Timbuktu is a city in the West African nation of Mali, situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. Founded by nomads, it is most known as “The City of Gold.” While some scholars and proposed travelers attempt to debunk the “myth” (claiming to have reached the city where the homes are made of mud bricks), Timbuktu was one of the most important centers of trade and intellectual life in West Africa, flourishing through participation in long-distance trade networks directed north across the Sahara. The city is known as having traded goods that flowed through the center including salt, ivory, and gold. One of the reasons for Timbuktu’s wealth is the water supply. There are many wells containing sweet water in Timbuktu, where the Niger in flood canals delivers the water to the city. Grain and animals are abundant, so that much milk and butter is consumed.
During the fourteenth century, the story of Timbuktu as a rich cultural center spread throughout the world. The beginnings of which 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 stated that the gold was from Timbuktu. Furthermore, in 1354 the explorer Ibn Batuta wrote of his visit to Timbuktu and told of the wealth and gold of the region. Thus, Timbuktu became renowned as an African El Dorado, a city made of gold.
A great book to read is “From Babylon to Timbuktu” by Rudolph R. Windsor:
“Until comparatively recent times, knowledge that black Africa was the seat of highly evolved civilizations and cultures during a time when Europe stagnated was limited to a small group of scholars. That great empires, such as Ghana, and later, Mali flourished for centuries while Europe slept through its Dark Ages almost has been ignored by historians. Thousands of years before that, civilization began with the black races of Africa and Asia, including the Hebrews, who were jet black. Because of the scarce literature on the contributions of blacks to world civilization, most people today hold the erroneous opinion that the black races have little real history. It was not known, for instance, that the ancient Hebrews, Mesopotamians, Phoenicians, and Egyptians were black. Now, a growing body of literature is presenting the illustrious history of blacks and their enormous contributions.”
And that’s it for this week’s episode of Black History Fun Facts. Below is last weeks episode in case you missed it: