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Timbuktu
Tumbutu
—  City  —
  transcription(s)
 - Koyra Chiini: Tumbutu
Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu
Timbuktu is located in Mali
Timbuktu
Coordinates: 16°46′33″N 3°00′34″W / 16.77583°N 3.00944°W / 16.77583; -3.00944Coordinates: 16°46′33″N 3°00′34″W / 16.77583°N 3.00944°W / 16.77583; -3.00944
Country  Mali
Region Tombouctou Region
Cercle Timbuktu Cercle
Settled 10th century
Elevation 261 m (856 ft)
Population (1998[1])
 - Total 31,973

Timbuktu (Timbuctoo) (Koyra Chiini: Tumbutu; French: Tombouctou) is a city in Tombouctou Region, in the West African nation of Mali. It was made prosperous by the tenth mansa of the Mali Empire, Mansa Musa. It is home to Sankore University and other madrasas, and was an intellectual and spiritual capital and centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahya, recall Timbuktu's golden age. Although continuously restored, these monuments are today under threat from desertification.[2]

Populated by Songhay, Tuareg, Fulani, and Mandé people, Timbuktu is about 15 km north of the Niger River. It is also at the intersection of an east–west and a north–south Trans-Saharan trade route across the Sahara to Araouane. It was important historically (and still is today) as an entrepot for rock-salt originally from Taghaza, now from Taoudenni.

Its geographical setting made it a natural meeting point for nearby west African populations and nomadic Berber and Arab peoples from the north. Its long history as a trading outpost that linked west Africa with Berber, Arab, and Jewish traders throughout north Africa, and thereby indirectly with traders from Europe, has given it a fabled status, and in the West it was for long a metaphor for exotic, distant lands: "from here to Timbuktu."

Timbuktu's long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization is scholarship. Timbuktu is assumed to have had one of the first universities in the world. Local scholars and collectors still boast an impressive collection of ancient Greek texts from that era.[3] By the 14th century, important books were written and copied in Timbuktu, establishing the city as the centre of a significant written tradition in Africa.[4]

Contents

History

Timbuktu (Tombouctou), linked by canals to the Niger river to the south. NASA Earth Observatory[5]

Origins

Timbuktu was established by the nomadic Tuareg as early as the 10th century. Although Tuaregs founded Timbuktu, it was only as a seasonal settlement. Roaming the desert during the wet months, in summer they stayed near the flood plains of the Inner Niger Delta. Since the terrain directly at the water wasn’t suitable due to mosquitoes, a well was dug a few miles from the river.[6][7]

Permanent Settlements

In the eleventh century merchants from Djenne set up the various markets and built permanent dwellings in the town, establishing the site as a meeting place for people traveling by camel. They also introduced the Islam and reading, through the Qur'an. Before Islam, the population worshiped Ouagadou-Bida, a mythical water-serpent of the Niger River.[8] With the rise of the Ghana Empire, several Trans Saharan trade routes had been established. Salt from Mediterranean Africa was traded with West-African gold and ivory, and large numbers of slaves. Halfway through the eleventh century, however, new goldmines near Bure made for an eastward shift of the trade routes. This development made Timbuktu a prosperous city where goods from camels were loaded on boats on the Niger.

Map showing the most important Trans Saharan trade routes till 1400. Several states are highlighted, including the Ghana Empire (until the 14th century) and 14th - 16th century Mali Empire. Note the western trade route running from Djenne via Timbuktu to the trade entrepôt of Sijilmassa. Present day Niger in yellow.
An 1855 map of Timbuktu, published in Petermann's Geographische Mitteilungen, shows the different parts of the mid-nineteenth century city. The cartography was based on Heinrich Barth's September 1853 visit to Timbuktu.[9]
Timbuktu seen from a distance by Heinrich Barth's party, September 7, 1853

Rise of the Mali Empire

During the twelfth century, the remnants of the Ghana Empire were invaded by the Sosso Empire king Soumaoro Kanté.[10] Muslim scholars from Walata (beginning to replace Aoudaghost as trade route terminus) fled to Timbuktu and solidified the position of the Islam. Timbuktu had become a center of Islamic learning, with its Sankore University and 180 Quranic schools.[6] In 1324 Timbuktu was peacefully annexed by king Musa I, returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca. The city now part of the Mali Empire, king Musa I ordered the construction of a royal palace and, together with his following of hundreds of Muslim scholars, built the learning center of Djingarey Ber in 1327.

By 1375, Timbuktu appeared in the Catalan Atlas, showing that it was, by then, a commercial center linked to the North-African cities and had caught Europe's eye.[11]

Tuareg Rule & the Songhayan Empire

With the power of the Mali Empire waning in the first half of the 14th century, Maghsharan Tuareg took control of the city in 1433-1434 and installed a Sanhaja governor.[12] Thirty years later however, the rising Songhay Empire expanded, absorbing Timbuktu in 1468-1469. Lead by consecutively Sunni Ali Ber (1468–1492), Sunni Baru (1492–1493) and Askia Mohammad I (1493–1528), who brought the Songhay Empire and Timbuktu a golden age. With the capital of the empire being Gao, Timbuktu enjoyed a relatively autonomous position. Merchants from Ghadames, Awjidah, and numerous other cities of North Africa gathered there to buy gold and slaves in exchange for the Saharan salt of Taghaza and for North African cloth and horses.[13] Leadership of the Empire stayed in the Askia dynasty until 1591, although internal fights led to a decline of prosperity in the city.

Moroccan Occupation

The city's capture on August 17, 1591 by an army sent by the Saadi ruler of Morocco, Ahmad I al-Mansur, and led by pasha Mahmud B. Zarqun in search of gold mines, brought the end of an era of relative autonomy. Intellectually, and to a large extent economically, Timbuktu now entered a long period of decline. In 1593, Saadi cited 'disloyalty' as the reason for arresting, and subsequently killing or exiling many of Timbuktu's scholars, including Ahmad Baba.[14] Perhaps the city's greatest scholar, he was forced to move to Marrakesh because of the intellectual oppostion to the city's Morrocan governor, where he continued to generate attention of the scholarly world.[15] Ahmad Baba later returned to Timbuktu, where he died in 1608. The ultimate decline continued, with the increasing trans-atlantic traderoutes (transporting African slaves, including leaders and scholars of Timbuktu) marginalising Timbuktu's role. While initially controlling the Morocco - Timbuktu traderoutes, the grip of the Moroccans on the city began losing its strength in the period until 1780, and in the early 19th century the Empire didn't succeed in protecting the city against invasions and the subsequent short occupations of the Tuareg (1800), Fula (1813) and Tukular 1840.[7][14] It is uncertain whether the Tukular were still in control,[16] or if the Tuaregs had once again regained power[17], when the French arrived.

Discovery by the West

Historic descriptions of the city had been around since Leo Africanus' account in the first half of the 16th century, and they prompted several European individuals and organizations to make great efforts to discover Timbuktu and its fabled riches. In 1788 a group of titled Englishmen formed the African Association with the goal of finding the city and charting the course of the Niger River. The earliest of their sponsored explorers was a young Scottish adventurer named Mungo Park, who made two trips in search of the Niger River and Timbuktu (departing first in 1795 and then in 1805). It is believed that Park was the first Westerner to have reached the city, but he died in modern day Nigeria without having the chance to report his findings.[18] In 1824, the Paris-based Société de Géographie offered a 10,000 franc prize to the first non-Muslim to reach the town and return with information about it.[19] The Briton Gordon Laing arrived in September 1826 but was killed shortly after by local Muslims who were fearful of European discovery and intervention.[20] The Frenchman René Caillié arrived in 1828 traveling alone disguised as a Muslim; he was able to safely return and claim the prize.[21]


Robert Adams, an African-American sailor, claimed to have visited the city in 1811 as a slave after his ship wrecked off the African coast.[22] He later gave an account to the British consul in Tangier, Morocco in 1813. He published his account in an 1816 book, The Narrative of Robert Adams, a Barbary Captive (still in print as of 2006), but doubts remain about his account.[23] Three other Europeans reached the city before 1890: Heinrich Barth in 1853 and the German Oskar Lenz with the Spaniard Cristobal Benítez in 1880.

Part of the French Colonial Empire

After the scramble for Africa had been formalized in the Berlin Conference, land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, Chad would become French territory, bound in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Timbuktu region was now French in name, the principle of effectivity needed France to actually hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On December 28, 1893, the city, by then in a state of poverty, was annexed by a small group of French, lead by lieutenant Boiteux: Timbuktu was now part of French Sudan, a colony of France.[24] This situation lasted until 1902: after dividing part of the colony back in 1899, the remaining areas were now reorganized and, for a brief period, called Senegambia and Niger. Only two years later, in 1904, another reorganization followed and Timbuktu became part of Upper Senegal and Niger until, in 1920, the colony assumed its old name of French Sudan once again.[16]

World War II

During World War II, several legions were recruited in French Soudan, with some coming from Timbuktu, to help general Charles de Gaulle fight Nazi-occupied France and southern Vichy France.[18]

About 60 British merchant seamen from the SS Allende (Cardiff), sunk on the 17th March 1942 off the South coast of West Africa, were held prisoner in the city during the Second World War. Two months later, after having been transported from Freetown to Timbuktu, two of them, AB John Turnbull Graham (2 May 1942, age 23) and Chief Engineer William Soutter (28 May 1942, age 60) died there in May 1942. Both men were buried in the European cemetery - possibly the most remote British war graves tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.[25]

Independency & Onwards

After World War II had come to an end, the French government under Charles de Gaulle granted the colony more and more freedom. After a period as part of the short-lived Mali Federation, The Republic of Mali was proclaimed on September 22, 1960. After a November 19, 1968, a new constitution was created in 1974, making Mali a single-party state.[26] By then, the canal linking the city with the Niger River had already been filled with sand from the encroaching desert. Severe droughts hit the Sahel region in 1973 and 1985, decimating the Tuareg population around Timbuktu who relied on goat herding. The Niger's waterlevel dropped, postponing the arrivel of foodtransport and tradingvessels. The crisis drove many of the inhabitants of Tombouctou Region to Algeria and Libya. Those who stayed relied on humanitarion organisations such as UNICEF for food and water.[27]

Etymology

According to a popular etymology, its name is made up of: tin (pronounced "tain") which means "well" and Buktu, the name of an old Malian woman known for her honesty and who once upon a time lived in the region. Tuareg and other travelers would entrust this woman with any belongings for which they had no use on their return trip to the north. Thus, when a Tuareg, upon returning to his home, was asked where he had left his belongings, he would answer: "I left them at Tin Buktu", meaning Buktu's well. The two terms ended up fusing into one word, thus giving the city the name ofTinbuktu which later became Timbuktu. However, the French orientalist René Basset forwarded a more plausible etymology: in the Berber languages "buqt" means "far away", so "Tin-Buqt(u)" means a place almost at the other end of the world, i.e. the Sahara.

