What and Where is the City of Timbuktu?

As French and allied forces continue to fight the Islamists in Mali, attention has been focused recently on the city of Timbuktu. It has been called “fabled,” “inaccessible,” “mysterious,” “a great trading center and crossroads,” and a “center of learning.” It is all this and more. It is an historical city, one of the most important during the height of its hegemony; trade caravans from around the known world, from the Middle East to Europe, crossed paths here in West Africa. Timbukto’s heritage is so important that it is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The following links provide a great deal more information: an eyewitness description of Timbuktu from 1526; The narrative of Robert Adams, an American sailor, who was wrecked on the western coast of Africa, in the year 1810, was detained three years in slavery by the Arabs of the Great Desert, and resided several months in the City of Tombuctoo (1817); and An authentic narrative of the loss of the American brig Commerce, wrecked on the western coast of Africa, in the month of August, 1815, with an account of the sufferings of the surviving officers and crew… and containing a description of the famous city Tombuctoo….(1833); and Timbuctoo the mysterious (1896). More contemporary information can be accessed at: What is at Stake in Timbukto? (Timbukto Heritage); On the Edge, Timbuktu (NPR); Timbuktu – City of Legends (BBC); The Lost Libraries of Timbuktu (BBC4-YouTube);  The Road to Timbuktu (PBS); Factbox – Timbuktu (Reuters); Timbuktu (Mali) (New York Times); Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries on Timbuktu (Library of Congress); Trekking to Timbuktu – Teacher Version (NEH); Timbukto Library –  a treasure house of Malian history (The Guardian); the Tombouctou Manuscripts Project; and Timbuktu: Journey to the Empire of Knowledge (YouTube).

“Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, but the word of God and the treasures of wisdom are only to be found in Timbuktu.” – 15th-century Malian proverb

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