Why was Timbuktu an important place?


Quick Answer

Timbuktu was considered a very important place due to its geographic position in West Africa as a major economic city during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was also considered a vitally important city for the spread of Islam in Africa, due to the efforts of the University of Sankore.

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Full Answer

The city, located in Mali, was founded in the 5th century, and within 1,000 years became the hub of trade within the region. It was built at the crossroads of major trade routes, and was a popular place for scholars and architects to network with the artistic and intellectual elite.

The University of Sankore held 180 Koranic schools and enrolled over 25,000 students during the 15th and 16th centuries. These students spread Islam throughout West Africa. The city itself had a population of 100,000 people by the end of the 16th century.

Within the city are three mosques of historical importance: Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia. The Djingareyber is the oldest of the mosques, dating back to 1325. The Sankore and Sidi Yahia mosques were both constructed in the early 15th century, but all three were rebuilt by Imam Al Aqib in the late 16th century.

The city was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988, and in 2012 it was moved to the "in danger" list, meaning the city's historical architecture is under threat.

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