Legendary tales

Tales of Timbuktu's fabulous wealth helped prompt European exploration of the west coast of Africa. Among the earliest descriptions of Timbuktu are those of Leo Africanus, Ibn Battuta, and Shabeni.

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Leo Africanus

Perhaps most famous among the accounts written about Timbuktu is that by Leo Africanus. Born al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Wazzan, Leo Africanus was an ambassador serving the Sultan of Fez when, in 1518 he was captured by Christian pirates and delivered to the Pope in Rome. There he converted from Islam to Christianity and wrote a book on Africa.[28] Describing Timbuktu when the Songhai empire was at its height, the English edition of his book includes the description:

The rich king of Tombuto hath many plates and scepters 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 cost and charges.[29]

According to Leo Africanus, there were abundant supplies of locally produced corn, cattle, milk and butter, though there were neither gardens nor orchards surrounding the city.

Shabeni

Shabeni was a merchant from Tetouan, Morocco who was captured and ended up in England where he told his story of how as a child of 14, around 1787, he had gone with his father to Timbuktu. A version of his story is related by James Grey Jackson in his book An Account of Timbuctoo and Hausa, 1820:

On the east side of the city of Timbuctoo, there is a large forest, in which are a great many elephants. The timber here is very large. The trees on the outside of the forest are remarkable...they are of such a size that the largest cannot be girded by two men. They bear a kind of berry about the size of a walnut, in clusters consisting of from ten to twenty berries. Shabeeny cannot say what is the extent of this forest, but it is very large.

Centre of learning

Timbuktu*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Djinguereber Mosque
State Party  Mali
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, v
Reference 119
Region** Africa
Inscription history
Inscription 1988  (12th Session)
Endangered 1990-2005
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

During the early 15th century, a number of Islamic institutions were erected. The most famous of these is the Sankore mosque, also known as the University of Sankore.

While Islam was practiced in the cities, the local rural majority were non-Muslim traditionalists. Often the leaders were nominal Muslims in the interest of economic advancement while the masses were traditionalists.

University of Sankore

Sankore, as it stands now, was built in 1581 AD (= 989 A. H.) on a much older site (probably from the 13th or 14th century) and became the center of the Islamic scholarly community in Timbuktu. The "University of Sankore" was a madrassah, very different in organization from the universities of medieval Europe. It was composed of several entirely independent schools or colleges, each run by a single master or imam. Students associated themselves with a single teacher, and courses took place in the open courtyards of mosque complexes or private residences. The primary focus of these schools was the teaching of the Qur'an, although broader instruction in fields such as logic, astronomy, and history also took place. Scholars wrote their own books as part of a socioeconomic model based on scholarship. The profit made by buying and selling of books was only second to the gold-salt trade. Among the most formidable scholars, professors and lecturers was Ahmed Baba – a highly distinguished historian frequently quoted in the Tarikh al-Sudan and other works.

The manuscripts and libraries of Timbuktu

The Timbuktu Manuscripts showing both mathematics and astronomy.

The most outstanding treasure at Timbuktu are the 100,000 manuscripts kept by the great families from the town.[30]. These manuscripts, some of them dated from pre-Islamic times and 12th century, have been preserved as family secrets in the town and in other villages nearby. The majority were written in Arabic or Fulani, by wise men coming from the Mali Empire. Their contents are didactic, especially in the subjects of astronomy, music, and botany. More recent manuscripts deal with law, sciences and history (with the important 17th century chronicles, Tarikh al-fattash and Tarikh al-Sudan), religion, trade, etc.

The Ahmed Baba Institute (Cedrab), founded in 1970 by the government of Mali, with collaboration of Unesco, holds some of these manuscripts in order to restore and digitize them. More than 18,000 manuscripts have been collected by the Ahmed Baba centre, but there are an estimated 300,000-700,000 manuscripts in the region.[31]

The collection of ancient manuscripts at the University of Sankore and other sites around Timbuktu document the magnificence of the institution, as well as the city itself, while enabling scholars to reconstruct the past in fairly intimate detail. Dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, these manuscripts cover every aspect of human endeavor and are indicative of the high level of civilization attained by West Africans at the time. In testament to the glory of Timbuktu, for example, a West African Islamic proverb states that "Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom come from Timbuktu."

From 60 to 80 private libraries in the town have been preserving these manuscripts: Mamma Haidara Library; Fondo Kati Library (with approximately 3,000 records from Andalusian origin, the oldest dated from 14th and 15th centuries); Al-Wangari Library; and Mohamed Tahar Library, among them. These libraries are considered part of the "African Ink Road" that stretched from West Africa connecting North Africa and East Africa. At one time there were 120 libraries with manuscripts in Timbuktu and surrounding areas. There are more than one million objects preserved in Mali with an additional 20 million in other parts of Africa, the largest concentration of which is in Sokoto, Nigeria, although the full extent of the manuscripts is unknown. During the colonial era efforts were made to conceal the documents after a number of entire libraries were taken to Paris, London and other parts of Europe. Some manuscripts were buried underground, while others were hidden in the desert or in caves. Many are still hidden today. The United States Library of Congress microfilmed a sampling of the manuscripts during an exhibition there in June 2003. In February 2006 a joint South African/Malian effort began investigating the Timbuktu manuscripts to assess the level of scientific knowledge in Timbuktu and in the other regions of West Africa.[32]

Timbuktu today

Street Scene - Caille House
A typical street scene at Timbuktu, Mali, with omnipresent bread-baking ovens

Today, Timbuktu is an impoverished town, although its reputation makes it a tourist attraction to the point where it even has an international airport (Timbuktu Airport). It is one of the eight regions of Mali, and is home to the region's local governor. It is the sister city to Djenné, also in Mali. The 1998 census listed its population at 31,973, up from 31,962 in the census of 1987.[citation needed]

Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed since 1988. In 1990, it was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in danger due to the threat of desert sands. A program was set up to preserve the site and, in 2005, it was taken off the list of endangered sites. However, new constructions are threatening the ancient mosques, a UNESCO Committee warns.[33]

Timbuktu was one of the major stops during Henry Louis Gates' PBS special "Wonders of the African World". Gates visited with Abdel Kadir Haidara, curator of the Mamma Haidara Library together with Ali Ould Sidi from the Cultural Mission of Mali. It is thanks to Gates that an Andrew Mellon Foundation grant was obtained to finance the construction of the library's facilities, later inspiring the work of the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project. Unfortunately, no practising book artists exist in Timbuktu although cultural memory of book artisans is still alive, catering to the tourist trade. The town is home to an institute dedicated to preserving historic documents from the region, in addition to two small museums (one of them the house in which the great German explorer Heinrich Barth spent six months in 1853-54), and the symbolic Flame of Peace monument commemorating the reconciliation between the Tuareg and the government of Mali.

Attractions

Timbuktu's vernacular architecture is marked by mud mosques, which are said to have inspired Antoni Gaudí. These include

Other attractions include a museum, terraced gardens and a water tower.

Language

The main language of Timbuktu is a Songhay language called Koyra Chiini, spoken by over 80% of residents. Smaller groups, numbering 10% each before many were expelled during the Tuareg/Arab rebellion of 1990-1994, speak Hassaniya Arabic and Tamashek.

Climate

The weather is hot and dry throughout much of the year with plenty of sunshine. Average daily maximum temperatures in the hottest months of the year - May and June - exceed 40°C. Temperatures are slightly cooler, though still very hot, from July through September, when practically all of the meager annual rainfall occurs. Only the winter months of December and January have average daily maximum temperatures below 32°C.

