Timbuktu, French Tombouctou, is a city in the west African nation of Mali. Frequently used together a well-known term to define a distant and mystical place, the city the Timbuktu was historically far-ranging as one area of vibrant trade. In the 12th century, slaves and also goods such together salt, gold, and ivory were among the prime commodities traded. 

This lesson will concentrate top top trade throughout the Sahara Desert, focusing on why Timbuktu became the centre of trade, what kind of goods were exchanged, the spread out of Islam from north Africa into West Africa, the prominence of camels as a method of transportation, and the huge scale of the profession route.

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The second part of this class will focus on the Kingdom of Mali at the elevation of its power under the leadership of Mansa Musa. The influence of Islam top top Musa’s leadership will be highlighted by concentrating on his pilgrimage to Mecca and the building of the good Mosque. Finally, the class will explain why Timbuktu to be not just a centre of trade, but additionally a center of learning and why that is now taken into consideration a human being Heritage site.

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Flag that Mali. picture source

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riding Camels in the Sahara Desert. picture source

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"The great Mosque in Djenne, the biggest Mud- Brick structure in the World” . picture source

Trade throughout the Sahara Desert

Camel caravans as the way of move

Traders moved their goods throughout the Sahara in big groups referred to as caravans. Camels to be the main mode the transportation and were offered to bring goods and people. The camel was the most important part of the caravan. Without the camel, trade across the Sahara would have been impossible. Camels are uniquely adapted to survive lengthy periods without water. They can likewise survive large changes in body temperature permitting them to withstand the warmth of the day and the cold that night in the desert.

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A camel caravan moving through the Sahara desert. Few of these caravans will begin walking native 4 am till sunset come trade products with others . picture source

Sometimes slaves brought goods as well. Travel by camel caravan to be slow, strenuous, and dangerous. Risks such as extreme heat, stifling sandstorms, death by starvation, thirst, and also attacks through raiders added to the opportunity of getting lost. Despite all this, trans-Saharan trade along caravan courses linking oases persisted from very early times. The Silk roads were already in use in the late Bronze Age, though intensive use of cross-desert roads was triggered by the domestication the the camel. Caravans included on mean a thousands camels, periodically reaching as plenty of as 12 000 animals. Runners were sent out ahead to sanctuaries to ship the end water once the caravan was still job away. Big caravan processions to be safer because they offered protection native bandits. Today many cross-desert carry is through an extensive tarmac roadway network in addition to carry by air and sea. Tuareg camel caravans still travel on the classic Saharan routes, moving salt from the desert internal to communities on the desert edges.

Goods consisting of salt lugged from Europe and also North Africa into Mali whereby they were exchanged for gold, slaves, ivory and ostrich feathers

In the ancient empire of Mali, the most crucial industry was the gold industry, if the various other trade to be the trade in salt. Lot gold was traded v the Sahara desert to the nations on the north African coast. The gold mines of West Africa provided an excellent wealth to West African realms such together Ghana and also Mali. Other items the were typically traded had ivory, kola nuts, cloth, steel goods, beads, and likewise human us in the slave trade.

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Salt (pictured below) was often lugged from Europe and also North Africa in exchange for Gold (pictured above), or other products such as slaves or ivory. photo source

Gold to be bountiful in West Africa, and also was offered as a kind of currency. That was likewise used by the well-off as decoration, worn on write-ups of clothing, and also it was prized by numerous people. Worldwide, african gold was famous and many nations wanted it, and also would trade for it. The profession in gold aided Mali stay really wealthy. The key item they would certainly import to be salt which castle would usage it for numerous things. Since salt was numerous in the phibìc of Mali, yet scarce in the South, castle would need to import it. Salt was greatly used to preserve foods, favor meat, but also corpses, etc. Malians would likewise need salt in your food, because they wouldn"t usually have lot in their diet. Lock would also import things prefer glass, ceramics, and precious stones from north Africa.

