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The west-central African nation of Mali is one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week, so why not spend a few minutes today learning about one of Mali’s World Heritage Sites: the ancient city of Timbuktu.
Timbuktu has been a prominent center of African transcontinental trade and Islamic scholarship since the Middle Ages:
“Located at the gateway to the Sahara desert, within the confines of the fertile zone of the Sudan and in an exceptionally propitious site near to the river, Timbuktu is one of the cities of Africa whose name is the most heavily charged with history.
“Founded in the 5th century, the economic and cultural apogee of Timbuktu came about during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was an important centre for the diffusion of Islamic culture with the University of Sankoré, with 180 Koranic schools and 25,000 students. It was also a crossroads and an important market place where the trading of manuscripts was negotiated, and salt from Teghaza in the north; [where] gold was sold, and cattle and grain from the south.
“The Djingareyber Mosque, the initial construction of which dates back to Sultan Kankan Moussa returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, was rebuilt and enlarged between 1570 and 1583 by the Imam Al Aqib, the Qadi of Timbuktu, who added all the southern part and the wall surrounding the cemetery located to the west. The central minaret dominates the city and is one of the most visible landmarks of the urban landscape of Timbuktu.
“Built in the 14th century, the Sankoré Mosque was, like the Djingareyber Mosque, restored by the Imam Al Aqib between 1578 and 1582. He had the sanctuary demolished and rebuilt according to the dimensions of the Kaaba of Mecca.“ (UNESCO World Heritage Centre #119)
In the European imagination, the name “Timbuktu” has had exotic connotations for centuries, ever since the first Western descriptions of it were published by the sixteenth-century geographer Leo Africanus. Like the semi-mythical Ophir of the Bible or the El Dorado of the Spanish conquistadores, Timbuktu was imagined to be a place of fabulous wealth and mystery in the remotest part of the world.
World Heritage Sites are cultural or natural landmarks of international significance, selected for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. More than 1000 such sites have been recognized in over 160 countries, and we feature one every Wednesday, drawn from one of our homeschool countries-of-the-week. You can find a complete list online at the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and in Wikipedia.
The World Heritage Centre also has a free and comprehensive World Heritage education kit for teachers, as well as a wonderful full-color wall map of World Heritage Sites (riverhouses.org/2019-wh-map), available for the cost of shipping. Why not add them both to your own homeschool library. 🗺
What world treasures will you be exploring in your homeschool this Leo Term? 😊
❡ Books in the running brooks: You can always turn to your River Houses almanac, atlas, and history encyclopedia (riverhouses.org/books) for more information about any of our countries-of-the-week. The almanac has profiles of all the nations of the world on pages 745–852; the endpapers of the atlas are indexes that will show you where all of the individual national and regional maps may be found; the history encyclopedia includes national histories on pages 489–599; and you can find additional illustrations, flags, and other mentions through the indexes in each of these volumes. For an ideal little lesson, just write the name of the Weekly World Heritage Site on your homeschool bulletin board, find its location in your atlas, read the WHC’s brief description aloud, look at a picture or two, and you’re done. Over the course of the year, without even realizing it, your students will absorb a wealth of new historical, geographical, and cultural information. 🇲🇱
❡ The great globe itself: This is one of our regular Homeschool States & Countries posts featuring historical and natural sites of international importance. Download a copy of our River Houses World Heritage Calendar (riverhouses.org/calendars) and follow along with us as we tour the planet, and add your name to our weekly mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) to get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox all through the year. 🌍