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, beauty and secret, a golden age within the Sahara wasteland. 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 aim, writer Rick Antonson begun a month-long trek. His preliminary plan? To get a haircut.

Aided through an adventuresome spirit, Rick endures a forty-five hour teach experience, a swindling shuttle agent, “Third international, three-lane” roads, rivers, and a flat deck ferry boat sooner than ultimately attaining Timbuktu. Rick narrates the historical past of this elusive vacation spot during 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Antonson’s eloquence and quiet wit spotlight the city’s myths—the centuries outdated capital and traveler’s dream—as good as its realities: A urban gripped by means of poverty, the place old treasures lie with reference to the sands of destruction. certainly, a few 700,000 historical manuscripts stay there, endangered. either a travelogue and a heritage of a spot lengthy forgotten, To Timbuktu for a Haircut emerges as a plea to maintain the prior and open cultural dialogues on an international scale.

The moment variation of this crucial ebook outlines the risky political occasions in Timbuktu following the spring 2012 army coup in Mali and the following catch of the town via Islamic extremists. actually, it's a race opposed to time to avoid wasting the city’s irreplaceable artifacts, mosques, and monuments, and to appreciate why Timbuktu’s earlier is key to the way forward for Africa.

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There has been a ghost teach in West Africa. The Lonely Planet consultant informed of tracks among Dakar, Senegal, at the Atlantic coast, and Bamako, the capital of Mali. It hinted at twice-weekly passenger carrier. checking out this educate journey grew to become, for me, symbolic of the unreliable information regarding this a part of the area. as soon as i discovered it, the educate did every thing it will probably to fade from my plans. even if Timbuktu exists, there's a good judgment that it's, actually, nowhere. The educate took at the related attribute. each reference used to be diversified. One e-book said that the rail line existed yet that the once-upon-a-time passenger provider now not did. An autonomous site stated the educate ran simply on Wednesdays. one other resource used to be emphatic that on the grounds that departure used to be chronically unreliable, travelers should still make different plans. a central authority site implied that the teach existed. a up to date trip article acknowledged, “It isn't any longer there to be ridden. ” One tale stipulated that in case you did have the alternative among taking the rumoured Wednesday teach or the purported Saturday teach, take the previous: first, it derailed much less usually; moment, it had fewer thieves. I e-mailed Mohammed to invite if the educate ran and, if this is the case, whilst it departed. His spouse responded that once it did, it was once risky. “You are certainly very bold on your endeavors to trip to Mali! ” she all started. “With your wish to delve into the Malian tradition and language you are going to win many hearts,” she stated. “I don't suggest vacationing through educate among Senegal and Mali. this can be very uncomfortable, chaotic, and regardless of how cautious you're, you're absolute to have anything stolen. there are various how one can be adventurous, yet vacationing this teach isn't really a enjoyable one. ” “As to the train,” I spoke back, “I have to do that. ” My youngest son, Sean, who has travelled through rail in lots of elements of jap Europe, acknowledged to me, “Don’t pack something you’re no longer ready to have stolen. ” I mentally ready to re-provision in Bamako if the worst occurred. My air bookings have been made into Dakar instead of Bamako, exclusively to exploit the prospective teach journey. Mohammed’s spouse captured the picture good: “It sounds absolute to be sadder than any teach I’ve been on. ” A U. ok. convention on company tourism offered me with one other chance to talk about tourism’s foreign tasks in addition to its capability to convey prosperity to tourism locations. In London on a Monday, with one other presentation scheduled that Friday for Tourism Edinburgh’s annual assembly, I seized study days mid-week on the British Library. within the infrequent ebook room, I felt i'd ultimately locate the vague evidence i wished. I sniffed the atmosphere and grazed one of the cabinets. The room smelled of pondering. I searched titles at the computing device, operating throughout the checklist I had compiled from numerous bibliographies and references. With a click on of the pc mouse, the books I asked have been pulled from mysterious, hidden cabinets. Then, surrounded by means of partitions of leatherbound volumes and silent fellow readers, I sat at the examine bench, looking ahead to the upcoming evidence and tales.

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