In the Mande language, Suguba means “big market,” and as the Malian empire was built on trade, one would naturally expect a bustling and vibrant market. Most of the cities of Mali have large market districts, crowded with vendors and customers. In the past, Malian gold and salt would have purchased a variety of goods from across Africa and Europe, which would have found their way into Malian markets.
Should you visit a Malian Suguba, bring a shopping list and be prepared to negotiate your prices (bargaining is expected, and to fail to do so would be to commit a serious faux pas.) In addition to more mundane goods like food and electronics, you should keep an eye out for Mali's famous fabrics: Bazin and bogolanfini. Bazin is a lustrous, colorful fabric made by the methodical hammering of cotton cloth, much prized by fashion designers around the world. Malians are said to be discriminating connoisseurs of bazin. Bogolanfini is a mud-dyed fabric of warm browns, deep blacks, and sharp whites, first worn by hunters, but now an important cultural symbol for Mali.