Gao

Gao

Overview
Gao is a town in eastern Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

 on the River Niger lying 320 km (198.8 mi) ESE of Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

. Situated on the left bank of the river at the junction with the Tilemsi valley, it is the capital of the Gao Region
Gao Region
The Gao Region is located in eastern Mali. The region's capital city is Gao. Gao Region is bordered to the south and east by Niger, to the north by Kidal Region, and to the west by Tombouctou Region. Common ethnicities in the Gao Region include the Songhai, Bozo, Tuareg, Bambara, and Kounta...

 and had a population of 86,663 in 2009.

For much of its history Gao was an important commercial centre involved in the trans-Saharan trade
Trans-Saharan trade
Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara to reach sub-Saharan Africa. While existing from prehistoric times, the peak of trade extended from the 8th century until the late 16th century.- Increasing desertification and economic incentive :...

. We know from external Arabic sources that by the 9th century Gao was already an important regional power and by the end of the 10th century the local ruler was a Muslim.
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Encyclopedia
Gao is a town in eastern Mali
Mali
Mali , officially the Republic of Mali , is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Mali borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and the Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Its size is just over 1,240,000 km² with...

 on the River Niger lying 320 km (198.8 mi) ESE of Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

. Situated on the left bank of the river at the junction with the Tilemsi valley, it is the capital of the Gao Region
Gao Region
The Gao Region is located in eastern Mali. The region's capital city is Gao. Gao Region is bordered to the south and east by Niger, to the north by Kidal Region, and to the west by Tombouctou Region. Common ethnicities in the Gao Region include the Songhai, Bozo, Tuareg, Bambara, and Kounta...

 and had a population of 86,663 in 2009.

For much of its history Gao was an important commercial centre involved in the trans-Saharan trade
Trans-Saharan trade
Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara to reach sub-Saharan Africa. While existing from prehistoric times, the peak of trade extended from the 8th century until the late 16th century.- Increasing desertification and economic incentive :...

. We know from external Arabic sources that by the 9th century Gao was already an important regional power and by the end of the 10th century the local ruler was a Muslim. Towards the end of the 13th century Gao lost its independence and became part of the Mali Empire
Mali Empire
The Mali Empire or Mandingo Empire or Manden Kurufa was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I...

 but in first half of the 15th century the town regained its independence and with the conquests of Sunni Ali (ruled 1464-1492) Gao became the capital of the Songhai Empire
Songhai Empire
The Songhai Empire, also known as the Songhay Empire, was a state located in western Africa. From the early 15th to the late 16th century, Songhai was one of the largest Islamic empires in history. This empire bore the same name as its leading ethnic group, the Songhai. Its capital was the city...

. The Empire collapsed after the Moroccan
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 invasion in 1591 and the invaders chose to make Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

 their capital. By the time of Heinrich Barth
Heinrich Barth
Heinrich Barth was a German explorer of Africa and scholar.Barth is one of the greatest of the European explorers of Africa, not necessarily because of the length of his travels or the time he spent alone without European company in Africa, but because of his singular character.-Biography:Barth...

's visit in 1854, Gao had declined to become a impoverished village with 300 huts constructed from matting.

Location


Gao is located on the eastern bank of the Niger River
Niger River
The Niger River is the principal river of western Africa, extending about . Its drainage basin is in area. Its source is in the Guinea Highlands in southeastern Guinea...

 at the junction with the Tilemsi Valley. The sprawling town is the largest in eastern Mali. It is connected to the capital, Bamako
Bamako
Bamako is the capital of Mali and its largest city with a population of 1.8 million . Currently, it is estimated to be the fastest growing city in Africa and sixth fastest in the world...

 at the western end of Mali, by 1200 km of good paved road. In 2006 the Wabaria bridge was inaugurated to replace the ferry service across the Niger. The bridge was constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation and financed by the Islamic Development Bank
Islamic Development Bank
The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral development financing institution located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was founded by the first conference of Finance Ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference , convened 23 Dhu'l Qa'dah 1393 AH.The bank officially began its activities on...

 and the Malian government.

