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In central Mali, about 90 km to the east of Mopti, rises a dramatic sandstone cliff with a high plateau above and sandy semi-desert plains below. Known as the Bandiagara Escarpment, this cliff stretches for about 150 kilometers, and is noted by the UNESCO as “an outstanding landscape of cliffs and sandy plateaux with some beautiful architecture.” The Bandiagara site is considered one of West Africa's most impressive features, due to its geological and archaeological features as well as its ethnological importance.

The site has been settled for at least 2,000 years. Since the last five hundred years it has been home to the ethnic group known as Dogon. Before they migrated to this area from their homeland far to the south-west in what is now Burkina Faso and Ghana, the Dogons were frequently raided by neighboring Islamic tribal groups. Men, women and children alike were captured and thrown into the slave trade.

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Cliff dwellings in the Bandiagara escarpment. Photo credit: Ferdinand Reus/Wikipedia

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