Timbuktu: Sages, camel trains and sand dunes

Staff Reporter

The desert city of Timbuktu, where French President Jacques Chirac arrives on Friday during a visit to West Africa, has been a synonym for romance and exoticism for generations. The 17th-century chronicler and historian Abderahman Saadi called the oasis on the edge of the Sahara desert "exquisite, pure, delicious, illustrious, a blessed city, fertile and lovely".

Libraries in the sand reveal Africa's academic past

Nick Tattersall

Researchers in Timbuktu are fighting to preserve tens of thousands of ancient texts which they say prove Africa had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance. Private and public libraries in the fabled Saharan town in Mali have already collected 150 000 brittle manuscripts, some of them from the 13th century.

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