The present day Mali with Bamako as the capital boasts a long and glorious history. The area of the lush inland delta of the Niger River was home to several highly developed and culturally rich empires. In the Middle Ages the Mali Empire was the world's leading supplier of gold. Tombouctou was the key city of the empire, an important cultural, educational and trading center. In fact, one of the largest libraries in the world was located in Tombouctou commonly known as the gateway to the Sahara Desert.
Today Mali is a landlocked country with the population of 11 million people. It is situated right in the center of West Africa and has long been the commercial centre of the region. Mauritania and Senegal border Mali on the West while Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burkina-Faso border it on the South. Niger is to the East and Algeria is to the North of it. The size of Mali is nearly twice larger than that of Texas. The bulk of the territory is mostly savanna and plains covered with sand, with 65 percent of the country being desert or semi-desert. The main water artery of the country is the Niger River that flows through the country dividing it in half. Each year the river floods providing pasture land for livestock to graze on. The lavish inland river delta supports unique and bountiful vegetation for half a year.
In the late 19th century Mali as part of West Africa was under the influence of France, but today this hasn't had any significant impact on the contemporary Mali. The country gained independence in 1960, but severe droughts in the early 1970s and in the early 1980s considerably undermined the country's agriculture-based economy. In 1992, Mali's first civilian government was elected. Today the Mali government strives to improve the economy, with food security being the priority. Also the country focuses on the development of education, natural resources and nature protection. Despite the government's efforts, Mali is now one of the poorest countries in the world. The annual per capita income of Malians is just $260 and the majority of the citizens still rely on the land for their livelihood. Most people have small landholdings where they grow vegetables, also they raise livestock and fish the Niger, Senegal, Bani and other rivers.
The culture of Bamako - Mali is the richest of all West African countries. The area had spawned some of the most powerful empires of Africa that became rich due to the trans-Saharan trade. Even though these kingdoms have gone, they have left numerous traces of their enormous cultural heritage that can be seen today. Mali's ethnic groups have preserved much of their old traditions in their complex social structure and everyday life. Mali festivals, religious ceremonies and beautiful artifacts showcase the rich culture of the nation. By the way, some of the world's most beautiful architecture and sculptures were created by gifted artists from Mali.