Arriving late at night there was little to see of this almost mythical city - a shower was of greater importance to be honest; after 72 plus hours on a Pinnase with limited water in spite of the River n which we traveled, a shower was no longer a luxury!
* Sunrise in Timbuktu
The next day we toured the city, picking up on the way a stamp in my passport and a few trinkets - Tuareg crosses - seeing old manuscripts, hand written copies of the Koran centuries old, the autobiography's of long deceased holy men. walking amongst the alleyways of the older part of the city was like stepping back in time, it was easy to imagine that I was no longer in 2010 but in a place 200 yrs or more on the past.
* An ornate door
* Artwork on an ancient manuscript
* My first Tuaregs
Sadly, this year's festival was to be a let down in spite of the fact that it was its 10th edition. Up till now, since its inception the Festival au desert has been held 65km away in Essakane, a desert oasis further north which served as an annual meeting place for the nomadic Tuareg - a Berber nomadic pastoral people. They are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa.
Citing security the Festival was moved on short notice to Timbuktu, to be celebrated in conjuncture with celebrations for Mali's 50th independence anniversary and 15 years if culture and tourism in the city proper - the end result was a chaotic event with poor crowed control on the first day, mismanaged sound on the second and music that, in my opinion, was more for city folk than the nomads it was supposed to be for.
* The stage in the making
But, I was there and while I was not to experience the festival as it was, I would as it is - and I did! I had traveled for 5 days by car and boat, slept under the stars, watched life along the river as it had been for centuries, I was here in a city that many think does not exist, I was there, at the edge of the Sahara in Timbuktu!
Over the next three days I wandered happily around, camera in hand, listening to music from the likes of Tinariwen, Annane Sye, Rhissa Ag Wanagli, Tartit Mamar Kassey, Mangala Camara, Amadou & Mariam, Vieux Farka Toure, Oumou Sangare and more. I haggled with Tuaregs, sitting on the hot desert sands sipping minute cups of chai, sat on a dune at sunrise to watch the sun come up, thinking about one of my favorite books - The Little Prince - dosed away the afternoon heat sprawled out in a Tuareg tent, sipped a cold beer as the sun set, watching the shadows deepen and feel the temperature plummet
I had been to Timbuktu