Timbuktu (1988)
Mali

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Home of the prestigious Koranic Sankore University and other madrasas, Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. Its three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, recall Timbuktu's golden age. Although continuously restored, these monuments are today under threat from desertification. 

  • Mali 1961. Air Post. Sankore Mosque at Timbuktu. Scan by courtesy of Yahia Makinga (Denmark). 

Mali 1961. Air Post. Sankore Mosque at Timbuktu.

Timbuktu (in French known as Tombouctou) is a city in central Mali, on the southern edge of the Sahara, just north of the great bend of the Niger River. It is connected with the Niger by canals and is served by the small river port of Kabara. The city is a regional trade center for salt and other basic commodities. 

Mali 1967. Promotion of tourism. View of Timbuktu.

Tombouctou was formerly a great commercial entrepôt and an international center of Islamic learning. The city was probably founded in the late 11th century ad by Tuareg nomads. 

By the early 14th century, when it was incorporated into the ancient empire of Mali, Tombouctou was a leading terminus of trans-Saharan caravans and a distribution point for trade along the upper Niger. 

  • Mali 1967. Promotion of tourism. View of Timbuktu. 
After it was conquered by the powerful Songhai Empire in 1468, the city reached its zenith as a commercial and religious center. It had a population of about 40,000 in the early 16th century. 

Merchants from northern African cities traded salt and cloth for gold and for black African slaves in the markets of Tombouctou. The school organized at the city's Sankoré mosque was staffed by scholars educated in the leading Islamic academies of the Middle East. 

  • Mali 1979. Birth centenary of the French explorer René Caillié. A camel driver and his animal facing Timbuktu. 

Mali 1979. Birth centenary of the French explorer Caillié. A camel driver and his animal facing Timbuktu.

French Sudan 1939. Set of three stamps commemorating the centenary of the French explorer René Caillié (1799-1858), on the background of a map of North Africa. In the center of the stamps the city of Timbuktu is marked.  Stamp #1 of three. French Sudan 1939. Set of three stamps commemorating the centenary of the French explorer René Caillié (1799-1858), on the background of a map of North Africa. In the center of the stamps the city of Timbuktu is marked.  Stamp #2 of three. French Sudan 1939. Set of three stamps commemorating the centenary of the French explorer René Caillié (1799-1858), on the background of a map of North Africa. In the center of the stamps the city of Timbuktu is marked.  Stamp #3 of three.

In 1591 invaders from Morocco captured Tombouctou, and thereafter the city declined, partly because of raids by Bambara, Fulani, and Tuareg and partly because commerce was diverted to other cities. By the 19th century Tombouctou was of little importance. It was later occupied (1893-94) by the French. 

Sources and links: 

Other World Heritage sites in Mali (on this web site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Mali Section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 13 nov 2006  
Copyright © 1999 Heindorffhus 
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