Timbuktu, an ancient city located in the western African nation of Mali at the edge of the Sahara, is a New Wonder of the World Runner-Up and a World Heritage Site. The city was founded in the 11th century by the Tuareg Imashagan. Since Timbuktu was located where the Niger flows northward into the southern edge of the desert, it became a meeting point of Songhai, Wangara, Fulani, Tuareg and Arabs. Timbuku served as a trading center between west and north Africa with gold and slaves coming from the south and salt, cloth and horses from the north.
Timbuktu was also a center of learning where black and Sanhaja scholars gathered to study the vast store of books. Vast libraries were accumulated, copied, and traded. Later, the city became a center of Islamic learning with three universities and 180 Quanic schools. Leo Africanus, a historian of the 16th century wrote about Timbuktu:
There are many judges, doctors and clerics here, all receiving good salaries from King Askia Mohammed of the State of Songhay. He pays great respect to men of learning. There is a great demand for books, and more profit is made from the trade in books than from any other line of business.”
After the 14th century,Timbuktu was invaded and occupied by a series of conquerors. Many scholars fled to Mauritania taking many of their manuscripts with them. A final invasion by Moroccans destroyed much of the town and the manuscripts. Those scholars nor murdered were carried back to Marrakesh and Fes. In 1893, with the colonization of West Africa by France,Timbuktu was brought under the French rule until Mali received her independence in 1960. Today, Timbuktu a city of about 50,000 residents is impoverished and is being overtaken by the desert. Several initiatives are being undertaken to revive the historic manuscripts still kept in the city.
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