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Examine the history of Timbuktu

November 27, 2001
Web posted at: 2:58 PM EST (1958 GMT)

Have students read the 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 compared?

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 community today? 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.

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