The African city nicknamed “that of the 333 saints”

For much of history, Timbuktu has been a dream destination for European intellectuals. Many of them lost their lives trying to reach her. It is a city located in the middle of the desert, 7 kilometers from the Niger River, in the Republic of Mali (Africa).

Timbuktu It is not a city that usually appears on tourist itineraries. Only its name seems to be taken from a story, it transmits mystery and magic. But, Although it sounds like an imaginary city, it is not.

A city with an immense history

Timbuktu was founded in the year 1100 by the Tuareg as a trading post due to its proximity to the Niger. As it was in a remote location and non-Muslims were not allowed to enter, mystery began to surround the city.

The mysterious name was heard among European circles. They referred to it as a city that housed the best libraries of the time. In fact, his library came to be compared to that of Alexandria.

Not only that, but his university became a true cultural focus and Islamic studies that enjoyed great prestige. It is also believed that it was one of the first universities in the world to open its doors.

Y Timbuktu did not stand out only for its wide cultural and study panorama, also as a commercial focus. At that time (14th century) the Mali Empire controlled much of the trade routes between gold from the south and salt from the north.


The gold comes from the south, the salt from the north, and the money from the white man’s country; but the wonderful stories and the word of God are only found in Timbuktu.

-Proverb of Mali-

The city of 333 saints

Being filled with saints and scholars from all corners of the world, Timbutu enjoyed a great religious and spiritual life. Thus, in a short time it became one of the holy cities of Islam and entry was prohibited to those who did not profess that religion.

To this was added its situation, between the Sahara of the nomadic Berber populations and West Africa. It was always a difficult place to reach. For this reason, the city was always covered with a halo of mystery. To such an extent that until 1863 Timbuktu appeared in English dictionaries as a place of tales and legends, distant and mysterious.

Many European intellectuals tried to reach this difficult-to-reach city. Several British failed in their search for Timbuktu. Mungo Park and René Caillié stand out; the first, despite trying several times, never managed to reach Timbuktu and died trying. The second did succeed on his third attempt.

What to visit in Timbuktu

Djingareyber Mosque is a must stop if you visit Timbuktu. It was built in 1325 by the Granada architect Ishaq Es Saheli. It is the only mosque that non-Muslim visitors can enter. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

Also noteworthy are the Buctu Palace, the Sankore Mosque and that of Sidi Yahya, memories of the golden age of the city.

Timbuktu today

Today, the city’s university is known as Sankore University. Although it is very discredited, it is still a great source of propagation of Islamic culture in Africa.

Currently, due to political and religious conflicts in the area, it is not recommended to visit Timbuktu. Unfortunately, terrorist groups destroyed a few years ago many temples and buildings of the city, considering them impious.

Although a peace agreement was signed in 2015, occasional incidents are still recorded and it is considered dangerous to visit the city. Therefore, although it is an interesting destination still wrapped in that mysterious atmosphere, the recommendation is to wait and leave the trip for a time when peace reigns in the area.

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