Climate data for Timbuktu
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Average high °C (°F) 30.0
(86)
33.2
(92)
36.6
(98)
40.0
(104)
42.2
(108)
41.6
(107)
38.5
(101)
36.5
(98)
38.3
(101)
39.1
(102)
35.2
(95)
30.4
(87)
Average low °C (°F) 13.0
(55)
15.2
(59)
18.5
(65)
22.5
(73)
26.0
(79)
27.3
(81)
25.8
(78)
24.8
(77)
24.8
(77)
22.7
(73)
17.7
(64)
13.5
(56)
Precipitation mm (inches) 0.6
(0.02)
0.1
(0)
0.1
(0)
1.0
(0.04)
4.0
(0.16)
16.4
(0.65)
53.5
(2.11)
73.6
(2.9)
29.4
(1.16)
3.8
(0.15)
0.1
(0)
0.2
(0.01)
Source: World Meteorological Organization [35] 19-Oct-2009


Famous people connected with Timbuktu

  • Cristina Nardone (1983-2008) Served as a Peace Corps Volunteer and Project Manager for AED who sacrificed her life to help others.
  • Ali Farka Toure (1939–2006) Born in Kanau, in the Timbuktu region.[36]
  • Heinrich Barth (1821–1865) German traveller and scholar and one of the first Europeans to investigate African history[37]
  • Bernard Peter de Neumann, GM (1917–1972) "The Man From Timbuctoo".[38] Held prisoner of war there along with other members of the crew of the Criton during 1941-1942.
  • Ibn Battuta (1304–1368) made a famous journey to Timbuktu, along with many others throughout his lifetime.[39]
  • Mungo Park (1771-1806) was the first European to reach the Niger River. On his second journey down the river he passed by Timbuktu but was not able to make it to the city due to local aggression. He drowned in the Bussa rapids a few hundred miles further down river.[18]
  • Mardochée abi Serour (merchant), born circa 1930 in Aqqa (a Saharian oasis) traded merchandise between Mogador (presently Essaouira) and Timbuktu, and even owned a house in Timbuktu.[40]
  • René Caillié (1799-1838) was the first European to return alive from Timbuktu

In popular culture

The image of the city as mysterious or mythical has survived to the present day in other countries: a survey among 150 young Britons in 2006 found 34% did not believe the town existed, while the other 66% considered it "a mythical place".[41]

This idea of mystique has long been a part of Western popular culture.

Donald Duck uses Timbuktu as a safe haven, and a Donald Duck comic subseries is situated in the city.[42] In the 1970 Disney animated feature The Aristocats, Edgar the butler places the cats in a trunk which he plans to send to Timbuktu. It is mistakenly noted to be in French Equatorial Africa, instead of French West Africa.[43]

Timbuktu also makes an appearance in the British musical Oliver when The Artful Dodger sings to Nancy, "I'd do anything for you, dear, anything, for you" to which Nancy sings in reply, "Paint your face bright blue?" "Anything", Dodger responds. "Go to Timbuktu?" Nancy asks. "And back again", Dodger responds, and the song continues.

Sister cities

See also

Notes

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Timbuktu — World Heritage (Unesco.org)
  3. ^ Timbuktu. (2007). Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. ^ Okolo Rashid. Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word Exhibit - International Museum of Muslim Cultures[2]
  5. ^ Caption by Scott, Michon. "Tombouctou, Mali : Image of the Day". earthobservatory.nasa.gov. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=40684. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  6. ^ a b History of Timbuktu, Mali - Timbuktu Educational Foundation
  7. ^ a b Early History of Timbuktu - The History Channel Classroom
  8. ^ Homer, Curry. Snatched from the Serpent. Berrien Springs, Michigan: Frontiers Adventist. http://www.adventistfrontiers.com/article.php?id=3715. 
  9. ^ Demhardt, Imre Josef (August 2006). "Hopes, Hazards and a Haggle: Perthes' Ten Sheet "Karte von Inner-Afrika"". International Symposium on "Old Worlds-New Worlds": The History of Colonial Cartography 1750-1950 (August 21–23). Utrecht University,Utrecht, Netherlands: Working Group on the History of Colonial Cartography in the 19th and 20th centuries International Cartographic Association (ICA-ACI). pp. 16. http://www.icahistcarto.org/PDF/Demhardt_Imre_-_Hopes_Hazards_and_a_Haggle.pdf. 
  10. ^ Mann, Kenny (1996). hana Mali Songhay: The Western Sudan. (African Kingdoms of the Past Series). South Orange, New Jersey: Dillon Press. 
  11. ^ Hunwick, John O. (2003). Timbuktu and the Songhay Empire: Al-Sadi's Tarikh al-sudan down to 1613. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 414. ISBN 9004128220. http://books.google.com/books?id=kdEsWyzLnD8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false. 
  12. ^ Bosworth, Edmund C. (2007). Historic Cities of the Islamic World. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 521–522. ISBN 9004153888. http://books.google.nl/books?id=UB4uSVt3ulUC&pg=PA521&lpg=PA521&dq=maghsharan+tuareg&source=bl&ots=FBL1zN3mBM&sig=SKjvoNVCarIMobF6ufIo0itWwx4&hl=nl&ei=T_1ES8LZKs6k4QaBwvGpCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CA8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=maghsharan%20tuareg&f=false. 
  13. ^ "Timbuktu". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/596022/Timbuktu. Retrieved 9 Januari 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa". About.com Guide. http://africanhistory.about.com/od/mali/p/Timbuktu.htm. Retrieved 7 Februari 2010. 
  15. ^ "Timbuktu Hopes Ancient Texts Spark a Revival". New York Times. August 7, 2007. "The government created an institute named after Ahmed Baba, Timbuktu's greatest scholar, to collect, preserve and interpret the manuscripts." 
  16. ^ a b Entry on Timbuktu at Archnet.com, http://www.archnet.org/library/places/one-place.jsp?place_id=2181&order_by=title&showdescription=1, retrieved 12 February 2010 
  17. ^ "TIMBUKTU (French spelling Tombouctou)". Encyclopædia Britannica. V26. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. 1911. pp. 983. http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/THE_TOO/TIMBUKTU_French_spelling_Tombou.html. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  18. ^ a b c Larry Brook, Ray Webb (1999) Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Timbuktu. Retrieved d.d. September 22, 2009.
  19. ^ de Vries, Fred (7 Januari 2006). "Randje woestijn" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant (Amsterdam: PCM Uitgevers). http://www.volkskrant.nl/archief_gratis/article559535.ece/Randje_woestijn. Retrieved 7 Februari 2010. 
  20. ^ Fleming F. Off the Map. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004. pp. 245–249. ISBN 0-87113-899-9. 
  21. ^ Caillié, René (1830), Travels through Central Africa to Timbuctoo; and across the Great Desert, to Morocco, performed in the years 1824-1828 (2 Vols), London: Colburn & Bentley  Google books: Volume 1, Volume 2
  22. ^ Calhoun, Warren Glenn; From Here to Timbuktu, p. 273 ISBN 0-7388-4222-2
  23. ^ Sandford, Charles Adams; Robert Adams (2005). The Narrative of Robert Adams, a Barbary Captive: Critical Edition. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. XVIII (preface). ISBN 978-0-521-84284-6. http://books.google.nl/books?id=hvwIko-0YLsC&pg=PR45&lpg=PR45&dq=The+Narrative+of+Robert+Adams,+a+Barbary+Captive+authencity&source=bl&ots=ZHeo48sCmC&sig=-8Xi5BBR3upBfGDcoIK_yh2fZkQ&hl=nl&ei=ejJvS6r6NInK-QaQpKT0DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=authencity&f=false. 
  24. ^ Maugham, Reginal Charles Fulke (Januari 1924). "NATIVE LAND TENURE IN THE TIMBUKTU DISTRICTS". Journal of the Royal African Society (London: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal African Society) 23 (90): 125–130. http://www.jstor.org/stable/715389. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  25. ^ Neumann, Bernard de (1 November 2008), British Merchant Navy Graves in Timbuktu, http://www.gordonmumford.com/m-navy/pow-2.htm, retrieved 17 February 2010 
  26. ^ Arts & Life in Africa, 15 October 1998, http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/countries/Mali.html, retrieved 20 February 2010 
  27. ^ Brooke, James (23 March 1988). "Timbuktu Journal; Sadly, Desert Nomads Cultivate Their Garden". New York Times (New York City, NY: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.). http://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/23/world/timbuktu-journal-sadly-desert-nomads-cultivate-their-garden.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  28. ^ For biographical information on Leo Africanus, see Natalie Zemon Davis, "Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds" (Hill and Wang: New York) 2006.
  29. ^ Leo Africanus 1896, pp. 824-825 Vol. 3
  30. ^ Un patrimoine inestimable en danger : les manuscrits trouvés à Tombouctou, par Jean-Michel Djian dans Le Monde diplomatique d'août 2004.
  31. ^ Reclaiming the Ancient Manuscripts of Timbuktu
  32. ^ Curtis Abraham, "Stars of the Sahara", New Scientist, 18 August 2007: 37-39
  33. ^ UNESCO July 10, 2008.
  34. ^ Salak, Kira. "Photos from "KAYAKING TO TIMBUKTU"". National Geographic Adventure. http://www.kirasalak.com/PhotosMali.html. 
  35. ^ World Weather Information Service - Tombouctou, World Meteorological Organization, http://www.worldweather.org/034/c00134.htm, retrieved 2009-10-19 
  36. ^ African star Ali Farka Toure dies, BBC News d.d. March 7, 2006. Retrieved online from BBC Online d.d. September 22, 2009.
  37. ^ Heinrich Barth, Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa; being a Journal of an Expedition undertaken under the auspices of H.B.M.'s Government in the years 1849-1855, Volume 1 page 534 (1857). "In the course of my travels, particularly during my stay in Timbuctu". Retrieved d.d. September 22, 2009.
  38. ^ The Daily Express, 10 February 1943. Front Page: The Man From Timbuctoo
  39. ^ Ross E. Dunn (2005) The adventures of Ibn Battuta, a Muslim traveler of the fourteenth century, page 305. Retrieved d.d. September 22, 2009.
  40. ^ Charles de Foucauld, Reconnaissance du Maroc
  41. ^ a b "Search on for Timbuktu's twin" BBC News, 18 October 2006. Retrieved 28 March 2007
  42. ^ Donald Duck Timboektoe subseries (Dutch) on the C.O.A. Search Engine (I.N.D.U.C.K.S.). Retrieved d.d. October 24, 2009.
  43. ^ Notes on The Aristocats at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 24, 2009
  44. ^ Von China bis nach Mali - Chemnitz ist international Sz Online - 11 December 2003

References

Further reading

  • Braudel, Fernand, 1979 (in English 1984). The Perspective of the World, vol. III of Civilization and Capitalism
  • Jenkins, Mark, (June 1997) To Timbuktu, ISBN 978-0688115852 William Marrow & Co. Revealing travelogue along the Niger to Timbuktu
  • Pelizzo, Riccardo, Timbuktu: A Lesson in Underdevelopment, Journal of World System Research, vol. 7, n.2, 2001, pp. 265–283, jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol7/number2/pdf/jwsr-v7n2-pelizzo.pdf

External links

Tourism


Timbuktu
Tombouctou
—  City  —
  transcription(s)
 - Koyra Chiini: Tumbutu
Sankore Mosque in Timbuktu

Timbuktu
Coordinates: 16°46′33″N 3°00′34″W / 16.77583°N 3.00944°W / 16.77583; -3.00944Coordinates: 16°46′33″N 3°00′34″W / 16.77583°N 3.00944°W / 16.77583; -3.00944
Country  Mali
Region Tombouctou Region
Cercle Timbuktu Cercle
Settled 10th century
Elevation 261 m (856 ft)
Population (2009)[1]
 - Total 54,453

Timbuktu (Timbuctoo) (Koyra Chiini: Tumbutu; French: Tombouctou) is a city in Tombouctou Region, in the West African nation of Mali. It was made prosperous by the tenth mansa of the Mali Empire, Mansa Musa. It is home to Sankore University and other madrasas, and was an intellectual and spiritual capital and centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahya, recall Timbuktu's golden age. Although continuously restored, these monuments are today under threat from desertification.[2]

Populated by Songhay, Tuareg, Fulani, and Mandé people, Timbuktu is about 15 km north of the Niger River. It is also at the intersection of an east–west and a north–south Trans-Saharan trade route across the Sahara to Araouane. It was important historically (and still is today) as an entrepot for rock-salt originally from Taghaza, now from Taoudenni.

Its geographical setting made it a natural meeting point for nearby west African populations and nomadic Berber and Arab peoples from the north. Its long history as a trading outpost that linked west Africa with Berber, Arab, and Jewish traders throughout north Africa, and thereby indirectly with traders from Europe, has given it a fabled status, and in the West it was for long a metaphor for exotic, distant lands: "from here to Timbuktu."

Timbuktu's long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization is scholarship. Timbuktu is assumed to have had one of the first universities in the world. Local scholars and collectors still boast an impressive collection of ancient Greek texts from that era.[3] By the 14th century, important books were written and copied in Timbuktu, establishing the city as the centre of a significant written tradition in Africa.[4]

Contents

History

Origins

Timbuktu was established by the nomadic Tuareg as early as the 10th century. Although Tuaregs founded Timbuktu, it was only as a seasonal settlement. Roaming the desert during the wet months, in summer they stayed near the flood plains of the Inner Niger Delta. Since the terrain directly at the water wasn’t suitable due to mosquitoes, a well was dug a few miles from the river.[5][6]

Permanent Settlements

In the eleventh century merchants from Djenne set up the various markets and built permanent dwellings in the town, establishing the site as a meeting place for people traveling by camel. They also introduced Islam and reading, through the Qur'an. Before Islam, the population worshiped Ouagadou-Bida, a mythical water-serpent of the Niger River.[7] With the rise of the Ghana Empire, several Trans Saharan trade routes had been established. Salt from Mediterranean Africa was traded with West-African gold and ivory, and large numbers of slaves. Halfway through the eleventh century, however, new goldmines near Bure made for an eastward shift of the trade routes. This development made Timbuktu a prosperous city where goods from camels were loaded on boats on the Niger.

till 1400. Several states are highlighted, including the Ghana Empire (until the 13th century) and 13th - 15th century Mali Empire. Note the western trade route running from Djenne via Timbuktu to the trade entrepôt of Sijilmassa. Present day Niger in yellow.]]
Geographische Mitteilungen, shows the different parts of the mid-nineteenth century city. The cartography was based on Heinrich Barth's September 1853 visit to Timbuktu.[8]]]

Rise of the Mali Empire

During the twelfth century, the remnants of the Ghana Empire were invaded by the Sosso Empire king Soumaoro Kanté.[9] Muslim scholars from Walata (beginning to replace Aoudaghost as trade route terminus) fled to Timbuktu and solidified the position of Islam. Timbuktu had become a center of Islamic learning, with its Sankore University and 180 Quranic schools.[5] In 1324 Timbuktu was peacefully annexed by king Musa I, returning from his pilgrimage to Mecca. The city now part of the Mali Empire, king Musa I ordered the construction of a royal palace and, together with his following of hundreds of Muslim scholars, built the learning center of Djingarey Ber in 1327.

By 1375, Timbuktu appeared in the Catalan Atlas, showing that it was, by then, a commercial center linked to the North-African cities and had caught Europe's eye.[10]

Tuareg Rule & the Songhayan Empire

With the power of the Mali Empire waning in the first half of the 15th century, Maghsharan Tuareg took control of the city in 1433-1434 and installed a Sanhaja governor.[11] Thirty years later however, the rising Songhay Empire expanded, absorbing Timbuktu in 1468-1469. Lead by consecutively Sunni Ali Ber (1468–1492), Sunni Baru (1492–1493) and Askia Mohammad I (1493–1528), who brought the Songhay Empire and Timbuktu a golden age. With the capital of the empire being Gao, Timbuktu enjoyed a relatively autonomous position. Merchants from Ghadames, Awjidah, and numerous other cities of North Africa gathered there to buy gold and slaves in exchange for the Saharan salt of Taghaza and for North African cloth and horses.[12] Leadership of the Empire stayed in the Askia dynasty until 1591, although internal fights led to a decline of prosperity in the city.

Moroccan Occupation

The city's capture on August 17, 1591 by an army sent by the Saadi ruler of Morocco, Ahmad I al-Mansur, and led by pasha Mahmud B. Zarqun in search of gold mines, brought the end of an era of relative autonomy. Intellectually, and to a large extent economically, Timbuktu now entered a long period of decline. In 1593, Saadi cited 'disloyalty' as the reason for arresting, and subsequently killing or exiling many of Timbuktu's scholars, including Ahmad Baba.[13] Perhaps the city's greatest scholar, he was forced to move to Marrakesh because of the intellectual oppostion to the city's Morrocan governor, where he continued to generate attention of the scholarly world.[14] Ahmad Baba later returned to Timbuktu, where he died in 1608. The ultimate decline continued, with the increasing trans-atlantic traderoutes (transporting African slaves, including leaders and scholars of Timbuktu) marginalising Timbuktu's role. While initially controlling the Morocco - Timbuktu traderoutes, the grip of the Moroccans on the city began losing its strength in the period until 1780, and in the early 19th century the Empire didn't succeed in protecting the city against invasions and the subsequent short occupations of the Tuareg (1800), Fula (1813) and Tukular 1840.[6][13] It is uncertain whether the Tukular were still in control,[15] or if the Tuaregs had once again regained power[16], when the French arrived.

Contact with the West

Historic descriptions of the city had been around since Leo Africanus' account in the first half of the 16th century, and they prompted several European individuals and organizations to make great efforts to discover Timbuktu and its fabled riches. In 1788 a group of titled Englishmen formed the African Association with the goal of finding the city and charting the course of the Niger River. The earliest of their sponsored explorers was a young Scottish adventurer named Mungo Park, who made two trips in search of the Niger River and Timbuktu (departing first in 1795 and then in 1805). It is believed that Park was the first Westerner to have reached the city, but he died in modern day Nigeria without having the chance to report his findings.[17] In 1824, the Paris-based Société de Géographie offered a 10,000 franc prize to the first non-Muslim to reach the town and return with information about it.[18] The Briton Gordon Laing arrived in August 1826 but was killed the following month by local Muslims who were fearful of European intervention.[19] The Frenchman René Caillié arrived in 1828 traveling alone disguised as a Muslim; he was able to safely return and claim the prize.[20]

Robert Adams, an African-American sailor, claimed to have visited the city in 1811 as a slave after his ship wrecked off the African coast.[21] He later gave an account to the British consul in Tangier, Morocco in 1813. He published his account in an 1816 book, The Narrative of Robert Adams, a Barbary Captive (still in print as of 2006), but doubts remain about his account.[22] Three other Europeans reached the city before 1890: Heinrich Barth in 1853 and the German Oskar Lenz with the Spaniard Cristobal Benítez in 1880.[23][24]

Part of the French Colonial Empire

After the scramble for Africa had been formalized in the Berlin Conference, land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, Chad would become French territory, bound in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Timbuktu region was now French in name, the principle of effectivity needed France to actually hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On December 28, 1893, the city, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French, led by lieutenant Boiteux. Timbuktu was now part of French Sudan, a colony of France.[25][26] This situation lasted until 1902. After dividing part of the colony back in 1899, the remaining areas were now reorganized and, for a brief period, called Senegambia and Niger. Only two years later, in 1904, another reorganization followed and Timbuktu became part of Upper Senegal and Niger until, in 1920, the colony assumed its old name of French Sudan once again.[15]

World War II

, alias The Man from Timbuctoo, pictured as Commander of HMRC Vigilant, approximately 1950]] During World War II, several legions were recruited in French Soudan, with some coming from Timbuktu, to help general Charles de Gaulle fight Nazi-occupied France and southern Vichy France.[17]

About 60 British merchant seamen from the SS Allende (Cardiff), sunk on the 17th March 1942 off the South coast of West Africa, were held prisoner in the city during the Second World War. Two months later, after having been transported from Freetown to Timbuktu, two of them, AB John Turnbull Graham (2 May 1942, age 23) and Chief Engineer William Soutter (28 May 1942, age 60) died there in May 1942. Both men were buried in the European cemetery - possibly the most remote British war graves tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.[27]