The town is strategically placed with road links (unpaved) to the desert Kidal Region
Kidal Region
Kidal is the eighth administrative region of Mali, covering 151,430 km². Its capital is the city of Kidal.-Geography:The region is bordered on the west by Tomboctou Region, to the south by Gao Region, to the east by Niger and to the north by Algeria....

 to the north and to Niamey
Niamey
-Population:While Niamey's population has grown steadily since independence, the droughts of the early 1970s and 1980s, along with the economic crisis of the early 1980s, have propelled an exodus of rural inhabitants to Niger's largest city...

, the capital of Niger
Niger
Niger , officially named the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east...

, to the south. The road to the south runs along the left bank of the river. The town of Ansongo
Ansongo
Ansongo is a Rural Commune and small town in the Gao Region of south-eastern Mali. The town lies on the left bank of the Niger River 90 km south of Gao. It is the administrative center for the surrounding Ansongo Cercle. The commune has an area of 445 km2 and had a population of 32,709...

 is 103 km from Gao. The border with Niger is just south of the village of Labbezanga, a distance of 204 km.

There are also seasonal ferry services on the Niger River. A service between Gao and Koulikoro
Koulikoro
Koulikoro is a city in Mali. The capital of the Koulikoro Region, Koulikoro is located on banks of the Niger River, from Mali's capital Bamako....

, a distance of 1380 km, is managed by the Compagnie Malienne de Navigation (COMANAV). It usually operates from the end of July, after the annual rains when there is sufficient water in the river, until mid November. Smaller boats are able to operate for a longer season between Bourem
Bourem
Bourem is a commune and small town in the Gao Region of south-eastern Mali. The town sits on the left bank of the River Niger....

 and Ansongo.

The town is expanding rapidly. In the 1998 census the population of the urban commune was 52,201. By the census in 2009 this had increased to 86,633, a 4.7% annual growth rate. For administrative purposes, the commune is divided into nine quartiers: Gadeye, Farandjiré, Aljanabanbia, Djoulabougou, Saneye, Sosso Koïra, Boulgoundjé, Château and Djidara. The urban commune is bounded to the north by the commune of Soni Ali Ber
Sony Aliber
Sony Aliber or Soni Ali Ber is a commune in the Cercle of Gao in the Gao Region of south-eastern Mali. The main villages are: Bagnadji, Batal, Berrah, Forgho Arma, Forgho Songhai, Kochakarey, Kokorom, Magnadoué, Seina and Zindiga. The administrative center is the village of Forgo Sourhai which is...

, to the east by the commune of Anchawadi
Anchawadi
Anchawadi is a commune in the Cercle of Gao in the Gao Region of south-eastern Mali. The principal town lies at Djebock. As of 1998 the commune had a population of 7392.-References:...

 and to the south and west by the commune of Gounzoureye
Gounzoureye
Gounzoureye is a rural commune in the Cercle of Gao in the Gao Region of south-eastern Mali. The commune includes the villages of Koima, Tchirissoro, Sadou, Lobou, Sidibé, Kosseye, Gorom Gorom, Kadji, Wabaria, Arhabou, Tacharane, Bagoundjé I and Bagoundjé II, which are all located on the banks of...

.

Climate



The climate is typical for the Sahel region
Sahel
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

. It is hot and dry with the only rainfall occurring between June and September. August is normally the wettest month. The average annual rainfall is only 220 mm but there are large year to year variations. May is the hottest month with an average maximum temperature of 43 °C. December and January are the coolest months with minimum temperatures of 15 °C. From October to March during the dry period the north-easterly Harmattan
Harmattan
The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March...

 wind blows from the Sahara. When it blows strongly the dust-laden wind reduces visibility and creates a persistent haze.

With the low rainfall the vegetation away from the river is sparse and consists mainly of various species of Acacia
Acacia
Acacia is a genus of shrubs and trees belonging to the subfamily Mimosoideae of the family Fabaceae, first described in Africa by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1773. Many non-Australian species tend to be thorny, whereas the majority of Australian acacias are not...

