To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey through West Africa

By Rick Antonson

Timbuktu: the African urban recognized to legend as a land of students, attractiveness and secret, a golden age within the Sahara barren region. yet to many it's a vaguely recognizable identify – a flippant tag for “the so much distant position on earth.” With this fabled urban as his objective, writer Rick Antonson started a month-long trek. His preliminary plan? To get a haircut.

Aided via an adventuresome spirit, Rick endures a forty-five hour teach trip, a swindling go back and forth agent, “Third international, three-lane” roads, rivers, and a flat deck ferry boat sooner than eventually attaining Timbuktu. Rick narrates the historical past of this elusive vacation spot in the course of the teachings of his Malian consultant Zak, and encounters with stranded travelers, a camel proprietor, a riverboat captain, and the folk who name Timbuktu home.

Antonson’s eloquence and quiet wit spotlight the city’s myths—the centuries outdated capital and traveler’s dream—as good as its realities: A urban gripped through poverty, the place ancient treasures lie just about the sands of destruction. certainly, a few 700,000 historic manuscripts stay there, endangered. either a travelogue and a background of a spot lengthy forgotten, To Timbuktu for a Haircut emerges as a plea to maintain the earlier and open cultural dialogues on an international scale.

The moment version of this significant ebook outlines the risky political events in Timbuktu following the spring 2012 army coup in Mali and the next trap of town via Islamic extremists. actually, it's a race opposed to time to save lots of the city’s irreplaceable artifacts, mosques, and monuments, and to appreciate why Timbuktu’s earlier is vital to the way forward for Africa.

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Doucouré got rid of a bedsheet masking the glass demonstrate case in the midst of the room. within the case, a dozen books lay opened and categorized. “Islamique en 601/1204” used to be indicative in their a long time. The Koran rested in precious copies respectively indicating either Muslim and Christian dates, 639 and 1241. “These titles, they're approximately pharmacie,” Doucouré defined, gingerly conserving elderly books. “The spines, they crack as a result of warmth. ” The temperature had created dry wrinkles, and either books have been torn. “May I? ” I requested, extending my arms. Doucouré put a e-book many hundreds of thousands of years previous throughout my wrists. “This one, it really is on optics. ” He pointed to an indication of a conical sphere with strains operating via it and measurements indicating magnification. Arab calligraphy is one of the most lovely to be stumbled on, and it radiated right here to boot, notwithstanding this book’s traces ended with aborted phrases, as web page edges have been worn away through warmth and humidity. while Doucouré confirmed us an aspect room, we mentioned the restricted undertaking money he had. The library used to be huge and funky and had stable cabinets. The books have been good racked, and that i observed titles facing heritage and chemistry and arithmetic. i presumed if extra Westerners visited, extra would depart funds. extra Timbuktu manuscripts will be kept. My Timbuktu day used to be finishing. there has been an workplace the following that stamped overseas passports with an imperial-looking blotch. however it had to be searched out, and shortly. I grew to become to Zak. “Shouldn’t we hurry? ” “Why? ” he responded. “It will shut at 5. ” “At 5? ” “At 5 o’clock. ” “Rick,” he said. “Is Timbuktu. not anything closes at 5. ” We picked up a few bottles of mineral water, a Diago for me, and Roc Vert for Zak. At a viewers’ room in a courtyard in the back of an indication for project Culturelle, there have been a couple of brochures in French and, extra interestingly for a non-country, the presumption of a passport stamp: Tombouctou. It marked greater than my commute record, it marked an accomplishment. every year fewer than 5 thousand visitors (Europeans, Arabs, North american citizens) — an ordinary of 13 an afternoon — make their option to Timbuktu. To were one among them was once pleasant. It happy me approximately as a lot to not have visible even one of many different twelve viewers that day. The day became to nighttime. Zak and that i separated, him returning to the inn. within the airborne dirt and dust that shouldered the path de Kabara, a yellowed development boasted of entry to the web, a advertisement courtesy of MaliNet. I’d learn warnings that during Mali such indicators, like these proclaiming VISA playing cards, have been frequently intended as intentions, no longer evidence. inside of used to be a desk with pcs, 3 of which it sounds as if have been functioning, others waiting for this sort of day. the single I selected booted slowly. in any case, this was once the top of the realm; I needed to deal with my expectancies. French keyboards have been understandably de rigueur. the distinctiveness of this one lay in its person keys. each one personality at the keyboard was once handwritten on paper, utilizing diverse pens and pencils, implying that such “fixes” have been remodeled time.

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