Shopping in Bamako, Mali

I’m revisiting some of my old Mali diary entries from 2006 and taking a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Here’s a trip to the tailors of Bamako.

Malian tailor in Ohio

Malian tailor in Ohio

(Thanks to for this photo of a Malian tailor – in Ohio!)

Last weekend I bought some new material. In Mali there are several ways to get clothes. You can buy ready made from specialist shops – usually pretty expensive, or you buy materials and then take them to a tailor. I’ve had problems finding a good tailor and at coffee time last week got talking to a colleague who offered to do a tailor tour in Bamako. Most tailors specialise to a greater or lesser extent. Some do only men’s traditional clothes, others only men’s European style clothes. For women’s clothes it is the same. There are tailors who only make complicated local styles, others who do very impressive embroidery, and recently I found a young woman who only makes children’s clothes.

So, at 9 am we set out in our truck to face the traffic and people of Bamako town. Our first stop was easy, near the old Amitie hotel (now named the Libya!) is the ‘bag shop’ well known to all expatriates. The Senegalese guy there welcomed us. The bags are made with material imported from Senegal and Ivory Coast. I ordered one bag to be made, bought another and my husband bought a shirt.

We set off again and in the middle of town our guide took us down an unpaved street I had never been before (only the main routes in Bamako are paved roads). This road was not only not paved, but as it rained heavily last night it was full of rather large lakes of water. The lock-up one room shops line the street with often as much outside the shop as inside. Parking is a major problem in town and we were fortunate to find parking outside a bank and were given a ticket with the time on it and told to pay when we got back. Progress indeed!

Mali, Bamako street

Mali, Bamako street

(Thanks to for the picture of a similar Bamako street, although the jam-packed people and cars and motorbikes are missing)

The first tailor we visited specialises in highly embroidered Malian dress for men and women. We greeted him and sat for quite a long while outside his material shop looking at pattern books. I showed him some material I bought last week and we discussed what should be done with it. In the end we decided on a traditional boubou (kaftan), pagne (wrap-round skirt) and headtie with a touch of embroidery around the neckline. He will have it done within a week.

Next we went further along the street to a shop which has some very good quality materials – just to look this time.

At this point we were getting quite tired and decided to go and have a drink in a patisserie delice de Bamako. The buns were rather stale but the tea was good. Thus fortified we went to what is known by expats as the ‘European fabric store’. Run by Lebanese this is a veritable Aladin’s cave of materials on two floors. The lower floor has upholstery materials and the upstairs floor dress materials. We looked at potential cover material for our old sofa.

Then it was quite a long trek back to the truck and we set off for the ‘european tailor’. Our guide introduced us to the tailor and left us discussing our cloth and needs while she went to do other shopping. Mostly I wear Mali style dress, but it is nice to have dresses I like copied and I have ordered a skirt, dress and blouse to be made – all to be collected next week.

By this time we were all flagging and it was well past lunchtime, so after a quick stop at the big supermarket nearby we trekked back over the other side of the river and home for lunch and a lie-down.

Phew! Just think – we have to do it all again next Saturday when we go and collect the items we’ve had made.

Africa Mali : Shopping in Bamako Shopping in Mali is fun! Mali : BAMAKO SYMPOSIUM 2012 – MEDIA ARTS IN FOCUS Shopping in Mali : Medina Coura market Mali : Fulani Baby Naming Ceremony in Bamako

  6 Responses to “Mali: Shopping in Bamako – Tailors”

  1. Hi Maggie, I’m glad you enjoyed the Mali post and that you have a great trip to Mali soon. Have you seen the other posts on Mali on SocioLingo Africa? Here’s the link to them:

  2. Thank you for all these details. I am hoping to visit Mali sometime in the next 12 months. Your written log here makes me feel like I am already getting to know the place and that there is plenty I will not want to miss out on! Thanks again. I will be looking at the Kenya posts on this site to as I visited Kenya years ago and was enwondered (my word) by it. Africa and its peoples are so beautiful, so complex. Thinking of Africa makes my heart expand.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Claire Ulrich, paconmiller and SocioLingo Africa, Mário Teixeira. Mário Teixeira said: RT @sociolingo: [Blog Post] Africa Mali: Shopping in Bamako – Tailors [...]

  4. Hi Carole, thanks for writing. I’m really glad you are finding the blog useful.

  5. Please do keep up the good work.

  6. Excellent! Thanks for sharing the info. You write really well. Hope to see much more flowing from your end. Cheers :)

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