Timbuktu was established as a civilisation in about 1100 of our Common Era (CE). This was when the African nomads called the Tuaregs set their homesteads up in the fruitful, green area that came to be known as Timbuktu. This region was chosen because of its rich, fertile nature and productive land. In addition, it was just out of range of the waters of the Niger River when they became flooded each year. Due to its prime location, Timbuktu came to be the common meeting place for traders from many other areas in Africa. Those crossing the Sahara with salt would encounter the near Timbuktu merchants with their gold from the Niger River area, allowing them to trade with one another and expand their client base.
Because Islam was spreading through Africa so prolifically at this time in the continent’s history, many of those people travelling across the deserts and plains brought their religion with them and into new, untouched areas. It was in this way that the society of Timbuktu became exposed to Islam, which was soon the dominant religion in the area. It was, in fact, such a major element of their society that those who did not wish to convert to Islam were pressured to change under force. Islam was entrenched in the Tuareg civilisation when Mansa Musa, the very successful emperor of Mali, travelled via Timbuktu on his return from a pilgrimage to Mecca. This emperor did not travel alone, but had with him some 60 000 people. Musa built a mosque and university in his own honour, which remained as a reminder of him and the religion he brought to the society in 1324.
The culture in Timbuktu has always been a very structured one, with specific roles for each member of its whole. As with most other African cultures, women and girls were responsible for the care and maintenance of the home, as well as the cooking. The Tuareg women would not enjoy the privilege of education; this was reserved for the men. Girls would often marry at 13 years of age, and their life before this was all in preparation for being a wife and mother.
During their youth, boys were given many responsibilities. These prepared them for adulthood and instilled a sense of duty and responsibility in them from an early age. Their duties included caring for the herds of cattle, sheep or goats. They also had to attend school and study the Muslim Koran.
Interestingly, the location of Timbuktu isolated the nation from many others, creating an air of mystique. Europeans longed to see this elusive land, especially during its era of success and abundance. However, many died in their vain attempts to find Timbuktu. The prominence and stability of Timbuktu began to crumble when easier trade links between north and south were discovered, and when the wars between Timbuktu and Morocco caused irreparable damage to the city. Still, this nation maintains its strict family structure and responsibilities as well as its beauty and sense of mysticism down to the modern day.
For more information, please view: http://www.timbuktufoundation.org/history.html