Timbuktu was established by the Taureg, a nomadic group, in the tenth- eleventh century along the caravan routes that were along the west coast of Africa (New World Encyclopedia 2007). Timbuktu was in a good spot for trade but not for defending against attacks, and Timbuktu was constantly attacked by Taureg raiders (New World Encyclopedia 2007). Timbuktu was never able to grow due to the raids, but Gao, Timbuktu’s neighboring city grew to be the political capital (New World Encyclopedia 2007).
As Timbuktu developed and became a city that traded gold, ivory, slaves, and salt Timbuktu became immensely wealthy (New World Encyclopedia 2007). Since Timbuktu was so wealthy it was a target for many European empires seeking wealth (New World Encyclopedia 2007). It started to decline in the 16th century by the Portuguese traders choosing to send the goods upriver instead of down river (New World Encyclopedia 2007). As Timbuktu developed into a more intellectual center in the early 15th century it became known for its religious study of Islam (New World Encyclopedia 2007).
While Islam was the main religion of Timbuktu, most of the rural population were non-Muslim traditionalists (New World Encyclopedia 2007). The University of Sankore, also known as the most prominent Islamic institution, was established in 1581 C. E. and taught mostly centered around the Qur’an (New World Encyclopedia 2007). In Timbuktu there were more than 120 library’s in which housed millions of books, and some of which have not been found yet (New World Encyclopedia 2007).
As stories of Timbuktu’s wealth reached Europe many explorers journeyed downward into Africa to have their own taste of the wealth (Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa 2013). As countless European explorers journeyed to Timbuktu and never returned The Geographic Society of Paris offered a reward to whatever explorer that could make it there and 2 back and live to tell the tale (Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa 2013). The first explorer to reach Timbuktu was Gordon Laing in 1826, but he didn’t make it back alive (Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa 2013).
The first explorer to reach Timbuktu was Rene-Auguste Caillie in 1828, by disguising himself as an Arab traveling in a caravan (Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa 2013). When Rene returned to Europe he wrote three volumes over how unimpressed he was about the city in that it being a mud-walled city, in the middle of the desert, and not having any gold (Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa 2013). Although in 1512 when Timbuktu was at its peak and Leo Africanus visited he stated: The rich king of Tombuto hath many plates and sceptres of gold, some whereof weigh 1300 pounds…
He hath always 3000 horsemen… (and) a great store of doctors, judges, priests, and other learned men, that are bountifully maintained at the king’s expense. (New World Encyclopedia 2007) Although from Shabeni’s point of view of Timbuktu in 1787 he stated: On the east side of the city of Timbuctoo, there is a large forest, in which are a great many elephants. The timber here is very large. The trees on the outside of the forest are remarkable… they are of such a size that the largest cannot be girded by two men.
They bear a kind of berry about the size of a walnut, in clusters consisting of from ten to twenty berries. Shabeeny cannot say what is the extent of this forest, but it is very large. (New World Encyclopedia 2007) In 1591 Timbuktu started to slowly decline due to the Morisco mercenaries armed with guns (New World Encyclopedia 2007). One of the few reasons Timbuktu is still in existence is 3 because it is a major tourist attraction that attracts people from all over the world to see the mystical city (New World Encyclopedia 2007).
4 Alistair Boddy-Evans (2013). Timbuktu: The El Dorado of Africa. [ONLINE] Available at: http://africanhistory. about. com/od/mali/p/Timbuktu. htm. [Last Accessed September 10 2013]. unknown (2007). Timbuktu. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www. newworldencyclopedia. org/entry/Timbuktu. [Last Accessed September 10 2013]. unknown (2013). Sankore Madrasah. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Sankore_Madrasah. [Last Accessed Sepember 10 2013].