Timbuktu is a place in Mali. It used to be the most important city in West Africa before it was conquered by Tuareg tribesmen and then later settled by the French. The city is still one of the best examples of architecture from the old era, and this is because it was spared from destruction during centuries of war. Timbuktu and its architectural treasures are today part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a first-time tourist, there are a lot of things to see in Timbuktu. There are many cultural and historical sites in the city, most of which are located on the southern side of the Niger River in a neighborhood. Save for a few places, the city has limited tourism infrastructure and there is no organized system for guiding visitors. As a result, travelers to Timbuktu often find themselves getting lost most times. This post is intended to provide a basic introduction to the major places in and around Timbuktu.
A visitor visiting Timbuktu for the first time can start with the local attractions. The city has three main sites that are worth visiting: There is a mosque in Timbuktu called the Djingareyber Mosque, which is situated in a very beautiful part of town, it was noted that the mosque was built by the Arab merchants who used to trade spices with African traders at that time. This is a very well-preserved mosque and has an old bridge nearby. Other mosques found are the Sankore, Sidi Yahia, and the Djenné mosque which were noted to be among the largest mosques in West Africa. The Djenne mosque was built during the 19th century by Emperor Askia Mohamed Toure. In the same neighborhood, there are many sites to visit such as mausoleums of famous saints, cemeteries where famous personalities were buried, the palace of Askia Mohamed Toure who was regarded as one of the greatest African monarchs, and many more.
One interesting place to visit is the Grande Marche which used to be a trading spot for Arab merchants. Visitors can also visit Timbuktu’s municipal museum of Islamic Arts which offers visitors the opportunity of seeing traditional artifacts from all over West Africa.
Other interesting places to see are the National Ahmed Baba Center for Documentation and Research and the Heinrich Barth’s House. The Heinrich Barth’s museum houses some of the writings of Heinrich, a famous explorer from Germany who spent most of his time in the region learning and developing relationships with the rulers as well as the Islamic scholars. There are also some ancient ruins and wells in Timbuktu and because of its location on the Niger River, the city was always very important for boats coming from Africa to Europe and these ruins have a story about that.
A tourist or visitor can also visit Timbuktu’s famous markets. Here a visitor can buy jewelry and other items made of gold. There are also many spices and natural herbs sold there. There are many archaeological sites worth seeing in the surrounding areas of Timbuktu. It is worth noting that at its peak, it is estimated that Timbuktu had a population of about 60,000 in the early 16th century; by 1550 the population had risen to 100,000. The city was a center of learning and religion.