Have You Ever Been To Timbuktu?

I haven’t visited how about you?

Janice Tovey
3 min readApr 27, 2022


Photo by Catherine Hammond on Unsplash

While this sounds a little like a Dr. Seuss story, it is not.

Timbuktu is a real place. A legitimate city located in northern Mali. Timbuktu was a significant trading route for ivory, gold, and salt, long before it became a French colony.

Timbuktu is twenty kilometers north of the Niger River. It boasts a population of 54,453. Timbuktu is surrounded by sand dunes, and all of the streets are covered in sand.

Photo by Sangga Rima Roman Selia on Unsplash

Timbuktu experiences an annual flood from the Niger River due to heavy rainfall. It peaks in September, and lasts until December.

Historically, Timbuktu gained an almost mythical status because of incredible riches and charm.

Although, no longer terribly rich nor majestic, Timbuktu is an unequivocally incredibly ancient and beautiful desert town with unique charms.

There is a particular idiom associated with Timbuktu.

From here to Timbuktu

This phrase is used to describe an undesirable journey. For example: I am not going from here to Timbuktu to look for your lost laptop.

In the 1800s, Timbuktu was known as a place of mythical riches. In 1824, the Geographical Society of Paris offered a great reward to the first European who would visit Timbuktu and return safely. Seven thousand Francs and a gold medal worth two thousand Francs. To claim the prize the winner had to return safely.

Gordon Laing from Scotland was the first to reach the mythical land. Unfortunately, he got robbed, stabbed, shot, and had his arm broken. After a month of recovery, he was murdered two days after departing. The winner was a French explorer by the name of Rene-Auguste Caillie. He made it to Timbuktu, and returned successfully to claim the prize.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

I will not be booking a plane ticket to Timbuktu anytime soon. Timbuktu is not the…



Janice Tovey

My passion is writing. I also love reading, teaching, animals, nature, music, and humor. I am curious about everything and enjoy writing about all things.