A city of 32,000 located in northern Mali. The city is the chef-lieu of a cercle and region of the same name. The total area of the region is 496,611 square kilometers, and it has a population of 495,132. It was founded in the 11th century as a seasonal camp for Tuareg nomads. During the rainy season, the Tuaregs roam the desert up to Ariwan in search of grazing lands for their animals. During the dry season, however, they return to the Niger River, where herds grazed on a grass called "burgu." According to legend, on the onset of the rainy season, the Tuareg will leave their goods with an old Tuareg women named Tin Abutut who stayed at the well. In the Tuareg language, tin abutut means "the lady with the big navel." With the passage of time, the name Tin Abutut became Timbuktu. Another legend tells that the place was entrusted to a Tuareg woman called Buctoo. The name "Timbuktu" comes from the Tuareg term tim, meaning "that belong to," and the name "Buctoo."
   From the 11th century on, Timbuktu became a trans-Saharan caravan entrepôt where goods from West Africa and North Africa were traded. Goods coming from the Mediterranean shores and salt were traded in Timbuktu for gold. The prosperity of the city attracted scholars, merchants, and traders from North Africa. Salt, books, and gold were very much in demand at that time. Salt came from the Taghaza mines in the north, gold came from the immense gold mines of the Boure and Banbuk, and books were products of native scholars and scholars of the Berber Sanhaja. The Tuareg captured the salt mine of Taghaza and thus took control of the salt trade. The Tuareg exported the salt to Timbuktu via camel caravans. In 1893, with the colonization of West Africa by France, Timbuktu was brought under French rule until Mali received its independence in 1960.
   Today, most of the population consists of Songhay agriculturalists and Tuareg nomads. The Taoudeni salt mines are located in the north of the region, where salt is still mined. Although salt from Taoudeni still comes through Timbuktu on camels (as it has for centuries), the town is no longer a major trading center and has not experienced much development in recent times. Timbuktu is still a modest center of Islamic learning and houses one of the oldest medieval Islamic libraries.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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