1743 French Map of Northwest Africa, depicting the areas covered in this curriculum unit.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
The ancient city of Timbuktu lies in West Africa in the present-day nation of Mali. This is a region of varied landscapes, ranging from sizzling desert sands to tropical jungle. The Niger River that flows through Mali has been an important trading highway as well as a source of subsistence for the local people since very early times.
The first thing people back home will ask you is “Where in the world is Timbuktu?” Before you set out, better open up those maps and take a look.
You already know Timbuktu's in Mali, but where's Mali? And what's the landscape like there? How do you get around in Mali? And what's the weather like?
After you've completed your geographical investigations, you should be able to do the following:
You've got a bunch of maps in front of you. Where to start? Why not begin with the one taken from outer space?
Now that you know where Mali is, you'll need to get a sense of the “lay of the land.”
What kind of weather do you associate with the tropics? Hot? Only if you're in a flat place. It's cool and pleasant on the top of Mt. Kenya! Steamy? Only if you're near the ocean! So what do you suppose the weather's like in Timbuktu?
Did you notice how the Niger River curls its way through Mali? This river forms a highway from the mountainous jungles of Guinea to Timbuktu—and beyond.
Now find Bamako. See the airport? Get your ticket and fly to Bamako! When you get there, find your way to the Niger and catch a ride downstream on one of the boats. Destination: Timbuktu.
What do you see as your boats proceeds along the river? Got your camera ready?
Here's a photo op!
The prime farming area of the Niger is the inland delta in Mali. Like the Nile River of ancient Egypt, the Niger floods its banks once a year, depositing a rich new layer of silt on the floodplain in this wide, flat stretch of land.
Now you know why there are lakes in the desert and the sahel!
Another photo op!
What should you order for lunch? Fish fritters? Boiled rice? How about a hamburger?
You can learn a lot about life along the river by talking to some of the local inhabitants. Go to:
What uses of the Niger did you find that haven't been mentioned before?
After reading the text, click on
Get out that notepad and jot down some descriptions of life along the Niger.
Location Scouting Summary: Write A Letter
Write a letter to the producers of Globe Trekker. Describe the parts of Mali you have visited so far. Remember—you're trying to convince them that this is a great place for an upcoming TV episode.
1 class periods