 (Acacia raddiana, Acacia nilotica
Acacia nilotica
Acacia nilotica is a species of Acacia native to Africa and the Indian subcontinent...

, Acacia ehrenbergiana) and Balanites aegyptiaca
Balanites aegyptiaca
Balanites aegyptiaca is a species of tree, classified either as a member of the Zygophyllaceae or the Balanitaceae. This tree is native to much of Africa and parts of the Middle East....

. The herbaceous plants are dominated by Cenchrus biflorus
Cenchrus biflorus
Cenchrus biflorus is a species of annual grass in the Poaceae family. Common names include Indian sandbur, Bhurat or Bhurut in India, Haskaneet in Sudan, K 'arangiya in the Hausa language of Nigeria, and Ngibbi in the Kanuri language of Nigeria...

and Panicum laetum.

Annual flood of the Niger River


Almost all the local agriculture depends on river water for irrigation. The annual flood of the Niger River is a result of the heavy rainfall in the headwaters of the Niger and Bani
Bani River
The Bani River is the principal tributary of the Niger River in Mali. Its length is about 1100 km. The Bani is formed from the confluence of the Baoulé and Bagoé rivers some 160 km east of Bamako and merges with the Niger near Mopti.-Geography:...

 rivers in Guinea
Guinea
Guinea , officially the Republic of Guinea , is a country in West Africa. Formerly known as French Guinea , it is today sometimes called Guinea-Conakry to distinguish it from its neighbour Guinea-Bissau. Guinea is divided into eight administrative regions and subdivided into thirty-three prefectures...

 and the northern Ivory Coast. The rainfall in the headwater areas peaks in August but the flood water takes time to pass down the river system, through the Inner Niger Delta region and arrive at Gao. At Koulikoro
Koulikoro
Koulikoro is a city in Mali. The capital of the Koulikoro Region, Koulikoro is located on banks of the Niger River, from Mali's capital Bamako....

 the flood peaks in September, while in Gao the flood lasts longer and reaches a maximum in December. There is a large year to year variation in the extent of the flooding. The existing and proposed dams upstream of Gao reduce the overall flow of the river and could potentially have a large effect on the local agriculture. When in flood the river is 4 km wide at Gao but during the dry season a number of islands appear in the river. There is very little flow, only 5% of the maximum, in June and July.

History


The history of the Gao Empire
Gao Empire
The Gao Empire precedes that of the Songhay Empire in the region of the Middle Niger. It owes its name to the town of Gao located at the eastern Niger bend...

 precedes that of the Songhay Empire in the region of the Middle Niger. Both empires had the town of Gao as their capital. Apart from some Arabic epitaphs on tombstones discovered in 1939 at the cemetery of Gao-Saney
Gao-Saney
Gao-Saney is the medieval town close to Gao, the capital of the Gao Empire, situated on the eastern Niger Bend in the present-day Republic of Mali...

 (6 km to the east of the city) there are no surviving indigenous written records that date from before the middle of the 17th century. Our knowledge of the early history of the town relies on the writings of external Arabic geographers living in Morocco, Egypt and Andalusia, most of whom never visited the region. These authors referred to the town as Kawkaw or Kuku. The two key 17th century chronicles, the Tarikh al-Sudan and the Tarikh al-fattash
Tarikh al-fattash
The Tarikh al-fattash is a chronicle written in Arabic in the second half of the 17th century. It provides an account of the Songhay Empire from the reign of Sonni Ali up to 1599 with a few references to events in the following century. The chronicle also mentions the earlier Mali Empire. Octave...

, provide information on the town at the time of the Songhay Empire but they contain relatively little on the social and economic history. The chronicles do not, in general, acknowledge their sources. Their accounts for the earlier periods are almost certainly based on oral tradition and for events before the second half of the 15th century they are likely to be less reliable. For these earlier periods the two chronicles sometimes provide conflicting information.

