Mali, West Africa
Mali facts & history in
Tombouctou facts and history in brief
Timbuktu or Timbuctu (French: Tombouctou) is a
Tuareg city on the River Niger in the
West African country of Mali.
Its long history as a trading outpost that
linked black Africa below the Sahara Desert with
Berber and Islamic traders throughout north Africa,
and thereby indirectly with traders from Europe,
has given it a fabled status.
Combined with its relative inaccessibility,
"Timbuktu" has come to be a metaphor
for exotic, distant lands.
Today, Timbuktu is one of the seven regions
of Mali and the city itself is the
residence of the local governor.
It is the sister city to Djenne
(also in Mali) and one of the seven
holy cities of Islam.
Timbuktu was established as a seasonal
camp by the nomadic Tuareg perhaps as
early as the 10th century and grew to
great wealth because of its key role
in trans-Saharan trade in gold, ivory,
slaves, salt and other goods.
It was the key city in several
successive empires: the Ghana Empire,
the Mali Empire from 1324, and the
It reached its peak in the early 1500s,
when tales of its fabulous wealth helped
prompt European exploration
of the west coast of Africa.
Perhaps the most famous of these tales
was written by Leo Africanus "Leo the
African", a captured renegade who later
converted back to Christianity, following
a trip in 1512, when the Songhai
empire was at its height:
"The rich king of Tombuto (sic) hath many
plates and sceptres of gold, some
whereof weigh 1300 pounds. ...
He hath always 3000 horsemen ...
(and) a great store of doctors, judges,
priests, and other learned men, that are
bountifully maintained at the
king's expense" (see link).
At the time of Leo Africanus' visit, grass was abundant,
providing plentiful milk and butter in the local cuisine,
though there were neither gardens nor orchards surrounding
The city began to decline after explorers
and slavers from Portugal and then other
European countries landed in West Africa,
providing an alternative to the slave market
of Timbuktu and the trade route through
the world's largest desert.
The decline was hastened when it was
captured by Morisco mercenaries in
the service of the
Moroccan sultan in 1591.
Their descendants mixed with local Blacks.
By the time it was visited by
Christian European explorers
in the 1800s, Timbuktu was little
more than a large village of mud houses,
and today it remains poverty-stricken.
It is said that the local style of
mud mosques inspired Antoni Gaudí.
Leo Africanus, description of Timbuktu, 1526
List of photo
pages in my Mali series.
Hotel La Chaumiere
of Mali Mali
Back to Top
Thanks for coming, I hope you
have enjoyed it, will recommend
it to your friends, and will come
back later to see my site developing
I'm trying to make my pages
enjoyable and trouble free for everyone,
please let me know of any mistakes
or trouble with links, so I can
fix any problem as soon as possible.
These pages are best viewed with monitor
resolution set at 640x480 and kept simple
on purpose so everyone can enjoy them
across all media and platforms.