One Day in Timbuktu
Now I’ve been here. Have you?
What do you at sunrise in Timbuktu? You could pray to Allah in the direction of Mecca. You could play football with the locals. Or you could go for a run in the Sahara. I chose the latter.
Around Timbuktu I ran, checking out the quality mud houses, stick houses, even animal skin homes that populate Timbuktu’s suburbs. There isn’t much to them, or the sand roads between them, and once they end, and they do end soon, its all Sahara. There isn’t an end to the Sahara.
It is the border of the town, it is in the town, it defines Timbuktu (or Tombouctou as the locals call it) for what it is, an oasis in the Sahara Desert. And I am here, running around the neighborhood like its Washington DC.
The local Tureg stare, gawk, and shout, but less than I would expect. Apparently there are plenty of toubob here, they have seen white people before, and it is only me running that strikes them odd. Not running per see, because there is a Timbuktu running club, which I found on my morning jog, but it’s a local running club. I am only unique because I am a toubob and running in their neighborhood.
After that run, and breakfast, then its time to shop. It will not take you long, as the Grand Market isn’t so grand and the Artisit Mission isn’t very artistic. I saw better and bought more in Bamako. That’s the real Grand Market of Mali. This is just an oasis if you want to buy desert rock salt.
In the afternoon you can have a good couscous and mutton lunch and then retire to your hotel. Now that doesn’t mean sleep. It means its time to get a haircut. Right in the middle of the Sahara, may present Salon Coiffure du Sahel.
Barber Mohammed Maig trims and snips right on the hotel patio, by the shade of a tree and with hand-powered trimmers and old-fashioned scissors. Reminiscent of a haircut and beard trim I had in Denpasar, my co-worker Ian is undergoing his own street trim.
Me, I am typing up the experience while a troop of street kids watch fascinated. They don’t know what is more interesting; a toubob on a laptop, a toubob getting a haircut, or a third toubob photographing the other two toubobs.