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Timbuctu and Djenne

It was under the Malian king Mansa Musa that Timbuctu became one of the major cultural centers not only

of Africa but of the entire world. Under Mansa Musa's patronage, vast libraries were built

and "madrasas" (Islamic universities) were endowed; Timbuctu became a meeting-place of

the finest poets, scholars, and artists of Africa and the Middle East. Even after the power of

Mali declined, Timbuctu remained the major Islamic center of sub-Saharan Africa.

Timbuctu's sister city of Djenne was also an important center of learning. Recent

archaeology has placed the antiquity of Djenne at 200 to 250BC. After the death of Mansa

Musa, the power of Mali began to decline. Losing its sphere of influence, its subject states

began to break off and establish themselves independently. In 1430 Tuareg Berbers in the

north seized much of Mali's territory, including the city of Timbuctu. Under the leadership of Askia Mohammed, Timbuctu once again became a prosperous

commercial city, reaching a population of 100,000 people. Merchants and traders traveled

from Asia, the Middle East and Europe to exchange their exotic wares for the gold of

Songhay. Timbuctu gained fame as an intellectual center rivaling many others in the Muslim

world. Students from various parts of the world came to Timbuctu's famous University of

Sankore to study Law and Medicine. Medieval Europe sent emissaries to the University of

Sankore to witness its excellent libraries with manuscripts and to cosult with the learned

mathematicians, astronomers, physicians, and jurists whose intellectual endeavors were said

to be paid for out of the king's own treasury.

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