Blogging the road 2 Timbuktu
Warnings coming out of the desert and out of the blue
Back at the flat on The Caledonian Road, the night before Bamako morning, Petra and I wander over to Africa in our discussion on the war.
From 2004 to 2007 I travelled west Africa and eventually left behind my life as an actor to set up From Here 2 Timbuktu. I wanted to show travellers the kaleidoscope of random places and communities I had discovered over a lifetime of travelling in Africa. My first official group trip was to The Festival In The Desert, in Timbuktu in January 2008.
After trekking along the Dogon Escarpment and a delicious journey up the river Niger by traditional "pinasse" we arrived in Timbuktu for the festival when I received a message from a travel industry colleague telling me the British Foreign Office had put a travel alert on the Festival. She gave me the personal number of the British Consulate representative in Mali. I called and left a message saying I was taking 14 tourists, predominantly British, to the festival and needed more information. I found an email address and another telephone number and communicated the same. I got no reply.
Timbuktu is an evocative name. For over a millenium it has conjured travel, mystery and adventure, salt, gold and knowledge. It is a town located where the Niger River flows northward into the desert. Timbuktu was founded by the Tuareg Imashagan in the 11th century and thanks to its unique geographical position, it became a natural meeting point for Tuareg, Songhai, Wangara, Fulani and Arabs. From the 11th century onwards, Timbuktu became an important port where goods from West Africa and North Africa were traded. Timbuktu is also the crossroads “where the camel meets the canoe," a place of traders and middle-men. Timbuktuians say of their history: gold came from the south, salt from the north, and Divine Knowledge, from within.