The word “Timbuktu” (or Timbuctoo or Tombouctou) is used in several languages to represent a far-away mysterious place. However, Timbuktu is an actual city in the African country of Mali. Timbuktu is located at the edge of the Sahara Desert and near Niger River. It was a prosperous center of important commercial routes.
The city was built by the nomads in the 12th century. During the 14th century, the legend of Timbuktu as a rich cultural center spread through the world. The beginning of the legend can be traced to 1324, when the Emperor of Mali made his pilgrimage to Mecca via Cairo. In Cairo, the merchants and traders were impressed by the amount of gold carried by the emperor who claimed that the gold was from Timbuktu.
In 1354, a Muslim explorer Ibn Batuta wrote of his visit to Timbuktu and told of the wealth and gold of the region. Thus, Timbuktu became renown as a legendary gold city – El Dorado of Africa. In the 15th century, it became a center of Islamic study with the population numbered somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000, and the majority of them were scholars and students.
However, Timbuktu was still a mysterious place of Europeans at that time. People who have no Mohammedanism and even explorers are prohibited to set foot here. Because the fact that many Western expenditures disappeared, many people considered this place as a mysterious city.
In 1618, a London company assigned two delegations to establish trade with Timbuktu. Unfortunately, the first trading delegation ended up with the massacre of all its members and the second sailed up the Gambia River and never reached Timbuktu. In the 1700s and 1800s, many explorers attempted to reach Timbuktu but none returned.
In 1805, a Scottish doctor Mungo Park attempted a trip to Timbuktu within an expenditure, including both Europeans and native people. However, his expedition team all died or abandoned the expedition along the way. Mungo Park continued to sail along the insane Niger River. Unfortunately, no one knew where he was and his body was never found.
In 1825, the city received many trips from European explorers. At the end of the 19th century, France took control of the Mali region and Timbuktu became the site of a French fort.
From the 16th century, when the commercial routes to Atlantic Ocean was devastated. Making Timbuktu an unhappy and a desolate city.
Nevertheless, the desolate beauty of this ancient city as well as a treasure of buried medieval knowledge in many universities and libraries still fascinate thousands of tourists every year. Besides, an airport was built in Timnuktu to serve the tourism.