The spread out of Islam throughout North Africa and into West Africa via traders throughout the 9th century

Islam had currently spread right into northern Africa by the mid-seventh century A.D., only a couple of decades ~ the Prophet Muhammad moved with his pendant from Mecca to Medina in the adjoining Arabian Peninsula. When the presence of Islam in West Africa dates earlier to the 8 hours century, the spread of the confidence in phibìc Africa was a steady and facility process. Islam gradually spread to areas that now consist of the modern-day states the Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and Nigeria. Much of what us know around the early background of West Africa originates from medieval accounts written by Arab and North african geographers and also historians. The is apparent that the beforehand presence that Islam in West Africa was connected to trade and also commerce v North Africa. Return trade in between West Africa and the Mediterranean predated Islam, north African Muslims intensified the Trans-Saharan trade. Phibìc African traders were major players in introducing Islam into West Africa. Between the 8th and also 9th centuries, Arab traders and travellers, and thereafter african clerics, started to spread the religious beliefs along the eastern shore of Africa and to west and main Sudan.

The an initial converts to the faith were Sudanese merchants, adhered to by a few rulers and also courtiers. The masses the rural peasants, however, remained fairly untouched. In the 11th century, the Almoravid intervention, led through a group of Berber wanderers who were strictly observers the Islamic law, provided the conversion procedure a brand-new momentum in the Ghana Empire and also beyond.

The history of Islam in West Africa can be separated into three stages: containment, mixing, and also reform. In the very first stage, african kings included Muslim affect by segregating Muslim communities; in the second stage african rulers blended Islam with local heritages as the populace selectively appropriated Islamic practices; and also finally in the third stage, afri Muslims pressed for reforms in an effort to to escape their societies of blended practices and also implement Sharia law. 

The kingdom that Mali

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A depiction of Mansa Musa in the 14th century. image source

Mali at the height of its power under Mansa Musa in the early on 14th century

Mansa Musa made an important mark in Mali by introducing the kingdom to Islam and making it among the an initial Muslim claims in northern Africa. He included the laws of the Quran right into his country’s justice system. Cities such together Timbuktu and Gao were occurred into global centres that Islamic learning and culture. Intricate mosques and libraries to be built. The college that arised in Timbuktu might well have actually been the world"s first. The cities came to be meeting areas for poets, scholars, and artists. Musa ended up being one the the most an effective and wealthiest leader of his time. Mali came to be renowned in the imaginations the European and Islamic countries in the 14th century.

Mansa Musa’s expedition to Mecca

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A camel caravan moving through the Sahara desert. Some of these caravans will begin walking indigenous 4 am until sunset come trade goods with rather . image source

Musa is most detailed for his trip to Mecca, a visit which put Mali ~ above the map. In 1339, Mali showed up on a “Map of the World” after ~ his pilgrimage. In 1367, one more map of the people showed a roadway leading from phibìc Africa with the Atlas Mountains into Western Sudan. In 1375 a 3rd map of the world showed a richly attired monarch holding a huge gold nugget in the area south of the Sahara. Also, trade between Egypt and Mali currently flourished.

On his return indigenous Mecca, Musa brought back with the an Arabic library, religious scholars, and also architects; who helped him build royal royal residence universities, libraries and also mosques anywhere his kingdom. That strengthened Islam and advocated education, trade, and also commerce in Mali. He laid the structures for Walata, Jenne, and also Timbuktu to end up being the social and commercial centre of phibìc Africa. 

Mansa Kankan Musa ruled v all the ideals that a good Muslim king. He passed away in the mid-14th century, and Mali was never ever quite the same. Interior squabbling in between ruling households weakened Mali"s governance and its network of says started come unravel. Then, in 1430, a team of Berbers seized much of Mali"s territory, consisting of Timbuktu.

Construction the the good Mosque 

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The great Mosque the Djenné, the largest mud- brick structure in the world. photo source

The great Mosque the Djenné is the biggest mud brick building in the world and is considered by plenty of architects to it is in the greatest accomplishment of the Sudano- Sahelian architectural style, albeit with definite Islamic influences. Originally developed in the 13th or 14th century, restoration of the current good Mosque started in 1906 and was probably completed in between 1907 and 1909. The mosque"s building and construction was supervised and also guided through the head that Djenné"s mason guild, Ismaila Traoré. At the time, Djenné was part of the colony of French West Africa and the French might have available political and economic support for the building of both the mosque and also a nearby madrasa. The structure of the little town of Djenné is demarcated by rivers with roughly a populace of 23,000, and also it’s close to 2,000 houses mostly retaining Malian timeless styles. 

