"Timbuktu" Top 5 Page for this destination Timbuktu by jantichm

Timbuktu Travel Guide: 95 reviews and 400 photos


Timbuktu is lost in the middle of the desert. In fact the nearly Sahara is sucking down the city and you can find sand everywhere (even in the food).

This mythical and mysterious city disappoints many visitors. Although today there aren't many signs of the last splendor of Timbuktu, I think that it deserves to be visited if you have enough time.

History of Timbuktu

Timbuktu was founded by the Tuareg in the 11th century. The history (or legend) says that a Tuareg woman called Buktu was grazing her herds not far from the Niger River, and she discovered an oasis and decided to set up a tented camp. Very soon, the little seasonal camp, called Timbuktu became an important stop for other nomads as well as the caravans travelling along the trans-Saharan route.

Although the Tuaregs founded Timbuktu, it was merchants who set up markets and built fixed houses in the town to establish the site as a meeting place for people travelling by camel.

The town became increasingly important to the gold, slaves and salt trades. This situation was the reason of its conquest by the Mali Empire, the first great Muslim kingdom, in the Sahel. Timbuktu eventually developed into a major trading center that connected North Africa with West Africa.

In 1312 Mansa Moussa, the most legendary of the Malian kings and a devout Muslim, came to the throne. During his reign, Timbuktu became one of the major cultural centers of Islamic world.

During Moussa's reign Timbuktu thrived as a commercial center and flourished into a hub of Islamic learning. Even after the Mali Empire lost control over the region in the fifteenth century, Timbuktu remained the major Islamic center of sub-Saharan Africa.

Because of his unprecedented success, another developing West African kingdom, the Songhay Empire, was increasing its influence over this area. In about 1464, King Sonni Ali Ber came to the Songhay throne. This king was an able and ambitious ruler. In 1468 he sent his army to capture the city of Timbuktu.

In spite of his political achievements, Sonni Ali Ber was not a popular ruler. After the king's death, one of his generals seized the throne, with the support of the people. The general was a devout Muslim called Mohamed Toure, and he took the title of Askia, becoming known as Askia Mohamed.

Askia Mohamed had created the largest and the wealthiest of all the kingdoms of the Sudan. He had a well-administered state, probably the most highly organized of all the African states. With a stable and efficient government and with the support of the Muslim scholars, religious leaders, and traders, Askia Mohamed had made Songhay a great trading empire and a center of Muslim scholarship and learning.

The wealth and power of Songhay were envied by Morocco, its neighbor of the north. In 1590, El Mansur, a powerful and ambitious sultan of Morocco, decided to send a numerous army to attack the Songhay Empire. The Moroccan invasion destroyed the Songhay Empire. It contributed, along with such other phenomenon as the growing Atlantic trade, to the decline of the trade routes that had brought prosperity to the region for hundreds of years.

The Moroccans took Timbuktu in 1591 and ruled over the city until about 1780, supervising its ultimate decline.

During the early nineteenth century, Timbuktu passed into the hands of a variety West African groups.

In the late nineteenth century, French colonizers took over the city.

In 1928 a French explorer, Réné Caillié, was the first to reach Timbuktu alive disguised as an Arab. When he arrived at Timbuktu only to be disappointed by the decadent city he had discovered. He found a desolate town on the edge of the desert, without a trace of visible wealth.

Despite Timbuktu's economic decline, the intellectual and spiritual life of the city continued to thrive. When the French colonized the region over fifty years after Caillié's arrival, two dozen scholastic centers still flourished in Timbuktu.

It was not until 1960 that Mali and other West African countries gained their emancipation from colonial control. Since this year, Timbuktu has been part of the Republic of Mali.

  • Last visit to Timbuktu: Sep 2004
  • Intro Updated May 24, 2005
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Reviews (4)

Comments (6)

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Jul 19, 2008 at 3:59 AM

    Hi ive enjoyed reading your page thanks.

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo
    Jan 11, 2008 at 6:40 AM

    Now I have been to Timbuktu virtually, thanks for sharing :)

  • triplehelix's Profile Photo
    Apr 3, 2006 at 4:16 PM

    you hear the stories of timbuktu as a kid thinking its a jungled area. very interesting and an educational experience at that.

  • tiabunna's Profile Photo
    Mar 26, 2006 at 4:17 PM

    Timbuktu is almost mythical: I'd love to get there, your page makes it look interesting too, but somehow I doubt I'll ever get there.

  • himalia11's Profile Photo
    Nov 4, 2005 at 10:11 AM

    Interesting page, hadn't thought that really somebody would visit this place!

  • ukirsari's Profile Photo
    Jun 3, 2005 at 4:15 AM

    nice pictures!!! thanks for sharing :)

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