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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

La Dune Rose and Gao city as seen from the top of the Tomb of Askia.
Gao is located in Mali
Location within Mali
Coordinates: 16°16′N 0°03′W / 16.267°N 0.05°W / 16.267; -0.05
Country  Mali
Region Gao
Cercle Gao Cercle
Elevation 226 m (744 ft)
Population (2005)[1]
 - Total 57,989
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
Gao, the Tomb of Askia.
Bozo Fisherman on the River Niger at Gao.

Gao is a city in Mali and capital of the Gao Region on the River Niger, with a population of 57,978 in 2005.[1] It is also the capital of the surrounding cercle of Gao.



Through much of its history, Gao was a center of trade and learning, and was the capital of the Songhai Empire. It is similar to, and culturally connected with the great Trans-Saharan trade cities of Timbuktu and Djenne.

The city was founded around the seventh century as Kawkaw, its first recorded monarch being Kanda, who founded the Za Dynasty of what became the Songhai Empire. He ensured the city’s growth by allowing trans-Saharan traders to visit and Berbers to settle. Trade increased after Za Kossoi converted to Islam in 1009.

The Mali Empire conquered Gao sometime before 1300, but Ali Golon re-established Songhai rule. A distinguished author of the period, Al-Idrissi, described it as a "populous, unwalled, commercial and industrial town, in which were to be found the produce of all arts and trades necessary for its inhabitants". Tim Insoll from St. John's College, Cambridge University, carried out important excavations in Gao. Some of his finds have been on display at the British Museum.

Under Ali the Great in the late fifteenth century the city became the centre of an empire, with about 70,000 residents and a 1,000-boat navy, but Gao was largely destroyed by the Moroccan invasion of 1591. The town remained small until French rule was imposed in the early twentieth century, expanding the port and establishing a colonial base.


The population of Gao mostly speak Songhay but includes many ethicities, including the Bozo (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 ithe cities importance as a Songhay cultural capital.[2]


Attractions in Gao include the original fourteenth century Gao Mosque, the Askia Tomb (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) built in 1495 and incorporating another mosque, a museum devoted to the Sahel, markets including a night market, and La Dune Rose, a sand dune named for its appearance at dawn and nightfall.


Gao has an international airport (Gao International Airport), and is linked to cities along the Niger, including Timbuktu, by a ferry service. While for centuries a transit and trade hub, the tourist industry, especially serving cruises of the Niger River, has also become important to the local economy.

Niger Bridge

In 2006 a new bridge across the Niger at Gao was inaugurated in the Independence celebrations. [1]


A number of villages (including Bakal) are along the outskirts of Gao, in the Gao district.


The stadium Stade Kassé Keïta is in Gao, and was opened for the 2002 African Cup of Nations.

Twin Cities

Gao is twinned with Thionville, France and Berkeley, California, USA.


Translation of French Wikipedia Article.

  1. ^ a b Communiqué du Conseil des ministres du 3 janvier 2007
  2. ^ Festival des arts et cultures Songhay: Un facteur d’épanouissement de la région de Gao, Les Echos du 14 février 2007

Coordinates: 16°16′N 0°03′W / 16.267°N 0.05°W / 16.267; -0.05


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Gao is a small city of 65.000 inhabitants located in the Gao region of Mali.


The city was founded in the 7th century as a trading post, but it was during the the 15th and 16th that the city flourished and its height was the center of the Songhai Empire.

Get in

By plane

Gao has an international airport, and Point Afrique offers flights to Paris and Marseille as well as other cities along the Niger.

By boat

A ferry service links Gao to other cities on the Niger, such as Timbuktu.

By road

Gao is connected to Bamako by a paved highway and can be reached in a private car or by bus. Buses also travel to Niamey several times per week, but the road to the border is still unfinished.

  • the 14th century Gao Mosque
  • Askia Tomb. Constructed in 1495 by Songhai emperor Askia Mohamed Toure, the Askia Tomb (known locally as the Askia Mosque) is a mud-brick pyramid designed to look like the Great Pyramids of Egypt, which Mohamed saw on his pilgrimage to Mecca. Today it is still used as a mosque and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Sahel Museum
  • Traditional markets. The vegetable and meat markets are in the center of town beside the river. They feature the usual assortment of produce and spices as well as blocks of salt mined in the far north of Mali. The Marche Washington, down the road towards the Askia Tomb, sells clothing and fabric and is full of tailors at work.
  • La Dune Rose A giant sand dune across the river from Gao, named for its glowing pink color at sunrise and sunset. Best reached by pirogue. The top has beautiful views of the surrounding landscape, especially after the rainy season.

Get out

Buses leave Gao for Bamako two-three times per day. Buses also travel to Niamey several times per week, but the road to the border is still unfinished.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Keqin Gao article)

From Wikispecies

Keqin Gao, herpetologist (1955- )


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