The city the Timbuktu

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A portrait that Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad Al-Wazzan, known as Leo Africanus in the West. picture source

Leo Africanus’s eyewitness stories of his travels and also Descriptions the Timbuktu in his publication Description that Africa (1550)

For centuries caravan take trip was the main means of transportation for items traded between the Mediterranean and also the Sudan. Cloth, salt, metals, pearls and also writing document were lugged from Europe and also the Maghreb right into present-day Mali, where they to be exchanged because that gold, slaves, ivory and also ostrich feathers. 

The last caravan courses were closed down in 1933. Leo took trip along these caravan routes, into the Saharan desert and also twice come Timbuktu; as soon as as a young man, accompanying his uncle to visit the sultan the the Sudan; and also once a few years later, top top a longer trip with what was then known as "Black Africa".

Below friend will uncover Leo Africanus’s summary of Africa and specifically Timbuktu as written roughly 1492. 

“The surname of this kingdom is a modern-day one, after ~ a city i beg your pardon was developed by a king called Mansa Suleyman in the year 610 that the hegira about twelve miles from a branch that the Niger River. The dwellings of Timbuktu are huts do of clay-covered wattles with thatched roofs. In the center of the city is a temple developed of stone and mortar, and also in addition there is a big palace, built by the exact same architect, where the king lives. The shops that the artisans, the merchants, and especially weavers that cotton cloth are really numerous. Fabrics are additionally imported indigenous Europe to Timbuktu, borne by Berber merchants. The ladies of the city preserve the tradition of veiling their faces, other than for the slaves who market all the foodstuffs. The residents are very rich, especially the strangers that have cleared up in the country; so lot so that the current king has provided two the his daughters in marital relationship to 2 brothers, both businessmen, ~ above account of your wealth. Over there are numerous wells include sweet water in Timbuktu. Grain and also animals room abundant, so the the consumption of milk and butter is considerable. Yet salt is in really short supply because it is brought here indigenous Tegaza, part 500 mile from Timbuktu. I occurred to be in this city in ~ a time when a load of salt sold for eighty ducats. The king has actually a rich treasure of coins and gold ingots. 

The royal court is magnificent and an extremely well chathamtownfc.netanized. When the king goes indigenous one city to an additional with the people of his court, that rides a camel and also the steeds are led by hand by servants. If fighting i do not care necessary, the servants mount the camels and also all the soldiers mountain on horseback. As soon as someone wishes to speak to the king, he need to kneel prior to him and bow down; yet this is only required of those who have actually never before talked to the king, or that ambassadors. This king makes war only upon bordering enemies and upon those who perform not desire to salary him tribute. Once he has got a victory, he has all of them--even the children--sold in the industry at Timbuktu. 

Only small, bad horses space born in this country. The vendors use them for their voyages and also the courtiers to move around the city. However the great horses come native Barbary. They come in a caravan and, ten or twelve work later, castle are resulted in the ruler, who takes as plenty of as that likes and pays accordingly for them.

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The title web page of "A Geographical history of Africa" through Leo Africanus. picture source

The king is a claimed enemy that the Jews. He will not allow any come live in the city. If the hears it stated that a Berber seller frequents lock or does service with them, he confiscates his goods. There space in Timbuktu plenty of judges, teachers and priests, all properly appointed by the king. He substantially honours learning. Plenty of hand-written books imported from Barbary are additionally sold. Over there is much more profit do from this business than from all other merchandise.

Instead that coined money, pure gold nuggets room used; and also for tiny purchases little cowry shells carried from Persia. 

The world of Timbuktu room of a calm nature. They have a tradition of nearly continuously walking about the city in the night (except because that those that offer gold), in between 10 PM and also 1 AM, playing musical instruments and dancing. The citizens have at their service many slaves, both men and also women.

The city is really much intimidated by fire. In ~ the time as soon as I was there ~ above my 2nd voyage, half the city melted in the space of five hours. Yet the wind was violent and the occupants of the other half of the city started to relocate their belongings for fear that the other fifty percent would burn.

