Location: Western Africa
Rivers: The Niger River is the largest river. In the south, this river provided water for farming, laundering and bathing.
Terrain: The northwestern region of the empire extends into the Sahara desert. It is almost entirely arid, without water. In the central and southern areas, the Niger River has an annual flood cycle with high water between August and November. A savannah or grassland stretches across the southern region.
Sahara Desert: This desert, known as the "Sea of Sand," is the largest desert in the world. Sahara means "desert" in Arabic. Sahel means "shore." It is not really a shoreline but a place where short grasses and shrubby bushes grow at the edge of the desert. This sahel is in between the desert and the savannah. Camels are called the "ships of the desert."
Important Cities: Both of these cities were important because they lay along the trans-Saharan trade routes where gold was traded for salt. Wealthy merchants lived in these cities. Once the Portuguese explorers started sailing the seas to trade, however, these landlocked cities fell into ruins.
Timbuktu: a great trading center and home of an ancient university and library which contained Greek and Roman books.
Djenne: home of the grand
To see a picture of the Djenne Mosque, click here.
More information about ancient Mali and geography can be found at the Mali-Ancient Crossroads of Africa website.
Page created by Brooks Widmaier