They were not the only war captives in Timbuktu: Peter de Neumann was one of 52 men imprisoned in Timbuktu in 1942 when their ship, the SS Criton, was intercepted by two Vichy French warships. Although several men, including de Neumann, escaped, they were all recaptured and stayed a total of ten months in the city, guarded by natives. Upon his return to England, he became known as "The Man from Timbuctoo".[28]

Independency & Onwards

After World War II had come to an end, the French government under Charles de Gaulle granted the colony more and more freedom. After a period as part of the short-lived Mali Federation, the Republic of Mali was proclaimed on September 22, 1960. After a November 19, 1968, a new constitution was created in 1974, making Mali a single-party state.[29] By then, the canal linking the city with the Niger River had already been filled with sand from the encroaching desert. Severe droughts hit the Sahel region in 1973 and 1985, decimating the Tuareg population around Timbuktu who relied on goat herding. The Niger's water level dropped, postponing the arrival of food transport and trading vessels. The crisis drove many of the inhabitants of Tombouctou Region to Algeria and Libya. Those who stayed relied on humanitarian organisations such as UNICEF for food and water.[30]

Etymology

Over the centuries, the spelling of Timbuktu has varied a great deal: from traveler Antonius Malfante’s “Thambet”, used in a letter he wrote in 1447 and also adopted by Ca Da Mosto in his “Voyages of Cadamosto, to Heinrich Barth’s Timbúktu and Timbu’ktu. As well as its spelling, Timbuktu’s etymology is still open to discussion.[25]

At least four possible origins of the name of Timbuktu have been described:

  • Songhai origin: both Leo Africanus and Heinrich Barth believed the name was derived from two Songhau words. Leo Africanus argued: “This name [Timbuktu] was in our times (as some think) imposed upon this kingdom from the name of a certain town so called, which (they say) king Mense Suleiman founded in the yeere of the Hegeira 610 [1213-1214][31]."[32] The word itself consisted of two parts, tin (wall) and butu ("Wall of Butu"), the meaning of which Africanus did not explain. Heinrich Barth suggested: "the original form of the name was the Songhai form Túmbutu, from whence the Imóshagh made Tumbýtku, which was afterwards changed by the Arabs into Tombuktu” (1965[1857]: 284). On the meaning of the word Barth noted the following: “the town was probably so called, in the Songhai language: if it were a Temáshight word, it would be written Tinbuktu. The name is generally interpreted by Europeans [as] "well of Buktu", but "tin" has nothing to do with well”. (Barth 1965:284-285 footnote)
  • Berber origin: Cissoko mentions a different etymology: the Tuareg founders of the city gave it a Berber name, a word composed of two parts: tim, the feminine form of In, meaning “place of”and “bouctou”, a contraction of the Arab word nekba (small dune). Hence, Timbuktu would mean “place covered by small dunes”.[33]
  • Abd al-Sadi offers a third explanation in his Tarikh al-Sudan (ca. 1655): “in the beginning it was there that travelers arriving by land and water met. They made it the depot for their utensils and grain. Soon this place became a cross-roads of travelers who passed back and forth through it. They entrusted their property to a slave called Timbuctoo, [a] word that, in the language of those countries means the old”.
  • The French orientalist René Basset forwarded another theory: the name derives from the Zenaga root b-k-t, meaning “to be distant” or “hidden”, and the feminine possessive particle tin. The meaning “hidden” could point to the city's location in a slight hollow.[10]

The validity of these theories depends on the identity of the original founders of the city: remnants dated from before the Songhay Empire exist and stories about earlier history point towards the Tuareg.[5][6] But, as recent as 2000, archeological research has not found remains dating from the 11th/12th century due to meters of sand that have buried the remains over the past centuries.[34] Without consensus, the etymology of Timbuktu remains unclear.

Legendary tales

Tales of Timbuktu's fabulous wealth helped prompt European exploration of the west coast of Africa. Among the most famous descriptions of Timbuktu are those of Ibn Battuta, Leo Africanus and Shabeni.

Ibn Battuta

The Malians fled in fear, and abandoned the city to them. The Mossi sultan entered Timbuktu, and sacked and burned it, killing many persons and looting it before returning to his land.

- Ibn Battuta's Rihla according to the Tarikh al-Sudan

Among the earliest accounts of Timbuktu are those of famous traveller and scholar Ibn Battuta. Although Timbuktu was still part of the Mali Empire during the time of Ibn Battuta's visit to West Africa between February 1352 and December 1353, neighbouring states did pose a threat to the Empire, as did the increasing strength of the Songhay Empire that had been a vassal state so far. Already a commercial center by then, Timbuktu formed an attractive target for the Mossi Empire - situated in modern-day Burkina Faso - and it is their sacking of the city that Ibn Battuta describes:[10]

Leo Africanus

The rich king of Tombuto hath many plates and scepters 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 cost and charges.

The inhabitants are very rich, especially the strangers who have settled in the country [..] But salt is in very short supply because it is carried here from Tegaza, some 500 miles from Timbuktu. I happened to be in this city at a time when a load of salt sold for eighty ducats. The king has a rich treasure of coins and gold ingots.

Leo Africanus, Descrittione dell’ Africa in Paul Brians' Reading About the World, Volume 2[36]

Perhaps most famous among the accounts written about Timbuktu is that by Leo Africanus. Born El Hasan ben Muhammed el-Wazzan-ez-Zayyati in Granada in 1485, he was expelled along with his parents and thousands of other Muslims by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella after their reconquest of Spain in 1492. Settling in Morocco, he studied in Fes and accompanied his uncle on diplomatic missions throughout North Africa. During these travels, he visited Timbuktu. As a young man he was captured by pirates and presented as an exceptionally learned slave to Pope Leo X, who freed him, baptized him under the name “Johannis Leo de Medici,” and commissioned him to write, in Italian, a detailed survey of Africa. His accounts provided most of what Europeans knew about the continent for the next several centuries.[37] Describing Timbuktu when the Songhai empire was at its height, the English edition of his book includes the description:

According to Leo Africanus, there were abundant supplies of locally produced corn, cattle, milk and butter, though there were neither gardens nor orchards surrounding the city.[36] In another passage dedicated to describing the wealth of both the environment and the king, Africanus touches upon the rarity of some of Timbuktu's trade commodities: salt. These descriptions and passages alike caught the attention of European explorers. Africanus, though, also described the more mundane aspects of the city, such as the "cottages built of chalk, and covered with thatch" - although these went largely unheeded.[38]

Shabeni

The natives of the town of Timbuctoo may be computed at 40,000, exclusive of slaves and foreigners [..] The natives are all blacks: almost every stranger marries a female of the town, who are so beautiful that travellers often fall in love with them at first sight.

- Shabeni in James Grey Jackson's An Account of Timbuctoo and Hausa, 1820

On the east side of the city of Timbuctoo, there is a large forest, in which are a great many elephants. Close to the town of Timbuctoo, on the south, is a small rivulet in which the inhabitants wash their clothes, and which is about two feet deep.

- Shabeni in James Grey Jackson's An Account of Timbuctoo and Hausa, 1820

Roughly 250 years after Leo Africanus' visit to Timbuktu, the city had seen many rulers. The end of the 18th century saw the grip of the Moroccon rulers on the city wane, resulting in a period of unstable government by quickly changing tribes. During the rule of one of those tribes, the Hausa, a 14 year old child from Tetouan accompanied his father on a visit to Timbuktu. Growing up a merchant, he was captured and eventually brought to England.[39] Shabeni, or Asseed El Hage Abd Salam Shabeeny stayed in Timbuktu for three years before moving to Housa. Two years later, he returned to Timbuctoo to live there for another seven years - one of a population that was even centuries after its peak and excluding slaves, double the size of the 21st century town.

By the time Shabeni was 27, he was an established merchant in his hometown. Returning from a trademission to Hamburgh, his English ship was captured and brought to Ostende by a ship under Russian colours in December, 1789.

He was subsequently set free by the British consulate, but his ship set him ashore in Dover for fear of being captured again. Here, his story was recorded. Shabeeni gave an indication of the size of the city in the second half of the 18th. In an earlier passage, he described an environment quite different to nowadays Timbuktu's arid surroundings.

Centre of learning

"If the University of Sankore [...] had survived the ravages of foreign invasions, the academic and cultural history of Africa might have been different from what it is today."

- Kwame Nkrumah at the University of Ghana inauguration, 1961[40]
Timbuktu*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party  Mali
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, v
Reference 119
Region** Africa
Inscription history
Inscription 1988  (12th Session)
Endangered 1990-2005
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Timbuktu was a world center of Islamic learning from the 13th to the 17th century. The Malian government and NGOs have been working to catalog and restore the remnants of this scholarly legacy: Timbuktu’s manuscripts.[41]

Timbuktu’s rapid economic growth in the 13th and 14th centuries drew many scholars from nearby Walata,[40] leading up to the city’s golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries that proved fertile ground for scholarship of religions, arts and science. An active trade in books between Timbuktu and other parts of the Islamic world and emperor Askia Mohammed’s strong support led to the writing of thousands of manuscripts.[42]

Knowledge though, was not gathered through a European Medieval university model.[40] Lecturing was presented through a range of informal institutions called madrasahs.[43] Nowadays dubbed the ‘University of Timbuktu’, three madrasahs facilitated 25,000 students: Djinguereber, Sidi Yahya and Sankore.[44] These institutions were explicitly religious, as opposed to the more secular curricula of European universities. Moreover, where universities in the European sense started as corporations of students and teachers, West-African education was patronized by families or lineages, with the Aqit and Bunu al-Qadi al-Hajj families being two of the most prominent in Timbuktu. Although the basis of Islamic law and its teaching were brought to Timbuktu from North Africa with the spread of Islam, Western African scholarship developed: Ahmad Baba al Massufi is regarded as the city's greatest scholar.[14] Over time however, the share of patrons that originated from or identified themselves as West-Africans decreased.

