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Timbuctu, Timbuktu or Tombouctou

Mali, West Africa

Mali facts & history in brief

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 Songhai Empire.
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.
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.

External link
Leo Africanus, description of Timbuktu, 1526 (http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_2/leo_africanus.html).

List of photo pages in my Mali series.

Bamako       Hotel La Chaumiere       Mali Art       Mali Desert       People of Mali       Mali Trains

Mopti      Segou      Timbuctu   or    Tombouctou

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