Timbuktu is an oasis city in the West African state of Mali with 54 453 inhabitants (census 2009). The name supposedly means “fountain of Buktu”. According to legend, was Buktu (French spelling Bouctou ) a slave, with a herd of goats from the Tuareg was left behind to guard a well. The name is “woman with a big belly,” meaning, perhaps, these are but a folk etymology . Some historians consider this the tradition of myth-borne justification of the former elite of Timbuktu for social stratification, that is the dichotomy between light-skinned gentlemen, the Tuareg, and dark-skinned vassals, Bella (see below “population”).
The French linguist René Basset derives from the name of a altberberischen word root that means “far away” or “hidden”. was therefore the name of “the far-distant fountain” to translate so at the southern edge of the desert. In recent studies have been made on several claims that the site not originally from the Tuareg, but from the Songhai empire was founded in the surrounding area and it was 150 years ago by the explorer and historian Heinrich Barth pulled put forward derivation of the name of their language is also considered are needed. After Barth was the name correctly Tombutu loud and “place in the dunes” mean, what would also be useful.
Timbuktu is located at the southern edge of the Sahara , whose progression ( Desertification ) of the city is preparing most problems. The sand is spreading all over the streets. In the past 20 years, the desert will have approximately 100 kilometers further advanced to the south.
The city is located 5 kilometers north of Niger , the south-westerly direction from the region Massina veers off in a big arc flows over, here at the northernmost point of its course in a southeasterly direction and then at more than 2,000 kilometers away in the coastal Gulf of Guinea, flows . Only during heavy floods filled long ago dried up tributaries of the Niger, who carried the nickname “channels of the river horse”, and caused severe flooding in some parts of the city, since 2003. In the early modern period, a 13 kilometer long canal linking the village of Kabara, the harbor of the city proper, with Timbuktu. This artificial tributary of the Niger allowed the residents during the flood periods have direct access to the river and thus the sailing boats and canoes to bring goods into the city. Now the channel silted up and only visible as a ditch.
Timbuktu has long been a center of trans-Saharan trade , and the end of the 19th Century passed this year, about 400 caravans with 140,000 camels and about 22,400 tons burden. However, it is preparing today still struggling to reach the place. Shipping is only possible if the water level permits. The roads through the savannah peter out quickly from the south and are then temporarily impassable. From the north, across the desert, the road is reserved for two groups of travelers: the rare salt caravans of the Tuareg (mostly Taoudenni ) and the modern adventurers who are on the trail of the desert romance. The latest variant of the arrival via the airport Timbuktu ( IATA code : TOM), which regularly from the capital Bamako is served from.
The climate is desert-like, it always blows a hot dry winds (” harmattan “) from the Sahara. In sparse vegetation can be found here thorn bushes, tamarisk , acacia and broom . But the African baobab tree (Baobab) and palm trees and a number of tree crops grown here.
The average annual temperature is 28 ° C, the months of May and June are about 34 ° C at its hottest. As an average annual rainfall 170 mm were measured. July and August, each with around 56-66 mm, the wettest months. The rains may occur in torrents, causing great damage to the built of mud houses and mosques. In 1771, toppled the al-Hana Mosque with such a storm, and buried 40 people among themselves.