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ylw-text.gif Timbuktu Timbuktu, Mali

The famous city of Timbuktu epitomizes West Africa in many ways. As the cliché about this city suggests, there is nothing for miles in any direction, and there's nothing in the city either, except for a mosque, some stores, and the odd hotel that invariably pops up in anticipation of a tourist influx that never arrives. Historically, Timbuktu was the meeting point for spice traders traveling between the interior of Africa and the seaports to the South. This central location gave the city the potential to become an economically sound stronghold. Rumors even held that it was a city with emerald towers and roads paved in gold. However, the vast distance between Timbuktu and more politically stable cities made it a lawless and unmanageable outpost in the desert, where thieves controlled commerce and defined the city's culture. In fact, the place was so harsh and unruly, it wasn't until the 20th century that the first American and British explorers were able to enter the fabled city and leave alive.

Despite the changes that Timbuktu has seen over the centuries, the one thing that still remains is the city's namesake: the water well where traders met to exchange goods and discuss business. In fact, Timbuktu's rough translation is, "the well owned by the lady with the (fantastic) belly button." The people who live there now, like this child, are part of a community that have shared the city for thousands of years: Tuaregs (nomads, living in the desert), farmers (who harvest near wet-season oases), and indentured servants (slaves) who work in the salt mines to the North.

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Country-Primary Location Name: Africa
Credit: Dan Heller
Object Name: broken-heads.jpg
By-line: Dan Heller
Copyright Notice: Photo (c) www.danheller.com
Keywords: heads, broken, montage, africa
Location: Africa
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Keywords: heads, montage, horizontal, broken, africa