|Fig.1: The original inhabitants of Timbuktu.
|Fig.2: In its heyday in the 14th century, the Mali Empire spanned from Senegal and The Gambia to Mali, Burkina Faso, and the far western reaches of Niger, which would be useful information if most people knew where those places actually were...
|Fig.3: This is the main mosque of the city,
and it looks like it has the structural
integrity of a sandcastle!
Many Europeans wanted to take the journey to the richy-rich land of Timbuktu, but the area was becoming increasingly hostile to non-Muslims, which is always scary for pale, awkward Europeans. Several explorers claimed they successfully made the journey, but their descriptions of the city were dubious since they included various items such as unicorns, money trees, and beer that actually tasted great and was not too filling. The first confirmed visit to Timbuktu by a European was a Scotsman named Gordon Laing in 1826, but he either was caught to be an outsider or insulted somebody's momma, and was killed on the return trip. In 1828, a Frenchman by the name of René Caillié lived in Senegal for eight months to learn regional customs, spent two weeks in Timbuktu disguised as a Muslim, and made it back to France. As such, he was rewarded 10,000 francs by the French Geographic Society for his vital information, which was wastefully spent going back to Timbuktu and buying a ton of tacky souvenirs.
|Fig.4: The most exciting thing to happen in Timbuktu
in over four hundred years.
However, Timbuktuians can look back at their illustrious history and know that they were once the Athens of West Africa, a great center of trade, learning, and all-around awesomeness. Maybe one day Timbuktu will rise from the ashes and regain its former glory...probably the same day Chernobyl will again become inhabitable and Atlantis will float up to the surface. Until then, many people will continue to use colloquial phrases like, "From here to Timbuktu," and believe that it's a moon of Saturn or something stupid like that. Honestly, it might be better off if it was...