Timbuktu served in this process as a distribution center of scholars and scholarship. Its reliance on trade meant intensive movement of scholars between the city and its extensive network of trade partners. In 1468-1469 though, many scholars left for Walata when Sunni Ali’s Songhay Empire absorbed Timbuktu and again in 1591 with the Moroccan occupation.[40]

This system of education survived until late 19th century, while the 18th century saw the institution of itinerant Quranic school as a form of universal education, where scholars would travel throughout the region with their students, begging for food part of the day.[41] Islamic education came under pressure after the French occupation, droughts in the 70s and 80s and by Mali’s civil war in the early 90s.[41]

The manuscripts and libraries of Timbuktu

[[File:|thumb|left|235px|The Timbuktu Manuscripts showing both mathematics and astronomy.]] ]]

marabout of the Kuntua tribe, an ethnic Kounta clan, from which the Al Kounti manuscript collection derives its name. Dated 1898.]]

Hundreds of thousands of manuscripts were collected in Timbuktu over the course of centuries: some were written in the town itself, others - including exclusive copies of the Qur’an for wealthy families- imported through the lively booktrade.

Hidden in cellars or buried, hid between the mosque's mud walls and safeguarded by their patrons, many of these manuscripts survived the city's decline. They now form the collection of several libraries in Timbuktu, holding up to 700,000 manuscripts:[45]

  • Ahmed Baba Institute
  • Mamma Haidara Library
  • Fondo Kati
  • Al-Wangari Library
  • Mohamed Tahar Library
  • Maigala Library
  • Boularaf Collection
  • Al Kounti Collections

These libraries are the largest among up to 60 private or public libraries that are estimated to exist in Timbuktu today: although some comprise little more than a row of books on a shelve or a bookchest.[46] Under these circumstances, the manuscripts are vulnerable to insect damage and theft, as well as long term climate damage, despite Timbuktu's arid climate. Started in 2008 as a part of UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme and a NEPAD Cultural Project, the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project aims to catalogue and preserve the works.[47]

Timbuktu today

Today, Timbuktu is an impoverished town, although its reputation makes it a tourist attraction to the point where it even has an international airport (Timbuktu Airport). It is one of the eight regions of Mali, and is home to the region's local governor. It is the sister city to Djenné, also in Mali. The 1998 census listed its population at 31,973, up from 31,962 in the census of 1987.[48]

Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed since 1988. In 1990, it was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in danger due to the threat of desert sands. A program was set up to preserve the site and, in 2005, it was taken off the list of endangered sites. However, new constructions are threatening the ancient mosques, a UNESCO Committee warns.[49]

Timbuktu was one of the major stops during Henry Louis Gates' PBS special "Wonders of the African World". Gates visited with Abdel Kadir Haidara, curator of the Mamma Haidara Library together with Ali Ould Sidi from the Cultural Mission of Mali. It is thanks to Gates that an Andrew Mellon Foundation grant was obtained to finance the construction of the library's facilities, later inspiring the work of the Timbuktu Manuscripts Project. Unfortunately, no practising book artists exist in Timbuktu although cultural memory of book artisans is still alive, catering to the tourist trade. The town is home to an institute dedicated to preserving historic documents from the region, in addition to two small museums (one of them the house in which the great German explorer Heinrich Barth spent six months in 1853-54), and the symbolic Flame of Peace monument commemorating the reconciliation between the Tuareg and the government of Mali.

Attractions

Timbuktu's vernacular architecture is marked by mud mosques, which are said to have inspired Antoni Gaudí. These include

Other attractions include a museum, terraced gardens and a water tower.

Language

The main language of Timbuktu is a Songhay language called Koyra Chiini, spoken by over 80% of residents. Smaller groups, numbering 10% each before many were expelled during the Tuareg/Arab rebellion of 1990-1994, speak Hassaniya Arabic and Tamashek.

Climate

The weather is hot and dry throughout much of the year with plenty of sunshine. Average daily maximum temperatures in the hottest months of the year - May and June - exceed 40°C. Temperatures are slightly cooler, though still very hot, from July through September, when practically all of the meager annual rainfall occurs. Only the winter months of December and January have average daily maximum temperatures below 32°C.

Climate data for Timbuktu
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30.0
(86)
33.2
(91.8)
36.6
(97.9)
40.0
(104)
42.2
(108)
41.6
(106.9)
38.5
(101.3)
36.5
(97.7)
38.3
(100.9)
39.1
(102.4)
35.2
(95.4)
30.4
(86.7)
36.8
(98.24)
Average low °C (°F) 13.0
(55.4)
15.2
(59.4)
18.5
(65.3)
22.5
(72.5)
26.0
(78.8)
27.3
(81.1)
25.8
(78.4)
24.8
(76.6)
24.8
(76.6)
22.7
(72.9)
17.7
(63.9)
13.5
(56.3)
20.98
(69.77)
Precipitation mm (inches) 0.6
(0.024)
0.1
(0.004)
0.1
(0.004)
1.0
(0.039)
4.0
(0.157)
16.4
(0.646)
53.5
(2.106)
73.6
(2.898)
29.4
(1.157)
3.8
(0.15)
0.1
(0.004)
0.2
(0.008)
182.8
(7.197)
Source: World Meteorological Organization [51]


In popular culture

Timbuktu (ˌtɪmbʌkˈtuː)

— n

1. French name: Tombouctou a town in central Mali, on the River Niger.

2. Any distant or outlandish place: from here to Timbuktu

- Entry on Timbuktu, Collins English Dictionary, 10th Edition [52]

Timbuktu is, before all, a place that bears with it a sense of mystery: a 2006 survey under 150 Britons found 34% did not believe the town existed, while the other 66% considered it "a mythical place". This sense has been acknowledged in literature describing African history and African-European relations.[25][53][54]

The origin of this mystification lies in the excitement brought to Europe by the legendary tales, especially those by Leo Africanus: Arabic sources focused mainly on more affluent cities in the Timbuktu region, such as Gao and Walata; in West-Africa the city holds an image that has been compared to Europe's view on Athens.[53] As such, the picture of the city as the epitome of distance and mystery is a European one.[25]

Down-to-earth-aspects in Africanus' descriptions were largely ignored and heedings of great riches served as a catalyst for travellers to visit the inaccessible city – with prominent French explorer René Caillié characterising Timbuktu as “a mass of ill-looking houses built of earth”.[55] Now opened up, many travellers acknowledged the unfitting description of an “African El Dorado”.[56] This development shifted the city's reputation - from being fabled because of its gold to fabled because of its location and mystery:

They transformed their garments and dwellings, and ceasing to be Timbuktu the Great, they became Timbuktu the Mysterious.

- Felix Dubois, Timbuctoo the Mysterious (1896), p. 246

Being used in this sense since at least 1863, English dictionaries now cite Timbuktu as a metaphor for any faraway place.[57] Long part of colloquial language, Timbuktu also found its way into literature: in Tom Robbins' novel Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, Timbuktu provides a central theme. One lead character, Larry Diamond, is vocally fascinated with the city. The 1960 musical Oliver!, based on the 1838 novel, features a more casual reference: at one point Oliver sings to Nancy,

"I'd do anything for you, dear, anything, for you" to which Nancy sings in reply, "Paint your face bright blue?" "Anything", Oliver responds. "Go to Timbuktu?" Nancy asks. "And back again", Oliver responds.

Similar uses of the city are found in movies, where it is used to indicate a place a person or good cannot be traced - in a Dutch Donald Duck comic subseries situated in Timbuktu, Donald Duck uses the city as a safe haven,[58] and in the 1970 Disney animated feature The Aristocats, cats are sent to Timbuktu. It is mistakenly noted to be in French Equatorial Africa, instead of French West Africa.[59]. Timbuktu has provided the setting for at least one movie: the 1959 film Timbuktu was set in the city in 1940, although it was filmed in Kanab, Utah. Capitalizing on both name and fame of the historic town, both American alternative pop group "Timbuk3 and San Francisco based messenger bag manufacturer Timbuk2 derived their name via a wordplay on Timbuktu.[60]

Sister cities

Timbuktu is twinned to the following cities:[61]

