Timbuktu: At one time, the city of Timbuktu was five times bigger than the city of London

Timbuktu in present day Mali was founded in 5th centuries, it was an economic and cultural hub and important market place where gold, cattle, salt, manuscripts and grains were traded. It was spiritual and intellectual capital hub. It is also the home of the one of the earliest universities in the world that thrived and drew students from all the world. Stories of Timbuktu were known as far as Arabia and Mediterranean and even today is also important in describing the poor end of the greatest empire.

Today, it is difficult to imagine that the city of Timbuktu was five times bigger than the city of London, considering that today, the city of London is over 200 times bigger than the city of Timbuktu. It is worth noting that this city was considered the richest city in the world, being part of the Mali Empire under Emperor Mansa Musa. The Mali covered the area in today’s Mali, Senegal, Gambia and Guinea. By the time he died Mansa Musa was worth around $400 billion. Mali produced more than half of the world’s supply of salt and gold.

The French invaded and took control of Mali in 1892. It took the city of Timbuktu in 1894, putting an end to the resistance against colonialism in the region. The French then embarked on “civilization” mission which put population work for the French taking away resources to the coast and end up in France.

Mali gained it’s independence from France in 1960.

Timbuktu great mosques, Djingarey, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, stand as testimony for the golden age of Timbuktu. Today, those historical features are being threatened by desertification and constant attacked by armed militias present in the region.

Timbuktu is listed as a cultural site on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.


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