Heinrich Barth in Timbuktu
Heinrich Barth
View over Timbuktu from the roof of the house where Heinrich Barth lived

Heinrich Barth spent six months in Timbuktu and the surrounding area, collecting information on the life, customs, history and language of the Tuareg. He was accorded the personal protection of Sheikh al-Baqqai, with whom he developed a close friendship. The Moslem enjoyed conversing with the Christian traveller and allowed him access to valuable manuscripts, notably chronicles of the history of the Sudan, which reinforced Barth's conviction that the African continent had indeed a history of its own. AI-Baqqai put at Barth's disposal the house which today serves as a memorial to the great African explorer.

"[Timbuktu war] der berühmte Sitz mohammedanischer Gelehrsamkeit, der Mittelpunkt religiösen Lebens; keine Stadt des Reichs besaß so stattliche Moscheen, keine überhaupt so schöne und massive Gebäude. [... ] Wie groß aber der Einfluß war, den Timbuktu als Sitz der Intelligenz beanspruchte, geht schon daraus hervor, daß der Tumbo-koy oder Statthalter, wie es scheint, stets ein 'Faki', d.h. ein gelehrter Mann, sein mußte." ( Barth 1860, II:281)