African History

Brief History Of The Clay City – Djenne, Mali

Djenne (pronounced: Djenné) is historically, known to be an ancient city in Mali, a West African country, and the oldest known city in sub-Saharan Africa.

Djenne was founded by the Soninke merchants around 850 A.D and 1200 A.D  as it was a direct link to the major trading city of Timbuktu which is 248.548 miles downstream of the Niger river. It was said to have been seized in 1468 by the Songhai emperor, Sonni ‘Ali. It was believed that each goods and slaves that moved in and out Timbuktu passed through Djenne city.

They speak Koyra Chiini – part of the Songhay language family.

Djenne is also notable for being the Islamic center for Moslem scholars.

According to tourists reports, on weather conditions; it is usually hot in the city with the months of April and May recording around 40°C while they experience rainfall from June down till September or exceeding. Harmattan takes over the month of December till March.

The city of Djenne has two dams built in their land; the Talo Dam along Bani River to irrigate the floodplain parts of the San – a town in Djenne. It is was built in such a way that the water flows atop the holding walls.

The African Development Bank approved $66 million to build a dam bigger than Talo Dam in May 2009 – Djenne Dam was built on Bani, close to Soala town in the South of Djenne to irrigate about 35000 acres of rice farm and 12000 acres for growing Bourgou, a grass used for feeding animals.



Brief History Of The Clay City - Djenne, Mali
The Great Mosque (image credit:destig.com)

Djenne is said to be famous by their sun-baked earthen bricks for building. The bricks are made by the river bank and it is a mixture of chopped straws and earth using a molded wood.
They are also good in making terracotta sculptures.

Excavators noted that there were walls made of sun-baked bricks surrounding the city that was constructed back in 800 CE.

Djenne is known to be a commercial center as the inhabitants mostly depend on agricultural products and livestock as funds to their economy, also with tourism among the city source of economy.

Brief History Of The Clay City - Djenne, Mali
Djenne men at work (image credit: destig.com)

The Great Mosque, the two-storey adobe building, and Maiga’s building which is said to be the finest house in the town – it is said to have a Toucouleur pattern of entrance and its located on the Eastern part of the city.


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Buchi Prinzy Henry
An African writer with cravings to unearth all stolen, hidden, and unheard glories of Afrika. Mental emancipation is my mission. I write on History Category at 54history.com

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