To Timbuktu for a Haircut: A Journey through West Africa
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Aided by an adventuresome spirit, Rick endures a forty-five hour train ride, a swindling travel agent, “Third World, three-lane” roads, rivers, and a flat deck ferry boat before finally reaching Timbuktu. Rick narrates the history of this elusive destination through the teachings of his Malian guide Zak, and encounters with stranded tourists, a camel owner, a riverboat captain, and the people who call Timbuktu home.
Antonson’s eloquence and quiet wit highlight the city’s myths—the centuries old capital and traveler’s dream—as well as its realities: A city gripped by poverty, where historic treasures lie close to the sands of destruction. Indeed, some 700,000 ancient manuscripts remain there, endangered. Both a travelogue and a history of a place long forgotten, To Timbuktu for a Haircut emerges as a plea to preserve the past and open cultural dialogues on a global scale.
The second edition of this important book outlines the volatile political situations in Timbuktu following the spring 2012 military coup in Mali and the subsequent capture of the city by Islamic extremists. Literally, it is a race against time to save the city’s irreplaceable artifacts, mosques, and monuments, and to understand why Timbuktu’s past is essential to the future of Africa.
Adams), 46, 88, 123-124,126, 171, 196, 288 Rough Guide to West Africa, 19-20 Route de Kabara, 104, 107, 164, 167, 169, 286 Sahara Desert, xiv, xv, 20, 38, 56, 137, 287 Sahara Overland, 268 Sahel, 121, 201, 272, 276, 279 Saheli, Es, 139, 141 Salt, xvi, 9, 30-31, 39, 45, 75, 91, 159, 196, 198, 257, 260 Salt Caravans, 31 Salt Coins, 31 San Francisco, 10 Sanankoroba, 81 Sanda Quid Boumama, 274 Sanga, 251 Sarr, Mr., 28 Sattin, Anthony, 18 Saturday Club (see French West African
of nationality was secured. “Antonson. Canada.” I heard new acquaintances shout my whereabouts to the petty official, who threw my passport to a black hand in the crowd. It was fumbled, caught and flipped in the air to a lady, from where it moved like a hot potato over half a dozen hands in a black wave and into mine. A customs guard mispronounced the next surname, tried to say it again louder, and then added, “United States.” At the building’s corner stood two women, retreated from the fray,
of a French baker approached Timbuktu from the port of Kabara, now Korioumé, riding north under the watchful Tuareg. “My idea of the city’s grandeur and wealth did not correspond with the mass of mud houses, surrounded by arid plains of jaundiced white sands,” he observed. “I looked around and found that the sight before me did not answer my expectations. I had formed a totally different idea of the grandeur and wealth of Timbuctoo.” Today one can still see the homes once used by explorers
save everything.” I took heart from his reassurance, yet struggled to comprehend his perspective. “But it is not possible,” he said of the dilemma. This man in blue stared as though gauging trust in my eyes. He rose slowly, and walked to a mud alcove behind his desk to share a secret. He concentrated on me, his long arms carrying a burntwood box. He set it on the ground at my feet, where he knelt, the smoothed earth not dirtying his robe. He pried loose the top, shifted it off, and the carbon
church, where all the men sat. During the following hymns, the worshippers kept arriving one by one until the initial two dozen had increased to more than a hundred. Song after song began with a child tapping on drums at the front of the church and an elder shaking a baobab tree rattle. The preacher sang confidently, his baritone persuasive. The women clapped, their voices joyous. Little children came through the door, all clad in the brightest cloth. Men and boys entered and sat silently,