By Merritt Frey, Executive Director
Mali is an amazing country, full of color and life. However, those of us in western countries tend to know very little about Mali. When I started this job, I could amaze people with the simple fact that Timbuktu is located in Mali. Here are five other things you probably didn't know about Mali:
1) Mansa Musa, emperor of the Malian Empire in the early 1300s, gave so much gold to the people along his way on his pilgrimage to Mecca that he inadvertently caused inflation in the regions he passed through. Learn more.
2) The prime meridian marker runs right through Gao, Mali. If you stand on the marker, you can literally have a foot in the east hemisphere and one in the west.
3) Bògòlanfini or bogolan (from Bambara meaning "mud cloth") is a beautiful, handmade Malian cotton fabric traditionally dyed with fermented mud. Learn more.
4) Mali is also home to the northernmost herd of African elephants. The nomadic herdsman who live in the area – primarily the Tuareg and Fulani tribes – have coexisted peacefully with the elephants for centuries. However, the elephants are threatened by poachers.
5) Mali is a former French colony. Mali received its independence in 1960. French is still the official national language, but the country is home to more than 40 languages.