Walking Tour of Timbuktu, Mali
Timbuktu, Mali, is a city which seems to have an air of mystery and desolation around it. It is located at the southern edge of the Sahara Desert and became important as the terminus of the caravan trade route from West Africa to the Mediterranean Sea. It was a nomadic settlement as long ago as 1000 AD and seems to be named after the woman in charge of the original camp. The city became wealthy during the Middle Ages because of commerce, but gradually declined, beginning in the 1600’s, primarily because of the emergence of maritime trade. However, it is still an important stop on the salt-trade route, which begins at the mines north of the city, leads south to Timbuktu, then upriver to the city of Mopti. There are only a few actual attractions for the tourist, but the city probably needs to be part of any list of major travel destinations in Africa because of its mystique.
My walk begins on the Petit Marche, the liveliest square in town. From here, walk out to the Boulevard Askin Mohamed and turn right (south). The most important mosque in Timbuktu is ahead, on your left. Dyingerey Ber Mosque, the oldest in the city, dates to the early 1300’s.
Continue south and east on the boulevard to reach the Place de l’independence. Walk across the square to the northeastern corner and walk north to find the Sidi Yahiya Mosque, dating to 1400, closed to non-Muslims.
Continue north to the Grand Marche, the city’s main marketplace, a large, covered building in the town center, which is extremely lively and great for people-watching.
Then, continue northeast to the Sankore Mosque, also closed to non-Muslims, but worth a good look because of its interesting and attractive architecture. Nearby is Ahmed Baba’s House, and, just beyond it, the Monument to the Martyrs. From here, turn left, heading west on this road which will bring you back to the Boulevard Askin Mohamed. Take a right turn here, to return to the Petit Marche, your staring point.Note that other sights in the city include the Explorer’s Houses, most of which cannot actually be visited. Also, take the time to explore some of the side streets to get a better flavor for the mud-architecture of the area. Remember also that Timbuktu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.