The earliest mention of Gao is by al-Khuwarizmi who wrote in the first half of the 9th century. In the 9th century Gao was already an important regional power. Al-Yaqubi
Ya'qubi
Ahmad ibn Abu Ya'qub ibn Ja'far ibn Wahb Ibn Wadih al-Ya'qubi , known as Ahmad al-Ya'qubi, or Ya'qubi, was a Berber Muslim geographer.-Biography:He was a great-grandson of Wadih, the freedman of the caliph Mansur...

 wrote in his Tarikh in around 872:
There is the kingdom of the Kawkaw, which is the greatest of the realms of the Sūdān, the most important and most powerful. All the kingdoms obey its king. Al-Kawkaw is the name of the town. Besides this there are a number of kingdoms of which the rulers pay allegiance to him and acknowledge his sovereignty, although they are kings in their own lands.


Ibn al-Faqih
Ibn al-Faqih
Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadani was a 10th century Persian historian and geographer, famous for his Mukhtasar Kitab al-Buldan .-References:...

 (writing c. 903) mentions a caravan route from Egypt to ancient Ghana
Ghana Empire
The Ghana Empire or Wagadou Empire was located in what is now southeastern Mauritania, and Western Mali. Complex societies had existed in the region since about 1500 BCE, and around Ghana's core region since about 300 CE...

 via Kawkaw, but Ibn Hawqal
Ibn Hawqal
Muḥammad Abū’l-Qāsim Ibn Ḥawqal was a 10th century Muslim writer, geographer, and chronicler. His famous work, written in 977, is called Ṣūrat al-’Arḍ ....

 (writing c. 988) states that the old route from Egypt to the Sudan was abandoned in the reign of the Egyptian ruler Ibn Tulun
Ahmad ibn Tulun
Ahmad ibn Ṭūlūn was the founder of the Tulunid dynasty that ruled Egypt briefly between 868 and 905 AD. Originally sent by the Abbasid caliph as governor to Egypt, ibn Ṭūlūn established himself as an independent ruler.-Biography:...

 (ruled 868-884) as some of the caravans were attacked by bandits while others were overwhelmed by the wind-blown sand. The more direct route was replaced by one that went to Sijilmasa
Sijilmasa
Sijilmasa was a medieval trade entrepôt at the northern edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco. The ruins of the town lie along the River Ziz in the Tafilalt oasis near the town of Rissani...

 before heading south across the Sahara.

In the 10th century Gao is already Muslim and is described as consisting of two separate towns. Al-Muhallabi, who died in 990, wrote in a lost work quoted in the biographical dictionary compiled by Yaqut:
Their king pretends before his subject to be a Muslim and most of them pretend to be Muslims too. He has a town on the Nile [Niger], on the eastern bank, which is called Sarnāh, where there are markets and trading houses and to which there is continuous traffic from all parts. He has another town to the west of the Nile [Niger] where he and his men and those who have his confidence live. There is a mosque there where he prays but the communal prayer ground is between the two towns.


The archaeological evidence suggests that there were two settlements on the eastern bank of the Niger: Gao Ancien situated within the modern town, to the east of the Tomb of Askia, and the archaeological site of Gao-Saney
Gao-Saney
Gao-Saney is the medieval town close to Gao, the capital of the Gao Empire, situated on the eastern Niger Bend in the present-day Republic of Mali...

 (Sané in French) situated around 4 km to the east. The bed of the Wadi Gangaber passes to the south of the Gao-Saney occupation mound (tell
Tell
A tell or tel, is a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides.-Archaeology:A tell is a hill created by different civilizations living and...

) but to the north of Gao Ancien. The imported pottery and glass recovered from Gao-Saney suggest that the site was occupied between the 10th and 13th centuries. It is possible that Gao-Saney corresponds to Sarnāh of al-Muhallabi. Al-Bakri writing in 1068 also records the existence of two towns, but al-Idrisi writing in around 1154 does not. Both al-Muhallabi (see quote above) and al-Bakri situate Gao on the west (or right bank) of the Niger. The 17th century Tarikh al-fattash
Tarikh al-fattash
The Tarikh al-fattash is a chronicle written in Arabic in the second half of the 17th century. It provides an account of the Songhay Empire from the reign of Sonni Ali up to 1599 with a few references to events in the following century. The chronicle also mentions the earlier Mali Empire. Octave...

also states that in the 10th century Gao was situated on the Gourma side (i.e. the west bank) of the river. A large sand dune, La Dune Rose, lies on the west bank opposite Gao, but at Koima, on the edge of the dune at a site 4 km north of Gao, surface deposits indicate a pre 9th century settlement. This could be the west bank Gao mentioned by 10th and 11th century authors. The site has not been excavated.

