Timbuktu is a city in Mali in West African. It was an important post on the Sahara caravan route. Timbuktu was a centre for Islam, an intellectual capital in the 16th century and home to a prestigious Islamic university. Three Musjids built then still remain.
In the 14th century Timbuktu was an important point of the gold-salt trade. With merchants came Muslim scholars. Trade and learning flourished.
During this period (1493-1591) Timbuktu was at the height of its development. Merchants gathered to buy gold and slaves in exchange for salt and N African cloth and horses. The city's scholars, many of whom studied in Makkah or Egypt, attracted students from afar.
The city declined after capture by Morocco in 1591. The scholars were killed or exiled. In 1893 the French captured the city. No railway or tar road ever reached it. In 1960 it became part of Mali.
Small salt caravans still arrive, but there is no gold. There is air service but the city is most easily accessible by camel and boat. Islamic learning survives among a handful of aging scholars. Population: (1976) 19,165.