Salt comes from the north, gold from the south, money from white man’s country; but the word of God, wise things, interesting tales, we can find them only in Timbuktu.

anonymous proverb

Timbuktu is an ancient city, now a thousand years old, it has been building up a stock of myths, legends and culture culled from the history and habits of the different groups to populate it and control it over the centuries. The Ghanian Empire, the Malian Empire, the Songai Empire, the Toucouleur jihads, the repeated domination by the Tuareg, the Invasion of the Moroccans, and more recently the European explorers and French colonization and even the influx of tourists have all played a roll in the development of Timbuktu's culture. This mix has even metamorphosed the language of the Songai (the local sedentary population) which has absorbed so many foreign terms it is no longer the same as in Gao or other nearby villages.

Here then is a look at some of the legends and myths and traditions that make up Timbuktu's culture.