Unravelling The Mythical Timbuktu

Unravelling The Mythical Timbuktu

The word “Timbuktu” is used in several languages to represent a far-away, random location. However, Timbuktu is an actual city in the African country of Mali. Located at the gateway to the Sahara desert, the city was founded in the 5th century. Sitting near the Niger River, the city was a thriving intellectual centre instrumental to the spread of Islam in Africa. Timbuktu was added to the World Heritage List in the year 1988.

The first recorded mention of Timbuktu can be traced to the year 1354, when the great explorer Ibn Batuta wrote of his visit to Timbuktu and narrated about the wealth and gold of the region. Thus, Timbuktu came to be fondly known as an African El Dorado, a city made of gold.

A major trading depot for the caravans of the Sahara Desert, Timbuktu was a centre of Islamic scholarship under several African empires. In fact, it was also home to University of Sankore, a 25,000-student university, which was instrumental to the spread of Islam in Africa. It was also during this period, that the three notable mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and SidiYahia were constructed and were also home to one of the world’s great collections of ancient manuscripts. These mosques were also the homes of Islamic scholars known as the Ambassadors of Peace. These 3 mosques usually top the itinerary of all visitors planning a visit to Timbuktu.

In the 16th century Moroccan invaders began to drive scholars out of Timbuktu. The French colonization at the close of the 19th century dealt another serious blow to the glories of Timbuktu.

How To Reach Timbuktu

As far as accessing Timbuktu is concerned, tourists have to first reach either Bamako or Mopti, which are connected via air. From either of these cities, tourists now have the option of flying into Timbuktu Airport. However, the timings of the flights are odd and they happen to be highly unreliable. Another option is to catch one of the many tourist pinasses from Mopti. They take approximately three days to get to Timbuktu but are claimed to be rather comfortable. There is also the option of taking a car trip from Mopti, which can take anywhere between12 to 24 hours. Thus, travelling to Timbuktu can prove to be not exactly a very hassle-free experience. Within Timbuktu, private taxis, camels and donkeys are available to facilitate easier commuting.

Climate of Timbuktu

As Timbuktu is located in the Sahara desert, the temperatures can get quite high. The months of April to June are extremely hot, and so are September and October. Since it is essentially a desert, the winters are also equally cold and chilly. Precipitation is rather low in this area. If you’re planning to reach Timbuktu by public boat service, plan a trip between late July and late November as this is the only period during which the water is negotiable.

While the city has its share of fascinating history to offer, we suggest that you check with the embassy first, before planning a trip to Timbuktu!