November 27, 2001
Examine the history of Timbuktu
Web posted at: 2:58 PM EST (1958 GMT)
Have students read the CNNfyi.com article "Take a journey to Timbuktu," and answer the following questions:
1. Where is Timbuktu located? Why is this city historically significant?
Using a map of West Africa, describe the geography of Timbuktu
and its surrounding region. How did geography contribute to the
evolution of this historical city?
2. What are nomads? What role did nomads play in the evolution of
Timbuktu? Why has the city been controlled by so many different
rulers? To what other regions has the Niger River Valley been
3. Why was Timbuktu so prosperous during the 1300s? What types of products
were bought and sold in Timbuktu during this era? When was Timbuktu's
"Golden Age"? What intellectual and spiritual developments occurred
during this period?
4. How has Timbuktu changed since the 16th century? For whom is the Ahmed
Baba Center named? When was this center established? What great
treasures can be found in Timbuktu today? Why is Timbuktu's
intellectual history so important to West Africa and the international
5. Point out that, in 1990, Timbuktu was inscribed on the List of World
Heritage in Danger, and UNESCO established a conservation program to safeguard the city. Divide your class into small groups. Instruct students to imagine
that they are archeologists or historians working for either UNESCO
or the Ahmed Baba Center, and have each group conduct research to learn
more about a historical site or scholarly publication found in Timbuktu. Each group will prepare a three to four minute multimedia presentation on its topic, including an explanation of why it is important that the historical site or publication be preserved.
6. Inform students that, from about the 300s AD to the late 1500s, one or more of the following, Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires thrived in what is now Mali. Have students learn more about the struggle for power and the celebration of
new discoveries in the ancient civilization of Mali. Refer students to
library and Internet resources to learn more about the geography,
history and culture of the Mali Empire, including the Mandinka tribe of
West Africa, trading centers such as Timbuktu and Jenne, and the slave
trade. Then, challenge small groups of students to use a creative format, such as music, writing, storytelling or painting, to teach others about a particular aspect of the Mali civilization.