There are no gardens or orchards in the area bordering Timbuktu.” 

Timbuktu together a trade centre on the trans-Saharan caravan route 

The Trans-Saharan trade route was conducted throughout a vast region between the Mediterranean countries and also sub-Saharan Africa. That was an important trading path commencing from the beforehand 8th century to so late 16th century. Together a ar where plenty of numbers of human being practised trade; the Sahara was surrounding by many small trading routes. The facility of profession interconnected the europeans to the African realms of Ghana, Mali, and also Songhai. However, travelling across the Sahara was difficult; transport relied and also gravely relied on camels.

In 1235, the Ghana realm collapsed and the Islamic Mali empire ascended to rule. As result of the strong Muslim press at the time, plenty of of Ghanaians converted to Islam. Despite the gold-salt trade ongoing to linger, a second major gold-salt trade course emerged. This path weaved through the Sahara and also continued into Egypt’s interior. Together both paths thrived, the growing affect of Egypt’s culture extended throughout Sudan. Under the Mali Empire, wealthy towns proliferated. Certain cities together as, Gao and also Djenné, that the Niger bend occurred with great prosperity. Together for Timbuktu, it became widely recognized as a city of fortune. The development of the Mali empire led to an expansion of the region into the Savannah and forest. Western routes were developed and with that, cites such together Ouadane, Oualata, Chinguetti, Begho, and also Bono Manso emerged along vital trading routes.

The Portuguese explorations from the West African coastline created brand-new routes for trade between Europe and West Africa. European bases ~ above the coast were created late in the 16th century. As the Saharan route was a treacherous route, it caused a weakening that political and economic affect in phibìc Africa. In 1591, the Moroccan War devastated Timbuktu and also Gao, the far-ranging trading centres. The outcome of the war lessened trade significantly. The trans-Saharan trade routes still continued after the war. After ~ the French invasion railroads were constructed and West African profession routes came to be dominant. Indigenous the mid-20th century various nations to be granted independence. 

Askiah Muhammad’s Reign

Goods coming from the Mediterranean shores and also salt gift traded in Timbuktu because that gold

From the 11th century and onward, Timbuktu became an essential port where items from West Africa and North Africa were traded. Products coming native the Mediterranean shores and salt to be traded in Timbuktu because that gold. Salt, books and also gold were the main commodities that to be traded in Timbuktu. Salt to be extracted indigenous the mines that Tegaza and also Taoudenit in the north, yellow from the tremendous gold mines that the Boure and also Banbuk and books were the refined work of black and Arabs scholars.

Timbuktu had actually been critical trans-Saharan profession route. Goods coming native Mediterranean shores and salt from central Sahara to be exchanged in Timbuktu because that gold. The prosperity of Timbuktu attracted both african scholars and Arab traders from north Africa.

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Pictured over are yellow nuggets the were exchanged v salt/ or other commodities. image source

The specialization of Timbuktu was in knowledge and book trade.  

Under the power of Askia Muhammed (1493-1591), Timbuktu became crucial centre for Islamic learning, engineering, medicine and also architectures. Through the campuses that Sankore Madressah (comparable to an Islamic University) attended by some 25,000 students, Timbuktu ended up being an pundit and religious centre and also served together a distribution platform because that scholars and also books. Publications were not just written in Timbuktu, yet they were also imported and also copied there. There was without doubt a regional book-copying market in the town. 

Hundreds and also thousands the manuscripts were created over the course of the centuries. Composed in ornate calligraphy, the manuscripts stand for a compendium of learning on every little thing from law, sciences and medicine to history and politics. The is reported that Timbuktu made more profit from the profession in books than from any type of other heat of business.