Notes

  1. ^ Resultats Provisoires RGPH 2009 (Région de Tombouctou), République de Mali: Institut National de la Statistique, http://instat.gov.ml/contenu_documentation.aspx?type=23 
  2. ^ Timbuktu — World Heritage (Unesco.org)
  3. ^ Timbuktu. (2007). Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. ^ Okolo Rashid. Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word Exhibit - International Museum of Muslim Cultures [1]
  5. ^ a b c History of Timbuktu, Mali - Timbuktu Educational Foundation
  6. ^ a b c Early History of Timbuktu - The History Channel Classroom
  7. ^ Homer, Curry. Snatched from the Serpent. Berrien Springs, Michigan: Frontiers Adventist. http://www.adventistfrontiers.com/article.php?id=3715. 
  8. ^ Demhardt, Imre Josef (August 2006). "Hopes, Hazards and a Haggle: Perthes' Ten Sheet "Karte von Inner-Afrika"". International Symposium on "Old Worlds-New Worlds": The History of Colonial Cartography 1750-1950 (August 21–23). Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands: Working Group on the History of Colonial Cartography in the 19th and 20th centuries International Cartographic Association (ICA-ACI). pp. 16. http://www.icahistcarto.org/PDF/Demhardt_Imre_-_Hopes_Hazards_and_a_Haggle.pdf. 
  9. ^ Mann, Kenny (1996). hana Mali Songhay: The Western Sudan. (African Kingdoms of the Past Series). South Orange, New Jersey: Dillon Press. 
  10. ^ a b c Hunwick 1999, p. 444
  11. ^ Bosworth, Edmund C. (2007). Historic Cities of the Islamic World. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. pp. 521–522. ISBN 9004153888. http://books.google.nl/books?id=UB4uSVt3ulUC&pg=PA521&lpg=PA521&dq=maghsharan+tuareg&source=bl&ots=FBL1zN3mBM&sig=SKjvoNVCarIMobF6ufIo0itWwx4&hl=nl&ei=T_1ES8LZKs6k4QaBwvGpCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CA8Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=maghsharan%20tuareg&f=false. 
  12. ^ "Timbuktu". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/596022/Timbuktu. Retrieved 9 Januari 2010. 
  13. ^ a b Boddy-Evans, Alistair. "Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa". About.com Guide. http://africanhistory.about.com/od/mali/p/Timbuktu.htm. Retrieved 7 Februari 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Timbuktu Hopes Ancient Texts Spark a Revival". New York Times. August 7, 2007. "The government created an institute named after Ahmed Baba, Timbuktu's greatest scholar, to collect, preserve and interpret the manuscripts." 
  15. ^ a b Entry on Timbuktu at Archnet.com, http://www.archnet.org/library/places/one-place.jsp?place_id=2181&order_by=title&showdescription=1, retrieved 12 February 2010 
  16. ^ "TIMBUKTU (French spelling Tombouctou)". Encyclopædia Britannica. V26. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. 1911. pp. 983. http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/THE_TOO/TIMBUKTU_French_spelling_Tombou.html. Retrieved 12 February 2010. 
  17. ^ a b Larry Brook, Ray Webb (1999) Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Timbuktu. Retrieved d.d. September 22, 2009.
  18. ^ de Vries, Fred (7 Januari 2006). "Randje woestijn" (in Dutch). de Volkskrant (Amsterdam: PCM Uitgevers). http://www.volkskrant.nl/archief_gratis/article559535.ece/Randje_woestijn. Retrieved 7 Februari 2010. 
  19. ^ Fleming F. Off the Map. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2004. pp. 245–249. ISBN 0-87113-899-9. 
  20. ^ Caillié 1830
  21. ^ Calhoun, Warren Glenn; From Here to Timbuktu, p. 273 ISBN 0-7388-4222-2
  22. ^ Sandford, Charles Adams; Robert Adams (2005). The Narrative of Robert Adams, a Barbary Captive: Critical Edition. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. XVIII (preface). ISBN 978-0-521-84284-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=hvwIko-0YLsC&pg=PR45&lpg=PR45&dq=The+Narrative+of+Robert+Adams,+a+Barbary+Captive+authencity&source=bl&ots=ZHeo48sCmC&sig=-8Xi5BBR3upBfGDcoIK_yh2fZkQ&hl=nl&ei=ejJvS6r6NInK-QaQpKT0DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=authenticity&f=false. 
  23. ^ Barth 1857, p. 534 Vol. 1
  24. ^ Buisseret, David (2007), "Oskar Lenz", The Oxford companion to world exploration, 1, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 465–466, http://books.google.com/books?id=xyAjAQAAIAAJ&q=The+Oxford+companion+to+world+exploration,+Volume+1+By+David+Buisseret,+Newberry+Library&dq=The+Oxford+companion+to+world+exploration,+Volume+1+By+David+Buisseret,+Newberry+Library&lr=&ei=d_ryS7anFKrKzASX_diGDQ&cd=1 
  25. ^ a b c d Pelizzo, Riccardo (2001). "Timbuktu: A Lesson in Underdevelopment". Journal of World-Systems Research 7 (2): 265–283. http://jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol7/number2/pdf/jwsr-v7n2-pelizzo.pdf. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  26. ^ Maugham, Reginal Charles Fulke (Januari 1924). "NATIVE LAND TENURE IN THE TIMBUKTU DISTRICTS". Journal of the Royal African Society (London: Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal African Society) 23 (90): 125–130. http://www.jstor.org/stable/715389. Retrieved 11 February 2010. 
  27. ^ Neumann, Bernard de (1 November 2008), British Merchant Navy Graves in Timbuktu, http://www.gordonmumford.com/m-navy/pow-2.htm, retrieved 17 February 2010 
  28. ^ Lacey, Montague (10 February 1943). "The Man from Timbuctoo". Daily Express (London: Northern and Shell Media): pp. 1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/89/a8027589.shtml. Retrieved 18 May 2010. 
  29. ^ Arts & Life in Africa, 15 October 1998, http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/countries/Mali.html, retrieved 20 February 2010 
  30. ^ Brooke, James (23 March 1988). "Timbuktu Journal; Sadly, Desert Nomads Cultivate Their Garden". New York Times (New York City, NY: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.). http://www.nytimes.com/1988/03/23/world/timbuktu-journal-sadly-desert-nomads-cultivate-their-garden.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  31. ^ Collins, Robert O. (1990) Western African History, London: Markus Wiener Publishers.
  32. ^ Leo Africanus 1896, p. 3
  33. ^ Cissoko, S.M (1996). Toumbouctou et l’ Empire Songhai. Paris: L’ Harmattan
  34. ^ Bovill, E. W. (1921). The Encroachment of the Sahara on the Sudan, Journal of the African Society 20: p. 174-185
  35. ^ Leo Africanus 1896, pp. Vol. 3
  36. ^ a b Brians, Paul (1998). Reading About the World. Fort Worth, TX, USA: Harcourt Brace College Publishing. pp. vol. II. http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_2/leo_africanus.html. 
  37. ^ Freeman, Shane (2008). "Leo Africanus Describes Timbuktu". North Carolina Digital History. University of North Carolina. http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-colonial/1982. Retrieved 25 april 2010. 
  38. ^ Insoll 2004
  39. ^ Jackson, James Grey (1820). An Account of Timbuctoo and Housa, Territories in the Interior of Africa By El Hage Abd Salam Shabeeny. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. http://books.google.nl/books?id=BAtFAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=james+grey+jackson&source=bl&ots=ZVeHKLx10O&sig=C8kLp2-9jIvKShmpT4-E4_eW2u8&hl=en&ei=MiTsS-39DJCmOPTz9NkH&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=timbuctoo&f=false. 
  40. ^ a b c d Jeppie, Shamil (ed); Diagen, Souleymane; McIntosh, Roderick J; Bloom, Jonathan M; Blair, Sheila S; Cleaveland, Timothy; Farias, Paulo de Moraes; Hassane, Moulaye; Boboyyi, Hamid; Last, Murray; Mack, Beverly B; Farouk-Alli, Aslam; Mathee, Shaheed, Mathee; el-Bara, Yahya Ould (2008). "6". The Meanings of Timbuktu. Cape Town, South Africa: HSRC Press. pp. 77–91. http://www.hsrcpress.ac.za/product.php?productid=2216&cat=2&page=2&featured&js=y&freedownload=1. 
  41. ^ a b c Huddleston, Alexandra (1 September 2009). "Divine Learning: The Traditional Islamic Scholarship of Timbuktu". Fourth Genre: Explorations in Non-Fiction (Michigan, MI, USA: Michigan State University Press) 11 (2): 129–135. ISSN 1522-3868. http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.library.wur.nl/. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  42. ^ Holbrook, Jarita;, Jarita; Urama, Johnson; Medupe, R. Thebe, Warner, Brian; Jeppie, Shamil; Sanogo, Salikou; Maiga, Mohammed; Dembele, Mamadou; Diakite, Drissa; Tembely, Laya; Kanoute, Mamadou; Traore, Sibiri; Sodio, Bernard; Hawkes, Sharron (1 January 2008). The Timbuktu Astronomy Project. Leiden, Netherlands: Springer Netherlands. http://www.springerlink.com.ezproxy.library.wur.nl/content/p17743321v735124/. 
  43. ^ Makdisi, George (April-June 1989), "Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West", Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 109 (2): 175–182 [176], doi:10.2307/604423, http://jstor.org/stable/604423 
  44. ^ University of Timbuktu, Mali - Timbuktu Educational Foundation
  45. ^ Rainier, Chris (27 May 2003). "Reclaiming the Ancient Manuscripts of Timbuktu". National Geographic News. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/05/0522_030527_timbuktu.html. Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  46. ^ Grant, Simon (8 February 2007), "Beyond the Saharan Fringe", The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2007/feb/08/beyondthesaharanfringe, retrieved 19 July 2010 
  47. ^ Abraham, Curtis (15 August 2007). "Stars of the Sahara". New Scientist (London: Reed Elsevier) 2617: 37–39. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19526171.400. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  48. ^ 2007
  49. ^ UNESCO July 10, 2008.
  50. ^ Salak, Kira. "Photos from "KAYAKING TO TIMBUKTU"". National Geographic Adventure. http://www.kirasalak.com/PhotosMali.html. 
  51. ^ World Weather Information Service - Tombouctou, World Meteorological Organization, http://www.worldweather.org/034/c00134.htm, retrieved 2009-10-19 
  52. ^ "Entry on 'Timbuktu'". Collins English Dictionary, 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishing. 2009. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/timbuktu. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  53. ^ a b Saad, Elias N (1983). Social History of Timbuktu: The Role of Moslem Scholars and Notables, 1400-1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 
  54. ^ Barrows, David Prescott (1927). Berbers and Blacks: Impressions of Morocco, Timbuktu and the Western Sudan. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing. p. 10. 
  55. ^ Template:Harvnb 
  56. ^ Benjaminsen, Tor A; Gunnvor Berge (2004). "Myths of Timbuktu: From African El Dorado to Desertification". International Journal of Political Economy (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.) 34 (1): 31–59. http://econpapers.repec.org/article/mesijpoec/v_3a34_3ay_3a2004_3ai_3a1_3ap_3a31-59.htm. Retrieved 14 September 2010. 
  57. ^ "Entry on 'Timbuktu'". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. 2002. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=timbuktu&searchmode=none. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  58. ^ Duck Timboektoe subseries (Dutch) on the C.O.A. Search Engine (I.N.D.U.C.K.S.). Retrieved d.d. October 24, 2009.
  59. ^ Notes on The Aristocats at theInternet Movie Database. Retrieved October 24, 2009
  60. ^ "Timbuk2 corporate website". http://www.timbuk2.com. Retrieved 20 April 2010. 
  61. ^ "Timbuktu 'twins' make first visit". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 24 October 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/mid_/7058884.stm. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 

