1743 French Map of Northwest Africa, depicting the areas covered in this curriculum unit.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
Today, many of the buildings of the ancient city of Timbuktu are crumbing and the streets are covered with blowing sand from the ever-expanding desert. Fragile manuscripts, dating back to days when the city was a major center of Islamic scholarship, are decomposing. But there is hope. Organizations such as UNESCO are mounting campaigns to save the city and restore its ancient heritage.
Since 1960, Timbuktu has been a part of the Republic of Mali. It doesn't look at all like a bustling modern city. See Timbuktu, Mali available through African Studies WWW. And yet, Timbuktu has a thriving economy. As in ancient times, it is an important center of the salt trade, and the long tradition of Islamic scholarship has not yet died.
Ancient Timbuktu stood on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Today, the desert sands are constantly creeping further and further south, threatening all that stands in their way.
In response to the threat of encroachment by desert sands, Timbuktu was inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger in 1990 and UNESCO established a conservation program to safeguard it.
The manuscripts dating back to the 13th century have survived in Timbuktu because of dry heat. But these, too, are in danger of being destroyed.
Write an impassioned newspaper editorial or letter to the editor about the need to preserve the antiquities of Timbuktu.
2 class periods