Al-Sadi in his Tarikh al-Sudan gives a slightly later date for the introduction of Islam. He lists 32 rulers of the Zuwa dynasty
Za Dynasty
The Za Dynasty or Zuwa Dynasty were rulers of a kingdom based in the towns of Kukiya and Gao on the Niger River in what is today modern Mali.-Oral history and the Tarikh al-Sudan:...

 and states that in 1009-1010 A.D. the 15th ruler, Zuwa Kusoy, was the first to convert to Islam. He does not actually specify where they lived except for the legendary founder of the dynasty, Zuwa Alayman who he claims came from the Yemen to Kukiya.

Towards the end of the 13th century Gao lost its independence and became part of the expanding Mali Empire
Mali Empire
The Mali Empire or Mandingo Empire or Manden Kurufa was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I...

. What happened to the Zuwa rulers is not recorded. Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

 visited Gao in 1353 when the town formed part of the Mali Empire. He arrived by boat from Timbuktu on his return journey from visiting the capital of the Empire:
Then I travelled to the town of Kawkaw, which is a great town on the Nīl [Niger], one of the finest, biggest, and most fertile cities of the Sūdān. There is much rice there, and milk, and chickens, and fish, and the cucumber, which has no like. Its people conduct their buying and selling with cowries, like the people of Mālī.


After staying a month in the town, Ibn Battuta left with a caravan for Takedda
Takedda
Takedda was the name of both a town and a former kingdom in current-day Niger's Western Sahara. The town of Takedda was founded by the Sanhaja, a Berber tribal confederation of the Maghreb. In 1285, a court slave freed by Mari Djata, the founder of the Mali Empire, whom had also served as a...

 and from there headed north back across the Sahara to an oasis in Tuat
Tuat
Tuat is a desert region in central Algeria that contains a string of small oases. In the past, the oases were important for caravans crossing the Sahara desert.-Geography:...

 with a large caravan that included 600 slave girls.

Sometime in the 14th century, Ali Kulun, the first ruler of the Sunni dynasty
Sonni Dynasty
The Sonni Dynasty or Sunni Dynasty was a dynasty of rulers of the Songhai Empire of medieval West Africa. The first ruler of the dynasty, Sunni Ali Kulun probably reigned at the end of the fourteenth century...

, rebelled against the Malian hegemony but the Malians were able to regain control. It was not until the first half of the 15th century that Sunni Sulayman Dama was able to throw off the Malian yoke. His successor, Sunni Ali Ber
Sonni Ali
Sonni Ali, also known as Sunni Ali Ber or "Sunni Ali", was born Ali Kolon. He reigned from about 1464 to 1492. Sunni Ali was the first king of the Songhai Empire, located in west Africa and the 15th ruler of the Sonni dynasty...

 (1464–1492), greatly expanded the territory under Songhay control and established the Songhay Empire. He made Gao his capital.

Leo Africanus
Leo Africanus
Joannes Leo Africanus, was a Moorish diplomat and author who is best known for his book Descrittione dell’Africa describing the geography of North Africa.-Biography:Most of what is known about his life is gathered from autobiographical...

 visited Gao sometime between 1506 and 1510 when the town was ruled by Askiya Muhammad I
Askia Mohammad I
Askia the Great was a Soninke emperor of the Songhai Empire in the late 15th century, the successor of Sunni Ali Ber. Askia Muhammad strengthened his country and made it the largest country in West Africa's history...