Timbuktu together a center of learning 

Mathematics, chemistry, physics, optics, astronomy, medicine, history, geography, the heritages of Islam, federal government laws and much more

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 Some that the 20,000 old manuscripts at the Ahmed Baba Institute. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP. picture source

The golden e of Islam is traditionally dated from the mid-7th century come the mid-13th century. Throughout this period Muslim rulers established one that the largest realms in history. “In Timbuktu there are numerous judges, scholars and priests, every well payment by the king, who considerably honours learned men. Numerous manuscript publications coming indigenous Barbary are sold. Together sales room more financially rewarding than any type of other goods,” created Leo Africanus in the 16th century. During this period, artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in the Islamic civilization contributed to agriculture, the arts, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, the sciences, and also technology, both by preserving earlier traditions and also by adding inventions and also innovations of their own. Likewise at that time the Muslim world came to be a major intellectual centre because that science, philosophy, medicine and also education. 

Although mosques favor Sankoré were centres that learning, much of the day-to-day teaching activity occurred much more informally in the homes of scholars. The core of the Islamic teaching tradition is the infection of texts, i beg your pardon is handed down with a chain of transmitters indigenous the teacher come the student, preferably with the shortest and also most prestigious collection of intermediaries. The student would listen to the teacher’s dictation, write their very own copy and read that back, or listen to another student check out it. The scholars had actually their own private libraries to aid them teach.

Timbuktu Manuscripts Project and also South afri collaboration

The city and its desert environs room an archive of handwritten texts in Arabic and also in african languages in the Arabic script, produced in between the 13th and the 20th centuries. The manuscript libraries of Timbuktu are far-ranging repositories the scholarly production in West Africa and also the Sahara. Provided the huge number that manuscript collection it is surprising the Timbuktu together an save remains greatly unknown and under-used. 

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Pictured over is an instance of a deteriorating manuscript. The Timbuktu Manuscript Project aims to preserve the content included within these manuscripts. picture source

The manuscripts carry out a written testimony come the skill of african scientists, in astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine and climatology in the middle Ages.

South Africa is driving a task to construct a new library to house in between 200 000 and 300 000 old manuscripts at this time housed in 24 private libraries in and around the Malian city, and also to train local librarians in the preservation of a endowment trove the is threatening, literally, to disintegrate. Launched in 2003, the south Africa-Mali manuscript job was the very first official social project the the brand-new Partnership because that Africa"s advance (NEPAD), the socio-economic breakthrough plan that the afri Union. The Timbuktu Manuscripts, or Mali Manuscripts, few of which date ago to the 13th century, are Arabic and African messages that discuss the city"s glorious past; when Muslim sellers would trade gold from West Africa come Europe and the Middle east in return because that salt and also other goods. The manuscripts point to the fact that Africa has actually a rich heritage of created history, contrary to the popular notion that oral heritages alone preserved the continent’s heritage. A south Africa-Mali Timbuktu Manuscripts job was officially launched in 2003 and also a major achievement the this job was the new library-archive building, which was inaugurated in Timbuktu in January 2009.

Why Timbuktu is a civilization Heritage Site

Recognising its significance as a website of afri architecture and also of its scholarly past, UNESCO declared Timbuktu a civilization Heritage site in 1990. Timbuktu to be a flourishing centre of scholarship crucial to the spread of Islam in Africa. It retains three noteworthy mosques and also one the the world’s good collections of ancient manuscripts. This West african city, long synonymous through the uttermost finish of the Earth, was included to the human being Heritage list in 1988, plenty of centuries after its apex. Timbuktu deserve to be viewed as an intellectual and also spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam transparent Africa in the 15th and also 16th centuries. 

The criteria for declaring Timbuktu as a legacy site have actually been explained as; a) interchange the values, (b) icon of one era and (c) interaction with the environment. 

The employee of Mali and also holy locations of Timbuktu have actually played critical role in the spread out of Islam in Africa at an early period. The three an excellent mosques that Timbuktu, restored by the Qadi Al Aqib in the 16th century, bear witness to the golden e of the city in ~ the finish of the Askia dynasty. The 3 mosques and mausoleums space outstanding instances to the metropolitan urbanisation the Timbuktu.

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Although continuously restored, this monuments are today under threat from desertification as radical Islamists, recognized as Ansar Dine, have taken end the little city in Mali, threatening devastation to monuments, spiritual sites, and also priceless documents. Tourism has suffered from year of security problems. Gunmen seized 3 foreigners and killed a 4th on a street in Timbuktu last November. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) asserted responsibility.