Timbuktu’s primary association in the 19th century was that of a distant and faraway place. When western travelers finally discovered its location, they were disappointed to find a town without any of its fabled wealth and glory. The travelers wrote of their encounters with Islamic scholars, Arabic manuscripts, and impressive mud-brick mosques. Nowadays, thanks to such narratives, Timbuktu is believed to have been a center of Islamic scholarship during the 16th and early 17th centuries. This lecture explores the centrality of Arabic in this African region, in the writing of African languages, and as a vehicle for literacy.
NYU Abu Dhabi Institute
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