Prior to my arrival I had had high hopes of visiting Mali's two best known tourist attractions - Timbuktu and the area where the Dogon people live. These hope were quickly dashed when I was advised to avoid Timbuktu due to Al Queda activity and when it became apparent that the Dogon area was too far to drive in the short time I have. I have also been told that flights to and from the area can't be depended on, with tourists often getting stuck there for days. Unfortunately I'm a slave to my work schedule and have to leave again on Sunday. Everybody has heard of Timbuktu although many think it is a mythical place. Both Timbuktu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
My first trip to Africa was in 1979 and things don't seem to change much for the natives other than population growth and urbanization. But things have improved a lot for the traveler. In the 1980s when I did a lot of traveling in Africa, the airports were sweltering horrible places where one could get stuck for hours due to undependable flights. There were also very few good hotels and Western travelers often carried their own pillows, sheets, light bulbs and bug spray to get a little comfort at night. To attract business and tourism most African countries now have reasonably comfortable airports and hotels with air conditioning. Kenyan, Ethiopian and a few other African airlines are now well-regarded and provide dependable service between the major capitals. The African experience isn't as authentic as in the "old days" but at my age, it is certainly nice to have the comforts.
I hope the winter weather at home isn't getting you down. The temperature here in Bamako is pleasant but there is lots of dust in the air.