University of Timbuktu

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The University of Timbuktu was the first and oldest university on the planet. Its name was given to three mosques in the city of Timbuktu, Mali which developed an educational as well as religious function: the Masajid (Mosque) of Djinguereber, the Masajid of Sidi Yahya, and the Masajid of Sankore. Various subjects were taught within the city, including religion, geography and medicine.[citation needed]


Timbuktu, quickly grew in importance by the start of the 12th century. Due to a thriving economy based on trading salt, gold, spices and dyes,[citation needed] a strong concentration of both wealth and intellectuals flourished. As the wealth of the city grew so did the number of books, reaching 20,000 in the city limits alone.[1]

According to African scholar Shamil Jeppie, in The Meanings of Timbuktu:

"...Timbuktu is a repository of history, a living archive which anybody with a concern for African history should be acquainted with. Timbuktu may be hard to get to but it played an essential role as a centre of scholarship under the Songhay state until the invasion from the rulers of Marrakesh in 1591, and even thereafter it was revived."[2]

After wars in the late 1500s and changes in global trade routes, the city of Timbuktu went into gradual economic decline followed by intellectual decline. The religious function of the mosques continued, but their role as regional centers of scholarship and education gradually ended.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hilal, Reem (2012-03-07). "Important Sites: The University of Timbuktu". Inside Islam: Dialogues & Debates - Challenging Misconceptions, Illuminating Diversity. Retrieved 2013-10-17. 
  2. ^ Shamil Jeppie & Souleymane Bichari Diagne (eds). The Meanings of Timbuktu. HSRC Pess: Cape Town, 2008

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