What Was the City of Timbuktu Best Known For?

city-timbuktu-known Credit: Kimberley Coole/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

The city of Timbuktu is best known for its trade in gold, salt and superior schools. Some people even called it the “Golden City” for this reason. Between the 13th and 17th centuries, Timbuktu was the center of learning in the Islamic world. This occurred due to the financial boom in growth in the city during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Timbuktu was so famous for its wealth and gold that several European explorations were planned to the West Coast of Africa to explore the rumors. These included expeditions from Leo Africanus and Shabeni. According to Chris Rainer in “Reclaiming the Ancient Manuscripts of Timbuktu,” the University of Timbuktu had more than 25,000 students at the height of its influence. There were wandering groups of scholars that moved between Timbuktu and other local cities like Gao to help end conflicts from tribal warfare. Timbuktu manuscripts from the cities golden age during the 15th and 16th centuries are prized. There were hundreds of thousands of manuscripts created and stored in Timbuktu over several centuries. It was common for traders to come to Timbuktu to trade salt from the Sahara to merchants in the city for gold and slaves. Gold and salt then became some of the major commodities that Timbuktu was known for.