We asked a few readers, and many said, “Of course not! It is just a metaphor for somewhere fictional that’s really far away.” Read on to learn the truth about Timbuktu.
Timbuktu is located in Republic of Mali, a western sub-Saharan country. Founded in the 5th century CE, it was once a prominent city bustling with traders and scholars. By the 15th and 16th centuries, it became the economical, intellectual and spiritual capital of Africa. The University of Sankore helped establish it as a prominent Islamic learning center.
Timbuktu was the place where trade used to happen between sub-Saharan and Saharan people. The main commodities passing through the city were ivory, gold and salt.
Then the French came, and trade began to fall. Wars further depleted the city. Today, Timbuktu is a small impoverished town with muddy buildings and dirt roads. But the old glory can still be seen in various mosques and complexes built in traditional style. Three mosques, namely the Djinguereber Mosque, Sankore Mosque and Sidi Yahia Mosque – all built in 15th-16th centuries, have been chosen by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites for their contribution to the growth of Islam in Africa.
Though French is the official language, most of the natives speak Koyra Chiini, a Songhay language. Salt trade, agriculture and tourism are the main economic activities in modern Timbuktu. There are road and air networks to reach Timbuktu and the best time to visit is from November to February.