, the first ruler of the Askiya dynasty
Askiya Dynasty
The Askiya Dynasty, also known as the Askia Dynasty, ruled the Songhai Empire at the height of that state's power. It was founded in 1493 by Askia Mohammad I, a general of the Songhai Empire who usurped the Sonni Dynasty. The Askiya ruled from Gao over the vast Songhai Empire until its defeat by a...

. He observed that the large town lacked a surrounding wall and was full of rich merchants.
The town is very civilized compared to Timbuktu. Bread and meat are abundant, though you cannot find wine or fruits. Actually, melons, cucumbers, and excellent squash are plentiful, and there are enormous quantities of rice. There are many sweet water wells. There is a square where on market days huge numbers of slaves are sold, both male and female. A young girl of fifteen is worth about six ducats, and a young man almost as much; small children are worth about half as much as grown slaves.


Towards the end of the 16th century, Gao controlled an empire that extended for over 1,4000 km2. The Tarikh al-fattash reports that a survey conducted during the reign of Askiya Al-Hajj (1582–1586) found that there were 7,626 houses without counting the huts made of straw. Assuming each house was occupied by an average of 6 people, this would imply a population of around 45,000.

The Moroccan
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 invasion of 1591 led to the collapse of the Songhay Empire. The invaders chose to make Timbuktu their capital.

The German explorer Heinrich Barth
Heinrich Barth
Heinrich Barth was a German explorer of Africa and scholar.Barth is one of the greatest of the European explorers of Africa, not necessarily because of the length of his travels or the time he spent alone without European company in Africa, but because of his singular character.-Biography:Barth...

 visited Gao in 1854 on his return journey from Timbuktu
Timbuktu
Timbuktu , formerly also spelled Timbuctoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali...

. He found a village of about 300 huts constructed of matting and grouped in clusters. The inhabitants were very poor and had few boats as they lacked wood for their construction. The site of the ancient town was overgrown with Capparis decidua
Capparis decidua
Capparis decidua is commonly known as kerda, kair, karir, kirir, karril, etc. .- Tree characteristics :...

bushes.

The town remained small until French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 rule was imposed in the early twentieth century, expanding the port and establishing a colonial base.

Culture


The population of Gao mostly speak Songhay
Songhay languages
The Songhay, Songhai, or Songai languages are a group of closely related languages/dialects centered on the middle stretches of the Niger River in the west African states of Mali, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria. They have been widely used as a lingua franca in that region ever since the...

 but includes many ethnicities, including the Bozo
Bozo languages
Bozo is spoken by the Bozo, the principal fishing people of the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. According to the 2000 census, the Bozo people number about 132,100. The Bozo dialect cluster is often considered to be one language, but there is quite a bit of diversity...

 (traditionally nomadic river dwellers), Fulfulde/Fulani cattle herders, and Tuareg nomads, as well as Bambara peoples from western Mali.

The seventh Festival des arts et cultures songhay was celebrated in February 2007 at Gao, reflecting the city's importance as a Songhay cultural capital.

Sites


Attractions in Gao include the original fourteenth century Gao Mosque, the Askia Tomb (a UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

) built in 1495 and incorporating another mosque
Mosque
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word is likely to have entered the English language through French , from Portuguese , from Spanish , and from Berber , ultimately originating in — . The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration...

, a museum devoted to the Sahel
Sahel
The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south.It stretches across the North African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea....

, market
Market
A market is one of many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers...

s including a night market, and La Dune Rose
La Dune Rose
La Dune Rose is an attraction in the city of Gao, Mali. The sand dune is named for its appearance at dawn and nightfall. It is also known as Koyma, the small town at its base....

, a sand dune named for its appearance at dawn
Dawn
Dawn is the time that marks the beginning of the twilight before sunrise. It is recognized by the presence of weak sunlight, while the sun itself is still below the horizon...

 and nightfall
Nightfall
Nightfall is the beginning of night .Nightfall may also refer to:-Novels, short stories, and comics:* Nightfall , an influential 1941 science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, later adapted into a radio program , novel , and two low-budget films of the same name* "Nightfall", a 1947 short story...

.

External links

.