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Timbuktu became famous in the 15th century because of the booming gold and salt trade in the Sahara region at that time. Timbuktu was not only a commercial centre, but also of great importance for Islam and science, housing a famous university and several medressas. In some ways, it was the center of the (African-Islamic) world. The inscription actually narrows down to the three large mosques and sixteen cemeteries and mausoleums of Timbuktu.

During the 19th century a number of European adventurers visited Timbuktu, sometimes with fatal consequences. That was the period when the western world became aware of this city in the desert, and it received its romantic annotations.

In 1990, the site was also added to the list of Worldheritages in Danger because of the threat of encroachment by desert sands.

Visit October 1999

The past of Timbuktu past is more glorious than its present. Now it is a little town on the edge of the Sahara, with sand covered streets and souvenir selling Toeareg. The mosques are worth a visit, as are the old houses in the center of town with their beautiful manufactured doors.

My most remarkable moment was that when I arrived on Friday afternoon, its male inhabitants with their colourful robes just left the mosques. They made a wonderful contrast with the sandy streets and buildings.


Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
Mali is probably the most interesting country of Western Africa.
I was lucky enough to cross it the first time from Argelia to Burkina Faso, using trucks, until Gao, then by boat through the River Niger until Korioume, the port for reaching nearby Timbuktu (or Tombouctou), what I did, then I arrived with the same boat to Mopti and walked until the Dogon Country, the main tourist attraction of Mali.
I have to recognize that I only spent a few hours in Timbuktu, what I considered enough since it has lost the old charm.
I had to hicthike to reach there from the port. The distance was about 10 kilometers and the local people helped me with rides.
I went there more for the fame and evoking name of Timbuktu than for the tourists attractions that the village ofdfers. Apart from a couple of old mosques I did not see much more.
But anyway I felt happy because one of my most admired travellers is French Rene Caillie, who was the first no muslim traveller who got to Timbuktu and left the city alive.
Date posted: July 2013
Raby (Mali):
I'm from Timbuktu..and I loved the really got to portray what is Timbuktu...if only there could be a video..anyway how did you like your stay?
See ya!

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Site info

Country: Mali
Inscribed: 1988
  • In Danger
    Cultural Heritage
    Criteria:  (2) (4) (5)
    Category: Urban landscape, African

    Site history:
    2012In Danger
    threatened by armed conflict & to prevent trafficking in cultural objects from there
    2008Reinforced Monitoring
    New constructions near mosques
    2005Removed from Danger list
    1990In Danger
    1988 Inscribed
    Reasons for inscription
    At Bureau - Needs better delimitation etc

    Site links

    Official website:
    »Visit Timbuktu

    In the news:
    » Reconstruction of WH mausoleums starts in Timbuktu (20-03-2014).
    » Timbuktu mosque damaged in suicide attack (30-09-2013).
    » Timbuktu's Cultural Heritage More Damaged Than First Estimated (09-06-2013).
    » Mali rebels burn library containing priceless manuscripts (28-01-2013).
    » Tombs in Timbuktu's Djingareyber mosque 'destroyed' (11-07-2012).
    » Extremists attacked three sacred Muslim tombs with shovels (02-07-2012).
    » Timbuktu shrine damaged by Mali Ansar Dine Islamists (30-06-2012).
    » Rebels burn Timbuktu tomb (06-05-2012).
    » Mali Tuareg rebels control Timbuktu (03-04-2012).
    » Foreigners abducted in Timbuktu (25-11-2011).
    » 15 Dead In Mali After Timbuktu Mosque Stampede (28-02-2010).

    Related links:
    » Explore Timbuktu.

    Getting there

    This WHS has 1 location(s).


    Mud / Earth Architecture . Vernacular architecture .
    Cemeteries . Mausolea . Universities .
    "Threatened" by Drought/Desertification . Iconoclasm .
    Sahara . Sahel .
    Berbers . Forbidden City . Slavery . Songhai Empire . Trans Saharan trade routes .
    Human Activity
    Gold production . Salt .
    Individual People
    Giovanni Belzoni . Ibn Battuta . Leo Africanus .
    Religion and Belief
    Mosque . Sufism .
    Built in the 16th century .
    Disputed territories . Fatal Accidents or "disasters" . Named after individual people .
    WHS on Other Lists
    U.S. Ambassadors Fund . World Monuments Watch .
    World Heritage Process
    Former In Danger List sites . Twice on the endangered list .

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