Is There Really a Place Called Timbuktu?

“All the way to Timbuktu” means something like “all the way to the ends of the world.” And the name of Timbuktu might sound like a strange, romantic place invented by a writer. But there really is a place called Timbuktu!

The city of Timbuktu is in Africa, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. For many centuries, the city was a center of the caravan trade because of its position between the desert to the north and the green lands and rivers to the south.

And so it was nicknamed the “meeting point of the camel and canoe.” About 500 years ago, it was the center of the Songai empire, a thriving trade city and a center of learning.

Much of the city had fallen into ruin by the time the French occupied it late in the 19th century. People began to think of Timbuktu as the most far-off, isolated place on earth. Today, Timbuktu is in the nation of Mali. Only about 9,000 people live there.