More than 90% of Malians live in the south of the country where the capital Bamako is situated. The official language of Mali is French but the various ethnic groups also speak over 40 other African languages.
Aside from French, one of the key languages that Malians use as their lingua franca is Bambara; approximately 80% of the population is capable of communicating in this language.
Tensions that exist in Mali are partly due to antipathy that exists between the different ethnic groups that make up Mali’s estimated 14.5 million inhabitants.
Specifically, ethnic tensions exist between the Songhai and nomadic Tuareg tribesmen in the north of the country; these ethnic groupings make up 6% and 10% of Mali’s population, respectively. The largest ethnic group in Mali is the Bambara, constituting around 36.5 per cent of the population.
Since being introduced to West Africa in the 11th century, Islam is now the most widely observed religion in the region. Approximately 90% of Malians are Muslim, and the majority of those are Sunni.
The Malian climate varies throughout; to the north, Mali is largely arid and is covered by the southern Saharan desert. The hot, arid climate means that Mali suffers from regular droughts as a result of high temperatures and low levels of annual rainfall.
By contrast, the south of the country is tropical; this is the region in which the majority of Malians live and indeed where its capital is situated. This is the only fertile area because water from the Niger and Senegal rivers can be used for irrigation.
There is a rainy season that occurs between late June and early December; during this period, the Niger River is liable to flood creating what is known as the Inner Niger Delta.
A visa is required for foreign nationals wishing to travel to Mali. A visa can be obtained from the Malian embassy or eonsulate prior to traveling to Mali. Documents required for visa are; a valid passport, two recent passport photos, two completed application forms, a copy of yellow fever vaccination certificate, hotel reservation for the stay in Mali or invitation letter, and a return plane ticket.