Travel to Segou – Former Capital of the Bambara Empire

Segou is a city in south-central Mali, located around 235 km northeast of Bamako on the River Niger. It is the third largest city in Mali. Thanks to its artistic and cultural heritage, the richness of its architecture, the charm of the riverbanks as well as the natural courtesy of its inhabitants, Segou is a major tourist destination in Mali.

Capital of the Bambara Empire in the past, Segou is now the capital of Mali’s fourth largest administrative region of Segou. It is known also as the city of “Balanzan”, named after the local tree acacia albida. Segou has faced numerous conquests and changes of administration, but has always benefitted from trade with nearby commercial centres such as Djenne and Timbuktu, and been an administrative and commercial centre for cereal and cattle.

Segou has an ancient and eventful history. It was founded in 1620 by the Bozo people and evolved during the late 17th century at the time of political and social instability in Southern Mali. Segou prospered after Biton Mamary Coulibaly became king in 1712 and founded the Segou or Bamana Empire. The latter gradually declined and was conquered by El Hadj Umar Tall’s Toucouleur Empire in 1861, then by the French Army Colonel Louis Archinard in 1892.

Travellers to Segou can visit the old town Segou-Koro, a mud village with the region’s first mosque. The Monday Market is a great place to pick up good bargains. Segou Koro village is known for its pottery.

Other options include a pirogue ride to villages in the vicinity and watching Bozo fishermen weaving nets and drying the day’s catch across the river. Segou also hosts an annual festival of puppets – 9-foot-tall wooden marionettes worn by dancers.

Buses are available between Segou and Bamako. For a more ambling, picturesque journey, travellers can catch a boat at Koulikoro during the rainy season – the journey takes two full days to get there with stops for camping, eating and swimming.

  • Explore the wide tree-lined avenues of Segou built by French colonialists.
  • Enjoy a pirogue ride to the old town Segou Koro and meet the local villagers.
  • Shop at the famous Monday Market – good deals and bargains can be found.


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