References

Further reading

  • Braudel, Fernand, 1979 (in English 1984). The Perspective of the World, vol. III of Civilization and Capitalism
  • Houdas, Octave (ed. and trans.) (1901), Tedzkiret en-nisiān fi Akhbar molouk es-Soudān, Paris: E. Laroux, http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k5444371d.r=houdas.langEN . The anonymous 18th century Tadhkirat al-Nisyan is a biographical dictionary of the pashas of Timbuktu from the Moroccan conquest up to 1750.
  • Jenkins, Mark, (June 1997) To Timbuktu, ISBN 978-0-688-11585-2 William Marrow & Co. Revealing travelogue along the Niger to Timbuktu
  • Pelizzo, Riccardo, Timbuktu: A Lesson in Underdevelopment, Journal of World System Research, vol. 7, n.2, 2001, pp. 265–283, jwsr.ucr.edu/archive/vol7/number2/pdf/jwsr-v7n2-pelizzo.pdf

External links

Tourism




Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Donkey transport outside Timbuktu's walls
Donkey transport outside Timbuktu's walls

Timbuktu (also Tombouctou or Timbuctu) is a Tuareg city on the Niger River in the West African country of Mali.

Understand

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 used as a metaphor for exotic, distant lands.

Today, Timbuktu is an impoverished town, although its reputation makes it a tourist attraction, and it has an airport. It is one of the eight regions of Mali, home to the local governor. It is the sister city to Djenne (also in Mali). Mali is divided into eight regions and a district. ... The location of Djenné within Mali Djenné (also Dienné or Jenne) is a city on the Bani River in southern Mali with a population of about 12,000 (in 1987). ...

Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. In 1990, it was added to the list of world heritage sites in danger, due to the threat of desert sands. A program was set up to preserve the site and in 2005, it was taken off the list of endangered sites.

It was one of the major stops during Henry Louis Gates' PBS special "Wonders of the African World". Gates visited with Abdel Kadir Haidara, curator of the Mamma Haidara Library together with Ali Ould Sidi from the Cultural Mission of Mali. It is thanks to Gates that an Andrew Mellon Foundation Grant was obtained to finance the construction of the library's facilities, later inspiring the work of the Timbuktu Libraries Project. Unfortunately, no practicing book artists exist in Timbuktu although cultural memory of book artisans is still alive, catering to the tourist trade. It is also home to an institute dedicated to preserving historic documents from the region.

The city itself is in stark contrast to the rest of the country's cities, because it has more of an Arabic flair than of an African. The streets are made of sand (except one), and one has often to go down to get into the houses, because of the sand which has leveled the streets higher than the entrances of the houses.

Timbuktu airport
Timbuktu airport

By car

You can come in a 12 to 24 hours trip by car from Mopti or have a hard 4x4 experience from Gao through the desert.

By boat

You can catch one of the many tourist pinasses from Mopti (or slightly further downstream if the water level is low) they take 3 days to get there and are comfortable (at least mine was). During tourist season there will be plenty of people waiting to go so you can club together to hire one of the pinasses. At night you will be camping on the shore and there will likely be a cook on the boat, they even have 'toilets' at the back. There are also local boats running up and down stream regularly but they are a little more cramped, but probably a lot cheaper.

By plane

You can fly into Timbuktu Airport (IATA: TOM) from Bamako or Mopti (yes, the organization is very rural) and come by plane, although its schedule is extremely unreliable and unpredictable and flights are difficult to book from outside the country.

Timbuktu street scene
Timbuktu street scene

There are Taxis, camels and donkeys - and not much more... That said you can easily walk from one end of the city to the other in under an hour. All the mosques are located in the old town which can be walked across in just a few minutes.

See

Things to see in Timbuktu are certainly the Mosques (closed at hours of prayer. As of April 07, major mosques are closed to non-Muslim visitors). There are three main mosques in Timbuktu, the Djingareiber Mosque, a world heritage site, which is probably the largest and most impressive, however as of Aug 2007 it is being repaired. When taking photos be careful not to take pictures towards the army barracks just to the south. The Sankoré mosque has an impressive minaret and is worth a visit, the Sidi Yéhia Mosque is not as impressive. All three are within a short walk of each other.

The Western explorers who were the 'first' to find Timbuktu all have their houses preserved and commemorative plaques are visible on each of them. The explorers are Alexander Gordan Laing, first Westerner to make it there, René Caillié, first Westerner to make it there and back, Heinrich Barth, Oscar Lenz and Berky. Only the Heinrich Barth house has a museum, a few old photos, the rest of the houses are all lived in.

The orginal well of Bouctou, now dry, is in someone's back garden along with the Timbuktu Museum which has an interesting mix of artifacts and contemporary folk art, albeit very dusty.

Inside Sankore Mosque
Inside Sankore Mosque

The Grand Marché is a two-story market with stalls and shops selling all kinds of things, it is well worth going just for the incredible view from the roof, across the whole of Timbuktu to the desert.

You can also hire a Tuareg and camels, however the "sunset tours" are too short to really appreciate the surroundings as the Tuareg camps are only a few hundred metres away from the edge of town. However it is interesting to visit one of the camps (usually just a small family group) and see the sun set over the desert. Even if you don't visit the camps it is worth walking to the dunes on the edge of the town just to see them. A tour over several days will however be fascinating. You may even go to do the 40 day trip to the salt fields. Negotiate with the Tuaregs themselves and not so-called "guides".

The flame of peace is a monument to the ceasefire of the Tuareg rebellion. It's just to the northeast of the Petite marché. Although it is pretty new it is clearly falling apart already.

It is not a bad idea to take a child as guide, it prevents you from being hassled as much.

Don't forget to visit the tourist office so you can get your passport stamped with a Timbuktu stamp.

Look out for the dead cats hanging on the telephone cables in the city. It is because you have to dry the fur of the cat before you eat it.

Buy

Take some salt along as well as the Tuareg sabres or knifes. You'll be pretty hard pressed to get away from vendors selling all the same "unique" necklaces, earrings, knives and other handicrafts, so make sure to drive them down to a good price. A fair rule is to offer about a third of the price they originally quote, then haggle so you pay half their first price. They are used to this and so always start at too high a price. However, the things they sell are generally of good quality and great for souvenirs.

There is a shop (called 'objets artes boutique' or something similar) that sells the souvenirs to the sellers you see around town. If you head north from the hotel colom the road forks, take the left fork and about 100-200m down the road,on the left hand side, is this shop. Prices are 6-10 times cheaper here, you cannot barter but you may get a small (5-10%) discount for buying several items.

Sankore Mosque
Sankore Mosque

Another good idea is to get a postcard and post it, it will have the Timbuktu postal stamp on it. The Post office is down the main street south of the roundabout. The staff in there will give you the right stamps, you can sometimes buy postcards from there or from the many street vendors. Just don't expect to receive the postcard too soon, it can take a month to get through to the UK!

  • Hotel Le Colombe Restaurant, 292 14 35. 4000CFa.  edit

There are a number of bar/restaurants around, including one on top of the Grand Marche. There is also a patisserie opposite the post office.

  • Cat (see above)

Drink

You'd better avoid drinks as they are prepared from local tap water and are hazardous to your belly.....

  • Hotel le Colombe, Bd Askia Mohammed, 292 14 35. Offers decent air-conditioned rooms. It also has a smaller annex further down the road, the Colomb II, which offers cheaper accommodation. 20000CFa (Aug 2007).  edit
  • Cheaper rooms are available at the Hotel Campement Bouctou (292 10 12) and Sahara Passion (292 12 85).
  • More expensive rooms are available at the Hotel Hendrina Khan (292 16 81) and Hotel Azalai (292 11 63).

Get out

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Wikipedia

Contents

English

Proper noun

Singular
Timbuktu

Plural
-

Timbuktu

  1. A city in central Mali.
  2. Any proverbially distant or remote place.
    You can try every shop from here to Timbuktu, but you won't find another one like this.

Translations

Alternative spellings


Simple English

File:Djingareiber
Djingareiber Mosque, Timbuktu

Timbuktu is a city in Tombouctou Region, Mali. Sankore University and other madrasas are in the city. The city was important for thinking and for religion in the 15th and 16th centuries. It was important in spreading Islam through Africa at that time. There are three great mosques: Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahya. They are reminders of Timbuktu's golden age. They are always being fixed, but are threatened because the desert is spreading.[1]

Songhay, Tuareg, Fulani, and Mandé people live in Timbuktu. It is about 15 km north of the Niger River. There is a route across the Sahara Desert from east to west and this is used for trade. There is another from north to south. These two routes meet in Timbuktu. It is an entrepôt for rock salt from Taoudenni. This means that the salt is brought here and sold to other people to take it somewhere else, but no tax is charged.

Its location helped different people meet, so local people, Berbers and Arabs met here. It has a long history of mixed African trade, so it became famous in Europe for this reason. Therefore, western people often thought of Timbuktu as being exotic.

Timbuktu has given a lot of research and study to Islam and to the world.[2] Important books were written and copied in Timbuktu in the 14th century. This made the city become the center of writing in Africa.[3]

References

  1. Timbuktu — World Heritage (Unesco.org)
  2. Timbuktu. (2007). Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  3. Okolo Rashid. Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word Exhibit - International Museum of Muslim Cultures[1]


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