My wife and I are travelling to Mali in January and I have booked nearly all of our accomodation by e-mail. However, there is one hotel in Djenne (town with a mosque which is the largest mud brick structure in the world) which only has a phone number and I constantly have got an engaged tone for the last 4 days !! The hotel is called Auberge le Maafir and the number I'm trying is 00-223-2420541. I've even put an extra 2 in front of the 24 and it doesn't make any difference. Does anyone know how Malian phone numbers work, the operator here can't even get through to the operator in Bamako, the capital of Mali ? In fact, I can't get through to any phone number in Mali - there must be another digit or area code that I am missing. HELP !!!
It may just be that the phone system in Djenne is very bad! My brother managed to phone me in a hotel in Bamako when I had Maleria to check up on me (he was worried!). To be honest you don't need to worry about booking from abroad. Just do the booking when you arrive in Mali - or just turn up and walk in. There is not really a problem with hotels being full in Mali.
If you do not book a hotel when going to Djenne on a Sunday you will be lucky to find a room as the market is on a Monday and the place is heaving with tourists. The market is fabulous, but we were lucky to find a room in a brand new hotel barely open situated just outside the main town - it was terrific and couldnt be compared to any other on further comparison. Here is a link to the hotel website:http://www.hoteldjennedjenno.com/ We were there over Christmas so the hotel is more than finished and open now - check out the website.
Its a great shame to book too much in advance as it will mean your schedule is too fixed to take advantage of any happy circumstance you come across.
We did have problems in a few other places with the hotels we had identified being full - so if you have any particularly in mind it probably is a good idea to book ahead - but do it there - there are hundreds of telephone booths - but you do need to know the number - there probably are telephone directories but we never saw one! Very envious ...