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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Timbuk-tour" and the Tuareg dissent.

Panorama of the Sankore Mosque, from the roof of the Al Imam Essayouti Library.
Click image to enlarge.

As agreed at dinner, Mohamed met us at 10:00 AM with a driver. We set out for a Timbuktu morning tour before coordinating with Hamidou in the afternoon, putting ourselves in Mohamed's capable hands as he made some tasty tour selections from the Tour Menu (left).

First stop was the Sankore Mosque, that showed its recently resurfaced self in a much better light than on the rainy cloud covered visit on Saturday.

We also toured a municipal museum of Timbuktu (Tombouctou Koy Batouma - #4 on the sign) said to be located on the site of the town's first residents of Timbuktu. Mohamed explained in no uncertain terms, that the French corrupted the spelling and pronunciation of the town.

The correct pronunciation was "Timbuktu", not the French "Tomboctou", and the name derived from a Tuareg woman named Buktu whose well became a destination and reference point for early desert travelers. The city stands on the site of "Buktu's well" or "Tim Buktu". Said well pictured here.

Another stop was at Boubacar Sadeck - Artisan Copyist of 16th Century Manuscripts. He was selling a selection of beautiful illuminated framed poems as souvenirs. I had something else in mind. I asked if he could illuminate the inside front cover of the journal I purchased in Burkina Faso and have been diligently filling with my indecipherable longhand since wandering in the deserts of Mali for the two weeks since. I did not have high expectations, as the work would need to applied to the rough recycled paper of the journal, and it would have to be done in one day. We agreed a price - the results exceeded my wildest expectations.




The inside cover on the left says "Timbuktu" - The inscription on the first page on the right is a famous West Africa Proverb -
"Salt flows from the North, gold flows from the South, Money flows from the country of white men, but wisdom flows from Timbuktu."
If only the scribbling inside could live up to the promise of the beautiful sentiment and calligraphy on that gold and copper foil framed preface.

One of the later stops on the tour was an old mud brick residence converted to a museum of a typical historical Timbuktu home. As often seems to happen during the discussion of African cultural mores during a tour, the subject of multiple wives was broached, as it is permissible to have up to four wives under local law. The discussion offered me an opportunity to recall (yet again) a discussion we had with a N'debele tour guide by the name of Maliki in the Matobo Hills 12 years before. The net of that conversation was what we came to call Maliki's Law - "One wife - many problems. Two wives - no problems." Upon hearing this Mohamed smiled and said "Ah - but there is the Tuareg view.... " Whereupon he quoted a desert proverb which will henceforth be known as

Mohamed's Dissent to Maliki's Law.

"One wife, - one problem.
Two wives - two problems.

Three wives - three problems.
Four wives - No life."

1 comment:

LE DOGON said...

Mon cher Mike,

Bonjour, vous avez fait un récit de votre formidable mais court séjour à Timbuktu. Nous aurions bien voulu que cela dur un mois. Bien à vous.