Friday, November 14, 2008

Fabled Timbuktu !

Timbuktu is one of those few colossally fabled places - known to everyone but curiously one for which it's difficult for most of us to easily conjure up images. Of course, here I am reminded of Christopher Isherwood's notion of 'place name snobbery' - where just the name of some places has magical resonances and sensations enough that you long to visit. Such as, for Isherwood, Flores in Indonesian.

Founded round the C10 in Mali by the nomadic Tuareg and now peopled by West African, Berber and Arab groups, Timbuktu has been an important stop on the trans-Saharan salt trade route. And long been a great centre of learning and scholarship - realized by Sankore University and the Madrasas or Islamic schools.

Sankore Mosque incorporating the University of Sankore

So some more images to feast on, from flying in ...

... through an early oil painting ...

... to the city walls ...

... to an ancient wood and metal-bound door.

But perhaps most interesting for me is the current project of the Ahmed Baba Institute to restore and catalog the over one million ancient manuscripts held often secretly in the multitude of local family libraries.

As I type this, I have the terrific urge to google airfares!


  1. Again, facinating. I was a social studies education major in college. I concentrated mostly on history classes. So, I have a sprinkling of everything. I taught mostly Civics before moving up to administration at the secondary level. What a mistake that was! Take care.
    Wit from Louisiana

  2. hey Wit from Louisiana

    i was tempted too - from being an academic who did mainly lecturing to do the head of department job and lots of admin - more money and prestige but big big pain ! so i sympathize with you! any chance of going back to teaching? i alway feel life is too short not to make the bold if unconventional moves that are if fact better for you - time is the only thing we have and to loose some doing stuff you hate is a kind of scary.

    i always keep the old spanish saying in mind: a life lived in fear is a life half lived'

    look forward from hearing from you again


  3. Nick--Acutally, I did take an early retirement to get away and do other things. I ended up working at a local tourist site. I worked in the main office doing research, archiving, public relations. Weekends I gave tours of the 1870 mansion there. I was in heaven. Then, I lost my voice to something called dysphonia. It's not curable and gets worse with time. I had to reseign. I have applied for jobs that don't require much talking, but not succesful so far. I am going to go back to the school system as a substitute. I must have more income soon or all is lost. Not a happy camper here.
    Take care.