and our Morrocan Mohammed for their wonderful guidance, hospitality and company. Without them and especially you Jo, our journey would not have unfolded in the miraculous way it did…oh and the spirit of the ancient as always.
Mamadou can be contacted through his website: http://dogon-guide.com