I hope not, because northern Mali (including Timbuktu) is a DO NOT TRAVEL region. Australian, US and UK governments recommend against all travel to northern Mali due to the very real threat of kidnap. The local branch of Al Qaeda has made it clear it WILL target western interests and westerners. Here's what Smartraveller says about Mali.
• Cultural festivals held in north and west African are attractive places for terrorists and criminals to identify and target tourists for kidnapping. A number of Westerners were kidnapped in Mali in 2009, including from major cultural festivals in northern Mali. At least one kidnap victim was executed. Westerners almost certainly will continue to be the primary targets of further kidnapping attempts in Mali, and these festivals bring Westerners to predictable locations along unsecured routes.
• You are strongly advised not to attend major festivals such as the Tuareg ‘Festival in the Desert’ and the ‘Sahara Nights’ festival in northern Mali and the Tamadach Festival in eastern Mali.
• The festival in Anderamboukane was postponed earlier in the year due to security concerns. In 2009 a British national who attended this festival was subsequently kidnapped and murdered. Bookings are already being taken for 2012 festivals in areas of northern Mali to which travel is not considered safe.
• If you are travelling to Mali as part of an organised tour you should confirm with the organisers that they are aware of international Travel Advice and that they can confirm in writing that their travel insurance still applies. over 6 years ago
Mmmm ... thanks. But I think I'll take Phil's advice! I didn't realise there was a DO NOT TRAVEL warning, and since governments don't issue these lightly (there are only a handful around the world) it sounds like sensible advice. There are plenty of other festivals to enjoy. over 6 years ago
Steffi, it may be so and I have great respect for your opinion because you've been on the ground...... however, there's never smoke without fire, so I think it's a bit harsh to call the travel warnings "unnecessary". The 'fire' in this case would be:
1. June 27 2011, A Mauritanian colonel who led a military raid last week on a suspected al-Qaida camp in the neighboring nation of Mali says that 17 people were killed during the operation. Al-Qaida’s African affiliate is known to operate in the deserts and remote forests between the two countries. The group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of dozens of foreigners (AFP). Note the "dozens of foreigners" part.
2. On 10 March 2011, the US Government warned of possible kidnapping threats against Westerners. The US also warned a terrorist group may be planning attacks against US interests in Mali, including the US Embassy and American International School of Bamako (AISB). (Source: smartraveller)
3. 5 January 2011, the French embassy in Bamako was attacked by an individual using explosives and a handgun. No one was killed in the attack. (smartraveller)
I've seen those postings on other boards too, most of them are from last year (2010), and I'd suggest they could be out of date given the fast-changing situation.
Just a personal opinion, but the fact the festival needed planes patrolling overhead would suggest to me that there was some credible threat to the safety of participants.
Generally government warnings are over-the-top because they have to be (imagine the furore if they didn't warn about a possible threat!). But rarely do all 3 major western governments make warnings as severe and specific as the ones for Mali.
Regardless, in the end UK, USA and Australia have advised their citizens to not go there. That has implications for travel insurance - as in you're not insured for travel against your government's advice - which breaks the cardinal rule of travel: if you can't afford (or get) travel insurance, you can't afford to travel.
It's not my position to tell people what to do, I just think poeple should be armed with all the facts befoere making their own decision.
Phil over 6 years ago
our just published piece on the risk of bumping into trouble in Mali on the worldnomads.com safety hub.
Phil over 6 years ago