In the history of Mali there have been three great empires: the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire and the Songhay Empire.
The Kingdom of Mali was founded in the first half of the thirteenth century by Sundiata from the small state of Kangaba.
Salt was such a valuable commodity that people would trade a pound of gold for a pound of salt. Mali is famous for its salt mines.
In the past, Mali was one of the richest countries, home to great emperors whose wealth came mainly from the region's position in the cross-Sahara trade routes between West Africa and the north.
Timbuktu was an important centre of Islamic learning.
The ancient mosque in Timbuktu has a door which has never been opened. It is said that opening the door will signal the end of world.
Djenne is thought to be the most beautiful town in the Sahel. Djenne also has a famous mosque in the town square.
According to Gaoussou Diawara, the fourteenth century African ruler of Mali, Abubakari II, discovered America nearly two hundred years before Christopher Columbus (The Saga of Abubakari II).
In the sixteenth century Timbuktu had two universities.
Prize-money was offered for the first European to reach Timbuktu. Gordon Laing from Scotland reached Timbuktu in 1826 but never returned home as he was killed by Tuaregs.
While a student at Cambridge, Tennyson, the famous Victorian poet (The Charge of the Light Brigade) won a poetry competition with a poem called "Timbuctoo".
In 1829, the year Tennyson won his poetry prize, Thackeray (author of Vanity Fair) wrote "And somewhere there, unknown to public view, A mighty city lies, called Timbuktu".
Mali was a French colony under the name of the French Sudan.
Mali was part of French West Africa. (French West Africa was formed in 1895. The Federation included Cote d'Ivoire,
Guinea (French Guinea),
Mali (French Sudan) and Senegal. Later members were
Burkina Faso (Upper Volta)
Mauritania and Niger. The Federation ended in 1958).
Nowadays Mali is one of the world's poorest countries.
Mali's food supply is insufficient to feed all the people of the country especially in times of drought.
When a village in Mali suffered from floods in 1995 and 1997 their twin town in Canada sent aid. In 1998 the farmers of Mali sent help to Canada after the fierce winter storms.
In 2002 a device invented in Switzerland was sent to forty villages in Mali. The multipurpose machine generates power for lighting, processes rice and millet and can be adapted to run on oil from a type of nut discovered in Mexico.
Swarms of locusts in 2004 severely cut Mali's cereal harvest.
Floods in 2007 affected countries in Africa, from east to west; a number of people lost their lives in flooding in Mali.
In October 2008 Niger's government was found guilty of failing to protect Hadijatou Mani from slavery. The ruling was said to have implications for other African countries where slavery persists.
Read Ancient West African Kingdoms