37. Timbuktu • Mali
We have selected 100 unique places on Earth that are projected to undergo profound changes within the next few generations. We based our selection of the 100 places on the 4th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Simply by drawing attention to the beauty of these places, 100 Places to Remember Before they Disappear creates an argument to preserve them. The 100 Places we have chosen to highlight, and the people who live in them, are in serious danger because of rising sea levels, rising temperatures and extreme weather events triggered by climate change. Among ambassadors are Joss Stone, Desmund Tutu for more info visit http://www.100places.com. A Place as Real as its Mud is Hard To many Westerners, Timbuktu is shrouded in mystery, existing more in the mind than on the map. Phrases like from here to Timbuktu paint it as a remote, exotic place at the edge of the world. In fact, the city of Timbuktu is very real. Bordering the Sahara Desert in the West African nation of Mali, it was once an economic and cultural hub, enjoying a privileged position in the middle of the trans-Saharan trade routes. The great Djingareyber, Sankor? and Sidi Yahia mosques, built during Timbuktus golden age from the 14th to the 16th centuries, still stand today and all three are on UNESCOs World Heritage List. Together, the three mosques once composed the famous University of Timbuktu, which made the city a centre of wisdom, attracting learned men from throughout the Muslim world. In the mosques open courtyards and in private residences, students were taught the Quran, logic, mathematics, astronomy and history. In the citys prosperous past, books were valuable commodities and private libraries flourished in the homes of local scholars. The wisdom of Timbuktu is preserved in these manuscripts, which have largely been hidden away and kept as family secrets ever since. It is estimated that there are still between 300,000 and 700,000 manuscripts in the region. Built mainly of mud, the mosques are highly vulnerable to climate change. Sand encroachment, believed to be a result of land cultivation and grazing, represents a constant and increasing threat to the mosques. Global warming is also projected to raise temperatures still further in the region, and extreme precipitation events are expected to become more frequent and even more extreme. This combination of climate conditions will cause damage to the mosques and threatens to consign Timbuktus magnificent past to the realms of mythology.